Prevents immediate wound cleansing tetanus

Tetanus in the dog

Hippocrates used the three words wound, jaw cramp and death to describe a very dangerous disease - tetanus. It was not until 1889 that researchers at the Robert Koch Institute succeeded in isolating the bacillus responsible for tetanus. The first vaccine was developed just a year later.

Tetanus is also known as tetanus and is an infectious disease that is fatal in most cases. People today can easily protect themselves from the infection with the tetanus vaccination.

What hardly anyone knows, however, is the fact that tetanus can also be very dangerous for dogs. What is particularly dangerous with this disease is that a small inconspicuous wound can be enough for the dog to become infected with the dangerous disease.

If treated quickly, the dog may be saved. However, so that this treatment can be initiated in good time, it is particularly important to know exactly how the disease developed and the symptoms.

What is Tetanus?

Tetanus is an infectious disease caused by bacteria. The pathogens are tetanus bacteria with the name Clostridium tetani. The tetanus pathogens only multiply when there is a lack of oxygen - that means they are anaerobic. They can survive in the ground for years. To do this, they form rod-shaped spores. This is the permanent form of the bacterial germ.

The spores of these bacteria come almost everywhere but predominantly

  • down in the soil,
  • but also in wood
  • in dust

in front.

In addition, the bacterial spores are contained in the excretions of farm animals and are therefore also in their surroundings. Tetanus is a disease that is common around the world.

How does tetanus infection occur?

These germs penetrate the dog's body through wounds. In principle, this can happen through any wound. This can be completely inconspicuous and small. However, the bacteria find optimal conditions in deep, soiled wounds with frayed edges and wound pockets. Here there is precisely that lack of oxygen under which the germs can multiply extremely well. The bacteria then produce toxins in the body.

These toxins travel along the nerves to the spinal cord and on to the brain. Because of the toxins, muscles can no longer be properly controlled. Cramps develop. Tetanus is not contagious and is very seldom extremely dangerous in dogs.

Four-legged friends and humans can become infected with sharp objects such as

  • Nails,
  • Broken glass or
  • Branches,

that may be contaminated with soil or animal droppings.

But also small abrasions or cracked pads can be the cause of the problem. The first symptoms appear after around nine days.

Symptoms of a tetanus infection

The symptoms in dogs are similar to those known in humans. At the beginning, flu-like symptoms appear and general well-being is impaired. These signs are unlikely to be recognized as worrying by the dog owner. They happen quickly and again and again, because dogs can also suffer from colds and flu.

Infected animals can sometimes show symptoms that are similar to poisoning. They become jumpy and sensitive to noises. Mild muscle spasms may develop near the wound through which the bacteria entered.

These are already perceptible for attentive dog owners and should definitely be a first alarm signal. The dog shows a stiff gait and the extensor muscles tend to cramp. The dog becomes unsteady when walking and when standing he becomes more and more cramped.

The typical tetanus face

If the facial muscles are reached, the typical tetanus face occurs:

  • The dog's ears are drawn in and up.
  • This can result in clear longitudinal folds on the scalp between the ears.
  • The lips are pulled back.
  • The result is a facial expression that can be compared to a tense grin. In humans, one speaks of the devil's grin - Risus sardonicus.
  • The dog's gaze is fixed. There are also major changes in the eyes. The white can be seen and the nictitating membrane protrudes.
  • If the wound is on the head of the animal, these changes can occur relatively quickly.

As a result, the dog begins to swallow food and choke it up again. The reason for this is spasms of the esophagus and larynx. In this case there is an acute risk of suffocation.

As the disease progresses, breathing becomes difficult and the cramps increasingly affect the respiratory muscles. This ultimately causes breathing to stop.

The earlier the vet is visited, the better the prognosis for tetanus disease.

Diagnosis of tetanus

As soon as the first signs of a tetanus infection appear, the veterinarian must be consulted immediately. He will make the diagnosis based on the typical clinical findings. That is, he will make the diagnosis based on the animal's condition and symptoms. In the case of ambiguous signs, poisoning with convulsive substances must be ruled out.

It is therefore very helpful for the veterinarian if the owner thinks in advance whether the dog has recently ingested foreign bodies or food that could be responsible for poisoning.

However, if the dog is infected with tetanus, every second counts. Damage to muscles and the nervous system can quickly occur. These can cause a lifelong handicap of the dog. The seizure attacks can lead to the death of the animal.


If tetanus is detected in time, it can be treated well.

  • The most important point of therapy is absolute rest for the patient.
  • For this, bright light must be avoided at all costs. This is important to prevent the dog from cramping.
  • The vet will give the dog high-dose serum. This is used for passive immunization of the dog.
  • In addition, antibiotics are necessary. The antibiotic is supposed to prevent the poison from spreading further in the wound.
  • Sedatives and muscle relaxants help the animal survive the agonizing symptoms.

In any case, this treatment is intensive medical care. However, it is very tedious and can last for several weeks. The treatment plan is based on the intensity of the symptoms and is completely different depending on the dog and the severity of the disease.

Rest is especially important

It is imperative that the dog is spared as much as possible during convalescence. A darkened and quiet room, in which the dog can relax as best as possible, would be ideal for this time. With a good prognosis, the dog will be back on its feet after around four to six weeks. The prerequisite for this is that no consequential damage has occurred.

Regular medical care must be observed during this time.

In severe cases and advanced disease, the dog may need to be hospitalized for some time. In these cases, IV infusions and feeding through a feeding tube may be necessary. When diagnosing tetanus in dogs, dog owners should definitely expect a very stressful and nerve-wracking time.

Correct and prompt wound care can save lives

After tetanus bacteria pave their way into the dog's organism through wounds, correct wound care is particularly important. Dogs injure themselves easily. This can be a cut through a shard, a scratch through a nail or barbed wire, or a torn pad.

As soon as the dog is injured, the wound must be cleaned, disinfected and bandaged immediately.

Only when the first wound treatment is carried out correctly can the bacteria be declared war. Dog owners can easily take care of small wounds themselves.

Proper wound care

  • Even small wounds can bleed profusely. Therefore, the bleeding must first and foremost be stopped. This is done through pressure. The dog should be held still while a clean cloth or pad is pressed onto the wound.
  • Once the bleeding has stopped, the wound must be cleaned. Sometimes this may require trimming the fur around the wound. This works best with a pair of round scissors.
  • All foreign bodies that may be in the wound are now removed. Tweezers and a flashlight are very helpful here.
Of course, only small foreign bodies may be removed from the holder itself. In the case of large pieces of broken glass, nails or the like, the vet must be consulted.

Disinfect and connect

Once the wound is clean, it is dabbed or sprayed with a wound disinfectant solution. Means such as Octenisept are suitable here. After disinfection, the wound should be covered with a bandage to protect it from further contamination. To do this, wound gauze is first applied, then padded with cotton wool.

Finally everything is connected with a gauze bandage. This bandage must not be too tight, but it should not slip either. In cases of heavily bleeding wounds, large and deep wounds and large foreign bodies, the vet must be consulted. Only he can determine whether the wound needs to be sutured or even treated surgically. Antibiotics may also be necessary.

A first aid kit for the dog

Anyone who is often out in the field with their dog or undertakes sporting activities should always have a first aid kit for the dog with them. This set should absolutely

  • Sterile wound dressings
  • Bandages or sterile and packaged handkerchiefs or paper towels
  • Gauze bandages
  • Elastic bandages
  • Bandage pack for a pressure bandage
  • Adhesive plaster or self-adhesive bandages to fix the bandage
  • scissors
  • Tweezers and one
  • flashlight


In addition, a wound disinfectant such as Octenisept should always be carried with you. A pump spray is ideal here. Wound cleaning tissues and disinfecting ointment complement the small pharmacy for on the go. As a dog owner, you are well prepared if the dog injures itself on the way. A wound can be treated directly on site. This drastically reduces the risk of tetanus infection.

The tetanus vaccination

Another way of prevention is the tetanus vaccination. It is common practice with humans and is strongly recommended. In dogs, it is one of the so-called non-core or elective vaccinations. It is therefore not a compulsory vaccination for the dog owner. In contrast to humans and horses, dogs are only very rarely infected with tetanus. For this reason, the Standing Vaccination Commission (Stiko Vet) expressly does not recommend tetanus vaccination for dogs.

However, if there is an increased risk for an animal, it can make perfect sense to vaccinate the dog. A higher risk arises when the dog is exposed to an increased risk of injury through its activity or its habitat. In such a case, it is advisable to weigh up the risk-benefit ratio together with the veterinarian.

Transmission of tetanus to humans

Tetanus is not a zoonosis. This is understood to mean diseases that can be transmitted from dogs to humans and vice versa (example: parvovirus). Tetanus is caused by bacteria and affects both humans and dogs. However, dogs cannot transmit tetanus directly to humans. Contact, normal coexistence and cuddling with a sick dog are therefore absolutely harmless.

The dog carries the bacteria with it

Nevertheless, it is possible that a person can get tetanus bacteria through a dog. The dog can carry them around without being infected. Dogs are often out in the open and sometimes dig in the ground. They have earth in their claws, between their paws and dust will always stick to their fur.

If the dog comes to humans and scratches them while playing, for example, it can transmit the tetanus bacteria to humans.

It is also completely sufficient if the dog lover has an open wound - this can also be a small abrasion. The pathogen already has a way to get into the human organism. It is also possible for a dog to transmit the bacteria when it bites.

Dog bites as a danger

A dog bite can be very different. It can happen when romping around and playing that the dog snaps and hurts people with their teeth. This is especially dangerous with young dogs. They still have very pointed and sharp teeth that can quickly damage the skin.

Even such small injuries can be enough to smuggle the tetanus pathogen into the human organism. Small injuries can be taken care of yourself. It is important to clean the wound and then disinfect it.

It is much more dangerous when a dog bites properly.

Unfortunately, it happens again and again that biting accidents occur (see also The puppy bites - what can I do?). In this case, it is important to remain as calm as possible. In terms of the risk of infection, a dog bite is significantly less dangerous than the bite of a cat or a person.

Nevertheless, a doctor should be consulted with any open wound. Especially if the biting accident happens abroad. In many southern countries, the risk of rabies infection is very high. In this case, the doctor will recommend vaccination immediately. But other infections are also easily possible.

People should definitely be vaccinated against tetanus

Tetanus is an infectious disease that is life-threatening. Humans can easily become infected with it. This disease is particularly dangerous in southern, poorer regions. People should therefore check their vaccination protection regularly.

After a basic immunization in infancy or children, the vaccination protection must be renewed regularly. In the event of injuries, especially if they are caused by animals, a tetanus vaccination should therefore be given if necessary.

Last update on 05/18/2021 / Affiliate Links / Images from the Amazon Product Advertising API