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208 Breeds, 422 Health Conditions  |  Find a Vet

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Bacterial Endocarditis




Condition Overview

Bacterial endocarditis is an infection of the heart valves and the lining of the heart. This disease is not common.


As the bacteria invade the heart valves, they produce ulcerations and small wart-like bumps called vegetations. The effects on the valves are similar to those of chronic valvular disease. In addition, parts of infected vegetation can break off and spread the infection to other organs. This seeding process causes a variety of signs including fever, shaking, chills, swollen joints, lameness, spontaneous bleeding, blindness, behavioral and personality changes, unstable gait, stupor, and seizures. These signs are non-specific and may suggest a number of other diseases.


It is caused by bacterial species that gain entrance to the circulation system through the wounds and infections elsewhere in the body. In many cases, the actual source of infection is unknown. Dogs on corticosteroids and immunosuppressant drugs are at increased risk, as are mid-size and large dogs.


The presence of a heart murmur, particulatly a new or changing murmur, suggests a diagnosis of bacterial endocarditis. This can be confirmed by ECG, chest X-rays, and echocardiography. Blood cultures identify the causative bacteria.


Antibiotics must be selected based on blood culture and sensitivity tests. To eliminate vegetations, long-term antibiotic therapy (2 - 4 months is required. The dog should be monitored closely for signs of congestive heart failure, which may appear suddenly, and for the development of antibiotic-resistant organisms.

Dogs with less severe valve disease may recover with only mild permanent damage. The prognosis is guarded for dogs with mitral valve involvement and poor for those with aortic valve involvement.


There is no prevention for this condition.


Please contact your veterinarian with questions regarding this condition.

Show Sources & Contributors +


Dog Owners Home Veterinary Handbook

Publisher: Wiley Publishing, 2007

Website: http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/

Authors: Debra M. Eldredge, Liisa D. Carlson, Delbert G. Carlson, James M. Giffen MD

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