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Tetanus - Be Aware!
Mill Road Vet Hospital / Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Tetanus - Be Aware!

“ Tetanus ” is a nasty illness caused by a toxin produced by the bacteria Clostridium tetani found in dead tissue. Humans and horses are more susceptible to it than cats and dogs but here in Whangarei we are seeing the incidence increasing in our dog population.


Tetanus is caused by a bacteria found in soils which can penetrate the skin through a wound and multiply in an infected and smelly environment. It is inside the wound that the neurotoxin can do its damage, causing tetanus.


Most commonly the initial wound is visible but occasionally symptoms can present much later after a wound has already healed.



  • Stiffness of limbs
  • Extended head/neck
  • Muscle spasms/seizures
  • Fever
  • Increased Sensitivity to light/noise
  • Abnormally pricked ears and wrinkled forehead
  • Eyes squinted and more of whites of eye seen


Treatment of this disease includes thorough cleansing of any wounds, supportive therapy including intravenous fluids and nursing care in a dark, quiet room along with antibiotics and the administration of tetanus antitoxin. Sometimes dogs can be hospitalised for 3 weeks if their signs are severe.


This disease usually carries a poor prognosis and sadly by the time dogs present to us it is often too late. So please bear in mind all wounds require thorough cleaning at the time with an antiseptic solution or salty water and prompt veterinary attention so we can spare more lives being lost.


Theoretically vaccination is possible, but as tetanus is typically very uncommon worldwide, almost no research has been done into vaccination and no protocols have been developed. Consequently, at this stage, early recognition and treatment is the best we can do. So, if in doubt, please bring your dog in to the clinic!

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