Background: Diarrhea is highly prevalent in racing sled dogs, although the underlying causes are poorly understood.
Hypothesis: Clostridium perfringens enterotoxin (CPE) and Clostridium difficile Toxin A and B are associated with diarrhea in racing sled dogs.
Animals: One hundred and thirty-five sled dogs.
Methods: Freshly voided feces were obtained from 55 dogs before racing and from 80 dogs after 400 miles of racing. Samples were visually scored for diarrhea, mucus, blood, and melena. CPE and C. difficile Toxin A and B were detected by ELISA. Samples were cultured for C. perfringens, C. difficile, Campylobacter, Salmonella, and Escherichia coli 0157; Giardia and Cryptosporidium spp. were detected via immunofluorescence.
Results: Diarrhea occurred in 36% of dogs during racing, and hematochezia, fecal mucus or melena, or all 3 occurred in 57.5% of dogs. Salmonella was isolated from 78.2% of dogs before racing, and from 71.3% of dogs during racing. C. perfringens and C. difficile were isolated from 100 and 58.2% of dogs before racing, and from 95 and 36.3% of dogs during racing. Dogs were more likely to test positive for CPE during than before racing (18.8 versus 5.5%, P= .021); however, no enteropathogens or their respective toxins were significantly associated with hematochezia or diarrhea.
Conclusions and Clinical Importance: Sled dogs participating in long distance racing have a high prevalence of diarrhea and hematochezia that is not associated with common enteropathogens. It is possible that diarrhea and hematochezia represent the effect of prolonged exercise on the gastrointestinal tract.