Message from State Public Health Veterinarian on Campylobacter

Nov 7, 2017 / Practitioner Updates

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported a multistate outbreak of multidrug-resistant Campylobacter infections linked to contact with Petland pet store puppies. Clinical samples from human cases and puppies from some states have shown that these Campylobacter isolates are resistant to azithromycin, ciprofloxacin, clindamycin, erythromycin, gentamicin, nalidixic acid, tetracycline, and telithromycin. This amount of antibiotic resistance is very unusual. One way that Campylobacter isolates may develop resistance is excessive use of prophylactic antibiotics in groups of puppies.

Eight human Campylobacter cases in Illinois residents, including some with onsets in October, have had contact with puppies from Petland stores in Illinois. These stores are located in the northern part of Illinois and Petland does have a website with a store finder.

If part of your practice includes clients who have groups of puppies who will be presented for sale, consider reviewing your antibiotic usage in these animals. AVMA and AAHA have information on their websites about judicious use of antibiotics in animals (see links at bottom).

Regardless of where a person obtains their new puppy or dog, the animal may carry and shed Campylobacter in their feces. They may be asymptomatic or symptomatic. Other types of pet animals including cats, ferrets, rodents, and other small animals can carry Campylobacter as well. Please remind pet owners, especially new puppy owners, there are organisms in their pet’s feces that can make them sick.

Pet owners can protect themselves by washing hands after contact with their puppies, wearing gloves to pick up and dispose of feces, and washing their hands after cleanup of feces. In the house they should also disinfect any area with pet feces after clean up.

For dogs under 12 months of age or dogs adopted from crowded environments with bloody mucoid diarrhea, a gram stained fecal smear can be used to identify Campylobacter like organisms. PCR or culture can also be done with fecal specimens. Campylobacter infections in puppies are often self-limiting and supportive care is frequently the only treatment needed. If antibiotic treatment is deemed necessary, culture and sensitivity can guide the antibiotic choice. If an animal is positive for Campylobacter, the owner should be warned that they can develop infection as well and should see a doctor if they develop diarrheal illness.

Information on judicious use of antibiotics is available at the following links.

Dr. Connie Austin DVM MPH PhD
State public health veterinarian/
Infectious disease epidemiologist
525 W Jefferson St
Springfield IL 62761
Ph 217-785-7165
Fax 217-524-0962