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Pet Owner Version

Tuberculosis in Dogs


Charles O. Thoen

, DVM, PhD, Veterinary Microbiology and Preventive Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine, Iowa State University

Reviewed/Revised Jun 2018 | Modified Oct 2022

Tuberculosis is an infectious disease caused by bacteria of the genus Mycobacterium. The disease affects practically all species of vertebrates, and, before control measures were adopted, was a major disease of people and domestic animals. Signs and lesions are generally similar in the various species. Although commonly defined as a longterm, debilitating disease, tuberculosis occasionally has a sudden, rapidly progressive course.

There are several species of bacteria that cause tuberculosis. Each type is mainly found in one host species but may produce infection in other host species. The types that affect dogs include Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Mycobacterium bovis, and occasionally Mycobacterium avium complex and Mycobacterium fortuitum.

The breathing in of infected droplets expelled from the lungs of an infected person or animal is the usual—though not the only—route of infection. Ingestion, particularly via contaminated food or milk, may also be a common source of infection.

Most infected dogs do not have any signs, as the canine immune system actively suppresses the bacteria. When disease does occur, signs generally include chronic coughing with difficulty breathing or quick, shallow breaths. Other generalized signs include progressive emaciation, lethargy, weakness, poor appetite, and a low-grade, fluctuating fever.

The disease is easily transmitted to humans and other animals and represents a public health risk. Therefore, treatment of tuberculosis in dogs should be discussed with your veterinarian. If a dog is suspected of having advanced tuberculous lesions, it must be reported to the appropriate public health authorities, and the dog should be euthanized.

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