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Campylobacter and Puppies

 The bond between people and their pets can increase fitness, lower stress, and bring happiness to their owners. But pets, including puppies and dogs, sometimes carry germs that can make people sick. Knowing the steps to prevent the spread of disease is key.


One of the diseases people can get from puppies and dogs is campylobacteriosis. Campylobacteriosis is an infectious disease caused by the bacteria of the genus Campylobacter, which is one of the most common causes of diarrheal illness in the United States. Most cases are not part of recognized outbreaks. Transmission can occur through contaminated food (particularly poultry), water, or infected animals, especially kittens and puppies.


The Ohio Department of Health, Ohio Department of Agriculture, several other states, CDC, and USDA-APHIS are investigating a multistate outbreak of human Campylobacter infections linked to puppies sold through Petland stores. Investigators are looking for the source of infections in people and puppies so they can recommend how to stop the outbreak and prevent more illnesses. As of September 11, 2017, the outbreak includes 39 cases in 7 states (Florida, Kansas, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Wisconsin). Ohio has 18 cases linked to this outbreak. They range in age from <1 year to 54 years old. Onset of illness dates range from 9/15/16 to 06/30/17. There are 12 females and 6 males. Three patients have been hospitalized. Petland is working with public health and animal health officials to address this outbreak.


How is Campylobacter transmitted?

Campylobacter can spread through contact with dog poop (feces). Most cases of campylobacteriosis are associated with eating raw or undercooked poultry meat or from cross-contamination of other foods by these items. Outbreaks of Campylobacter have most often been associated with unpasteurized dairy products, contaminated water, poultry, and produce. The bacteria are not usually spread from one person to another, but this can happen if the infected person is producing a large volume of diarrhea.


What are the signs of Campylobacter infections in humans?

Most people who become ill with campylobacteriosis experience diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain, and fever within two to five days after exposure to the organism. The diarrhea may be bloody and can be accompanied by nausea and vomiting. The illness typically lasts about one week. Some infected persons do not have any symptoms, while others may suffer from severe complications such as a bloodstream infection. Those at highest risk for developing a severe infection include the very young, the very old, and those with weakened immune systems.


How do I know if a puppy has Campylobacter?

Even healthy dogs can have Campylobacter. A healthy dog does not have to be tested or treated for Campylobacter. If a dog is having symptoms (i.e. diarrhea), a veterinarian can test its stool for the bacteria.  


How are Campylobacter infections diagnosed and treated?

Many different kinds of infections can cause diarrhea and bloody diarrhea. Campylobacter infection is diagnosed when a culture of a stool specimen grows the bacterium. Almost all persons infected with Campylobacter recover without any specific treatment. Patients should drink extra fluids as long as the diarrhea lasts. Antimicrobial therapy is warranted only for patients with severe disease or those at high risk for severe disease, such as those with immune systems severely weakened from medications or other illnesses. Azithromycin and fluoroquinolones (e.g., ciprofloxacin) are commonly used for treatment of these infections, but resistance to fluoroquinolones is common. Antimicrobial susceptibility testing can help guide appropriate therapy.


What can I do to prevent the spreading of Campylobacter between people and puppies/dogs?

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with running water and soap for at least 20 seconds every time you touch dogs, their food, or clean up after them. Adults should supervise handwashing for young children.

    • If soap and water are not readily available, use hand sanitizer until you are able to wash your hands with soap and water.

  • Pick up and dispose of dog poop, especially in areas where children might play. Use disposable gloves and wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.

  • Clean up any pee (urine), poop (stool), or vomit in the house immediately, and disinfect the area. Use disposable gloves to handle anything that has touched pee, poop, or vomit, and wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.

  • Take your dog to the veterinarian regularly to keep it healthy and to help prevent the spread of disease.

  • Don’t let pets lick your mouth and face.

  • Don’t let pets lick your open wound or areas with broken skin.


Additional Resources
ODH Dog Information

CDC Campylobacter Information

CDC Multistate Outbreak of Human Campylobacter Infections Linked to Pet Store Puppies
USDA Campylobacter Questions and Answers

CDC Healthy Pets Healthy People

CDC When and How to Wash Your Hands

CDC Pet Food Safety



Page updated: 09/22/2017