Animal Botulism


Perhaps surprisingly, due to their diet of carrion, animals contract botulism much more often than humans.13 Symptoms of botulism in most animals include weakness, muscle tremors, stumbling, paralysis and recumbency.8

Botulism is very common in wild water fowl, especially ducks and chickens, and is spread through the ingestion of fly larvae on the corpses of other birds killed by botulism. Because poisoned birds cannot hold their heads up, avian botulism is known as "limberneck."8

It also strikes cattle, being given the names lamsiekte, bulbar paralysis, loin disease, and forage poisoning. The first three names come from the form of botulism caused by the consumption of carcasses, and the last refers to the form caused by the consumption of organisms in feed.8

Foraging spreads botulism to horses, who typically contract type B. Foals may suffer from intestinal colonization, which is known as shaker foal syndrome.8

Dogs who consume contaminated chickens may contract type C botulism,8 to which they are the most susceptible. Symptoms in dogs include a stiff walk, constipation, declination to eat or drink, excess saliva or no saliva, and paralysis for four to six weeks. Botulism in dogs is also called "coon dog paralysis."21

Type C botulism has also been found in minks that ate contaminated food products.8

Because sheep will not eat a rabbit carcass until it has been dead for eight days, they are at a high risk for catching botulism. Incubation in sheep is from twelve hours up to several days, and the symptoms that emerge include muscle weakness (first the head and neck, then the limbs), excess salivation, nasal discharge, spasms, and an inability to stand.21

In pigs, botulism incubates for one to three days, and symptoms include weakness in the hind legs, dilated pupils, declination to eat or drink, and paralysis. Death occurrs in one to seven days.21

Even fish can acquire botulism, and in fact, they are "extremely susceptible to type E toxin." Depending on the temperature, the botulism will incubate from 19 hours up to several weeks, causing a gradual paralysis affecting the fins, a loss of balance, and an inability to surface. The best way to prevent an outbreak of botulism is to regularly remove dead fish from the bottom of ponds.21


Click here to return to "Botulism: Odorless, Tasteless, But Certainly Not Harmless."