• Open Access

Enteropathogenic Bacteria in Dogs and Cats: Diagnosis, Epidemiology, Treatment, and Control


  • Consensus Statements of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM) provide the veterinary community with up-to-date information on the pathophysiology, diagnosis, and treatment of clinically important animal diseases. The ACVIM Board of Regents oversees selection of relevant topics, identification of panel members with the expertise to draft the statements, and other aspects of assuring the integrity of the process. The statements are derived from evidence-based medicine whenever possible and the panel offers interpretive comments when such evidence is inadequate or contradictory. A draft is prepared by the panel, followed by solicitation of input by the ACVIM membership which may be incorporated into the statement. It is then submitted to the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, where it is edited prior to publication. The authors are solely responsible for the content of the statements.

Corresponding author: Dr Stanley L. Marks, Department of Medicine & Epidemiology, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616; e-mail: slmarks@ucdavis.edu


This report offers a consensus opinion on the diagnosis, epidemiology, treatment, and control of the primary enteropathogenic bacteria in dogs and cats, with an emphasis on Clostridium difficile, Clostridium perfringens, Campylobacter spp., Salmonella spp., and Escherichia coli associated with granulomatous colitis in Boxers. Veterinarians are challenged when attempting to diagnose animals with suspected bacterial-associated diarrhea because well-scrutinized practice guidelines that provide objective recommendations for implementing fecal testing are lacking. This problem is compounded by similar isolation rates for putative bacterial enteropathogens in animals with and without diarrhea, and by the lack of consensus among veterinary diagnostic laboratories as to which diagnostic assays should be utilized. Most bacterial enteropathogens are associated with self-limiting diarrhea, and injudicious administration of antimicrobials could be more harmful than beneficial. Salmonella and Campylobacter are well-documented zoonoses, but antimicrobial administration is not routinely advocated in uncomplicated cases and supportive therapy is recommended. Basic practices of isolation, use of appropriate protective equipment, and proper cleaning and disinfection are the mainstays of control. Handwashing with soap and water is preferred over use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers because spores of C. difficile and C. perfringens are alcohol-resistant, but susceptible to bleach (1 : 10 to 1 : 20 dilution of regular household bleach) and accelerated hydrogen peroxide. The implementation of practice guidelines in combination with the integration of validated molecular-based testing and conventional testing is pivotal if we are to optimize the identification and management of enteropathogenic bacteria in dogs and cats.