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News Article

Acute polyradiculoneuritis in dogs: consumption of raw chicken found to be a risk factor


Campylobacter could be a trigger for a rare type of canine paralysis.

A study published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine found that raw chicken consumption is a risk factor in dogs for the development of acute polyradiculoneuritis (APN), which potentially is mediated by infection with Campylobacter spp.

APN was first described in North America in dogs used to hunt racoons and may have occurred as a result of contact with racoon saliva, hence the original term “coonhound paralysis”. Since then, this disease has been identified in many other countries with no natural racoon population.

A study of dogs in Australia, led by the University of Melbourne’s U-Vet Werribee Animal Hospital, found the consumption of raw chicken meat increased the risk of developing APN by more than 70 times.

Dr Matthias le Chevoir, chief investigator on the project said the cause of APN in dogs had baffled the veterinary community for a long time.

“It is a rare but very debilitating condition where the dog’s hind legs first become weak and then may progress to affect the front legs, neck, head and face. Some dogs may die from the disease if their chest becomes paralysed,” Dr le Chevoir said.

“Most dogs eventually recover without treatment but it may take up to six months or more in some cases. It can be difficult for owners to nurse their pet until the condition gradually improves.

“A better understanding of this condition is therefore very important, so our team was really pleased to have discovered that consuming raw chicken necks is an important risk factor for developing APN.”

Paralysis results from the dog’s immune system becoming unregulated and attacking its own nerve roots, progressively worsening over several days.

APN is the canine counterpart of Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) in humans, a condition that also causes muscle weakness and may require ventilation if chest muscles are affected.

Dr le Chevoir said Campylobacter was now considered a triggering agent in up to 40 per cent of GBS patients, which may be present in undercooked chicken, unpasteurised milk products and contaminated water.

“Our team at U-Vet Animal Hospital wanted to understand if consuming raw chicken could also be triggering APN in dogs. Many of our team have previously worked overseas and know that a raw meat diet is less common there, so were intrigued by this potential connection,” Dr le Chevoir said.

The team studied 27 dogs with symptoms of APN and 47 dogs without, examining physical symptoms and interviewing the owners about recent behaviours and diet; focusing on the consumption of raw chicken meat.

The study’s lead author Dr Lorena Martinez-Anton said that when they examined faecal samples collected within seven days of clinical signs of APN appearing, they were 9.4 times more likely to have had a Campylobacter infection than the control group without APN.

“We predict that the microbe Campylobacter is likely to be the reason for the dysregulation of the dog’s immunity and therefore, the symptoms of paralysis,” Dr Martinez-Anton said.

“These bacteriological results were consistent with the hypothesis that the uncooked chicken meat was the source of the Campylobacter and as a result, triggered APN.

“We find smaller dog breeds are fed more chicken necks as they can’t eat larger bones."

In humans, it is proposed that Campylobacter contains molecules similar in structure to part of the nerve cell. This similarity confuses the immune system which attacks the body’s own nerves, resulting in paralysis.

Drs Martinez and le Chevoir said the fact that raw meat consumption could trigger such dramatic disease is concerning as there currently appears to be a growing trend for feeding dogs raw meat diets.

Read article: Investigation of the Role of Campylobacter Infection in Suspected Acute Polyradiculoneuritis in Dogs by L. Martinez-Anton, M. Marenda, S.M. Firestone, R.N. Bushell, G. Child, A.I. Hamilton, S.N. Long and M.A.R. Le Chevoir, published in Journal of Veterinary Medicine (2018) vol. 32, no. 1, pp. 352-360, doi: 10.1111/jvim.15030

Article details

  • Date
  • 07 February 2018
  • Source
  • University of Melbourne
  • Subject(s)
  • Dogs, Cats, and other Companion Animals