Tetanus symptoms in dogs

Updated November 21, 2016

Tetanus can be an extremely fatal disease for dogs if it is not caught and treated soon enough. Tetanus can be caused by the smallest of wounds, and symptoms do not tend to show up until five to 20 days after the infection gets into the bloodstream. But if you know what to keep an eye out for, you can lessen your dog's chances of succumbing to this disease.


Dogs infected with tetanus can show a marked drop in energy levels. They can become inattentive to meal times, not respond as quickly when called, and struggle to muster up the energy to go on walks or play. This also is exhibited by the dog losing its ability to blink, swallow, or go to the bathroom.


Tetanus especially attacks the muscles in a dog's body that are responsible for breathing. This can be fatal once those muscles are fatigued, as it can lead the dog to suffocate. A case of tetanus that reaches this point can require having the dog put on life support until the disease can be treated, allowing recovery of muscle control.

Stiffness and Sensitivity

Tetanus can cause muscle contractions that induce stiffness of the limbs and muscle sensitivity. Dogs will limp and joints may become swollen. The dog can also experience a symptom known as lockjaw, in which constant muscle spasms locks their jaw open or closed, making it difficult for them to eat, drink and breathe regularly.

Treatment of Symptoms

A dog showing signs of tetanus infection should be seen and cared for by a certified veterinarian. Most tetanus cases are treated through prescribed antibiotics. The vet will also search for and clean any wound that might be the source of the infection. Dogs with severe muscle spasms may also be sedated to reduce the chance of a seizure.

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About the Author

Over the past 10 years, Josh Vogt's bent for writing and creativity has given him the opportunity to work in numerous industries and positions, including book and magazine publishing, journalism, advertising, sales, Web content and freelance copywriting. His articles most often appear on eHow and Answerbag.