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Garbage Toxicosis (Garbage Gut) in Dogs

By: Dr. Debra Primovic

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Garbage toxicosis, or commonly called "Garbage Gut", refers to a condition caused by ingestion of food or garbage contaminated with bacteria and potentially with bacterial toxins. This condition may also be referred to as Bacterial food poisoning, Song Bird Fever, or Carrion Toxicosis.

Ingestion of spoiled food is often contaminated with bacteria and bacterial toxins that can cause severe and even life threatening signs. After ingestion, various bacteria (including Streptococcusspp, Salmonella spp., Escherichia coli, Clostridium perfringens and/or "Bacillus spp.) are present in the gastrointestinal tract and can produce toxins that are absorbed into the blood stream. These bacteria can produce toxins that cause shock, collapse and death. Seizures and high fevers can result from some toxins.

Garbage Gut is most common in indoor/outdoor or outdoor dogs that are allowed to roam as they are most likely to be exposed to and ingest spoiled foods. This can also be caused by people that feed dogs food unfit for human consumption and in dogs fed raw food diets. Dogs can also get the disease from eating another dogs vomit or stool or licking other dogs that have the disease. Cats that hunt and consume birds are at higher risk.

Garbage toxicosis is most common in warm climates or during the summer months when food is more apt to spoil.

It is possible that this condition is Zoonotic – meaning it can be transmitted to people by exposure to the bacteria. It is most common in children, elderly or those with compromised immune systems.

What to Watch For

Signs may begin within 15 minutes of ingestion or within 6 to 8 hours post ingestion of the raw food diet or garbage.

  • Diarrhea – can be foul smelling, watery or bloody
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Lack of appetite (anorexia)
  • Fever
  • Weakness
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Can progress to shock

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