Helicobactor in Dogs

My name is Cindy Jordan.  I live on the east coast, in Norfolk, Virginia.  I believe my Yellow Lab of 6 years whom I lost last year at age 6 had contracted the gastrintestinal bacterial infection, Helicobactor, from swimming in the Chesapeake Bay which was closed many times for bacteria in the water. I have done extensive research into Helicobactor.  This is a very serious bacterium that is NOT generally tested for by Veterinarians.

My Yellow Lab named “Mattie” loved the beach and played there with her many friends twice a day for five years.

In December of 2003 she began to get sick to her stomach on and off, but continued her normal daily activities of playing, swimming, walking and of course sleeping.

“Mattie” was a healthy beautiful girl who truly enjoyed life and everybody in it.

As a dog owner, I have learned not to panic to quickly when they vomit once or twice. They usually do it and go about their business as if nothing is wrong. That is how it all started.

“Mattie” was getting me up in the early morning hours to vomit, come in eat, and we would go for our morning walk on the beach.

Until one very early morning she got me up every hour on the hour vomiting.

We were at the Veterinarian’s office when they opened.

X-rays, blood work, and medication for vomiting. Her symptoms continued.

After 10 months of costly medical tests, major surgery, medications for vomiting, food changes, cooking for her, numerous x-rays, she continued to vomit on and off, with a steady decline in her health. Her diagnoses went from cancer, to Inflammatory Bowel Disease, to food allergies, to “I really don’t know what is wrong with “Mattie.” But our efforts continued.

I said goodbye to my girl “Mattie” on New Years Eve. Never having a definitive diagnosis of what was wrong with her. My Veterinarian wanted to do a necropsy (autopsy).

I said “No.” I was so afraid they would find something that could have been treatable, and I just felt like enough was enough.

My reason for writing this article is to bring awareness to Animal owners and the Veterinary community the bacterial infection called Helicobactor. And the possible effect it can have on our pets.

This bacterium is common in many third world countries, but is also very prevalent in the United States.

To date this is still primarily considered a human Disease. Veterinary Medicine is making great strides to teach, research and study this infection in our domestic animals, and there is well-documented evidence to this fact.

Gastric Helicobactor infection is caused by gastric Helicobactor-like spiral organisms for which there are several different species.

Helicobactor pylori with gastritis, peptic ulcer disease and gastric neoplasia (cancer) in humans is well documented. Research has documented the presence of Helicobactor spp and other types of gastric spiral organicism in dogs cats, humans, ferrets, and pigs. Helicobactor pylori has been widely recognized as an important human pathogen responsible for chronic gastritis, peptic ulcers, gastric cancer, and mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) lymphoma, with the increase of gastric malignancies such as adenocarcinoma and low-grade B-cell Lymphoma.

There is little known about the natural history of this infection since patients are usually recognized as having the infection only after years of chronic disease. There is ample evidence suggesting this to be true.

The IAI (American Society for Microbiology, Infection and Immunity journal) out of Washington, D.C. accepted a 1999 study from the Department of Animal Pathology, University of Pisa, and IRIS Immunobiological Research Institute Siena, Italy where conventional Beagle dogs were used as a model for Acute and Chronic infection with Helicobactor pylori.

This study assessed the feasibility of establishing H. P. Infection in conventional Beagle dogs. It is reported that H. P. can colonize the gastric mucosa of conventional beagle dogs, causing both acute symptoms and long-term chronic infection.

This study is unique in that it is the only model in which the animals showed acute symptoms that resemble some of those described during experimental infections of humans.

These dogs developed early superficial gastritis, with the appearance of mucosal erosion, which progressed to follicular gastritis.

This infiltration accompanied symptoms such as vomiting, and mimics those observed in infected humans with acute gastritis. With the progression of infection, clear signs of epithelial erosions appeared microscopically.

The acute phase was followed by polymorphonuclear cell infiltration, (In laymen terms) cells of a white cell. Also, noted was the appearance of a specific antibody response against H. Pylori.

The chronic phase was characterized by gastric, epithelial alterations, superficial erosions, and the appearance of the typical macroscopic follicles that in humans are considered possible precursors of MALT Lymphoma. These infected models closely mimic human infection.

Often the cause of the gastritis in Veterinary Medicine is not determined, and differential diagnoses include food allergies, parasitic infection or gastrointestinal inflammatory disease.

Many of the clinical signs of these syndromes are similar to that seen with H. P. Infection and differentiation can be difficult.

Still, this bacterial illness continues to be shadowed and even denied by many Veterinarians.

It can be contracted through oral oral, or fecal oral contamination, as well as from water sources. This IS a very serious bacterium

This bacterium does not show up on normal blood work, or in normal fecal tests done by Veterinarian’s. One study From the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine showed 61-95% of vomiting dogs showed the prevalence of gastric Helicobactor-like spiral organism infection of the acute phase.

There are many documented cased from around the world of animals having contracted this bacterium. Studies have been done in the Veterinary field and at many Veterinary Colleges showing healthy animals carrying this bacterium in their intestinal tract causing mild gastritis and vomiting.

There are many different strains of this bacteria, and many different species of Helicobactor have been identified and each species differs in its host.

The Weather Channel in May 2005 aired a documentary “Forecast Earth” on the contamination of coastal beaches from Florida up the East Coast.

Several different bacterial illnesses’s were contracted by people, ranging from gastritis to kidney damage, to even death. One small child continues to have severe medical problems to this day from having played in the water of Hudson beach with his mother. One of the primary sources for the contamination was discovered to be animal fecal contamination. In other words, folks NOT picking up after their dogs on the beach and run off of animal fecal material into storm drains which finds it’s way to our beaches and water sources. They did not specifically mention Helicobactor, but definitely mentioned many kinds of bacteria that lurk in our waters.

This was also the reason for our local beach closing in the summer of 2004. On several different occasions beaches from Nags Head N.C. to Hampton Va. were closed due to contamination. The culprit, animal fecal material.

Do I know for sure if “Mattie” had this bacterial infection called Helicobactor, or even contracted this bacterial disease from the beach? No, I don’t. But there are many including one Veterinarian after the fact who does believe there is a very strong possibility that an unknown bacterial infection was the root of “Mattie’s inflammatory illness. As her illness continued, “Mattie’s” intestinal tract began to changes. Cells that could not easily be discern, but pathology called them inflammatory changes, suspicious, possible gastrointestinal disease, suspicious of infiltrating small cell lymphoma of her intestinal tract.

But what I do know is that “Mattie” spent most of her young life swimming in these waters on a daily basis, and yes I must admit, she also loved to eat those mysterious delectable that wash up on our beaches. “Mattie” ingested many things from the beach! Cruise ships also dump their waste and this too, has washed up on our local beaches in Virginia.

As hard as it is to keep our animals away from such things, any animal owners who frequent the beach know how difficult this can be to get to it before our pets do.

In my search for answers to “Mattie’s” illness, I discovered that Veterinarians are NOT very familiar with this complex bacterial infection. Some even admitted they knew very little about it. But what is more alarming is that even when I brought this literature to the attention of an Internal Veterinary Medicine Specialist, I was encouraged to dismiss it as the possible cause of

“Mattie’s” problem. Some even saying not enough is known about it.

Because it is not something that is routinely tested for, it is very likely that it can go undiscovered in our pets. Specific testing must be done to determine if an animal has this bacterial infection in there stomach and the deep lining of the intestinal tract. Unfortunately, these tests were not done on “Mattie.”

Please, if your animal is displaying some of the symptoms, such as intermittent vomiting, weight loss, abdominal discomfort or pain, have your Veterinarian do the proper tests to rule this disease in or out if the current treatment for these symptoms are not working..

If your Veterinarian tries to steer you away from this as a possibility for your animal’s illness, find a Veterinarian who will listen to you. There are new noninvasive tests that can be done.

I am hopeful the Veterinary community will begin to look more closely at this infection as a possible cause of illness in our domestic pets, especially pet who may frequent beaches. If not, pets will continue to go undetected and suffer from something that although is difficult to treat, can be treated. Still, there does not seem to be a protocol that is acceptable or completely satisfying. Antibacterial resistance is a concern, as is recurrence of this infection.

Does this mean that Veterinarians are to blame? Certainly not. Veterinary Medicine is learning about this infection in domestic animals all the time as new and more comprehensive studies are done. It is a joint responsibility of the animal owner to ask their Veterinarians about doing the proper testing, and the Veterinarian to look into this possibility. The only way Veterinarian’s can learn, are if they do the proper testing and begin to realize it can and does exist in our pets. It may not be common, but it does exist.

Beach goers and dog walkers, please clean up while walking your dog. Not only will you be a responsible pet owner, but you will be doing your part in helping to keep our beaches open and less contaminated, and our neighborhood’s healthier.

The spread of many types of bacteria to people and our pet can be minimized if we all do our part.

Instead of spreading bacteria, let’s spread the word on being responsible.

Cynthia L. Jordan
Norfolk, Va. 23503
Email: LuvaLab57@cox.net

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