Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome

Hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) is a disease characterized by a severe hemolytic anemia, low platelet count, and kidney failure. The canine disease is similar to the human hemolytic uremic syndrome. In humans, the hemolytic uremic syndrome is known to have several causes, including infectious diseases, drugs, pregnancy, and malignant diseases.

Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome Caused By Bacterial Toxins

This type of disease is also known as "E.coli food poisoning." Both dogs and people can be infected by consuming undercooked or raw meat infected by E. coli bacteria. E. coli comes in four classes and hundreds of strains. It resides in the intestines of cattle. The most serious form, E. coli 0157:H7, causes bloody diarrhea in susceptible humans and dogs. The disease is marked by an acute onset of lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, seizures, and bloody diarrhea, followed by acute kidney failure. Bacterial toxins can be adsorbed and cause intestinal injury, blood clot formation, with lesions confined primarily to the kidneys. The clinical signs are often similar to that of typical or diarrhea-associated HUS in humans (mainly children), which is caused by gastrointestinal spread of verocytotoxin-producing Escherichia coli bacteria. In severe cases, the bacterial toxins can destroy red blood cells.

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It can be difficult to tell if your dog has been infected by E. coli since the testing can be complicated and expensive. Non-pathogenic strains of E. coli bacteria live in the intestine without causing disease, but pathogenic forms can invade the membranes lining the intestine and cause serious problems. Cooking food kills most of the bacteria, but not toxins that are very heat resistant.

Veterinarians have found a striking similarity between the changes in the kidneys of the infected greyhounds and of humans with HUS. In dogs, because the blood supply to the skin is also affected, the disease usually starts with ulcers on the skin. Like, humans, some of the dogs have kidney failure due to blockage of the blood supply to parts of kidneys. Humans don't get the skin form, but when the disease advances to the kidney failure both in humans and dogs, the disease is almost identical.

Source: eLife. 2015; 4: e05826. doi: 10.7554/eLife.05826

The problem with E. coli infection is that there is no cure or therapy. The toxins produced by the bacteria attack the walls of the blood vessels. Only diarrhea and dehydration can be treated. Despite supportive therapy consisting of intravenous fluids, transfusions, and dialysis the dog's condition often worsens.


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  4. Feeding Your Dog For Life: The Real Facts about Proper Nutrition. Diane Morgan
  5. The Sunshine State Almanac and Book of Florida-Related Stuff. Phil Philcox, Beverly Boe



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