Got this email from Susan at Stillwater:
Greetings to the Stillwater Refuge Hunt list: I wanted to let you all know that this past weekend, waterfowl opener, we have had at least 3 reported cases of dogs becoming infected with a bacteria found at Stillwater Refuge and Carson Lake/Greenhead Club. All 3 are being treated by vets and are expected to make full recoveries. The bacteria (more than 1 kind) which cause this infection occur naturally in marshes, and not just in the Lahontan Valley. They are:
Primary = Aeromonas sp. and to a lesser extent Klebsiella.
These are anaerobic (don't need oxygen to survive, hence thriving in marsh conditions) bacteria, which enters the dogs system via the paw pads, through minute cracks. The bacteria can be 'injected' into the pads as dogs work the shallow, calm, warm water areas with tules/rushes that have been cut or chewed on, leaving exposed sharp ends that act like hypodermic needles. It is most common in areas where water has been present over the hot summer months, and not areas where new water is flowing. Most commonly occurs in the early, warm Fall hunt season. The bacteria become dormant with colder weather and water.
Symptoms include a rapid onset of swelling in the foot and leg to the elbow, fever, chills, extreme discomfort and excessive paw licking. Often, the swelling is so fast and severe the dog can not stand or walk from the field. This can happen within a couple hours after 'injection'. A small 'bubble' of infection will appear between the toes, which can eventually rupture and relieve the pain of swelling. We recommend you call your vet or contact one locally if you're from out of the area (vets in Fallon are familiar with this condition) to get your four legged friend the care he needs quickly.
Prognosis: several NV veterinarians have come to the conclusion that while frightening and painful for dogs (...and owners!), the infection most often will resolve itself if left to run its course. This can take 1 - 2 days; when the puss bubble pops, there is almost instant relief. Swelling and temps go down quickly. However, when the bubble pops, an open wound is left and if not covered or treated, it can become infected. Different antibiotics have been tried at early symptom onset and even as a prophylaxis treatment prior to exposure in the marsh, but they don't seem to prevent infection or offer relief any sooner than when left to run its course. If your dog is older, weak, has open foot wounds or pad cracks, has a compromised immune system, is sick or under vet care, give your buddy a break at home until they are healthy enough to enjoy the hunt with you.
It appears that once dogs recover, they have more resistance to subsequent cases. BUT, no scientific or medical studies have been done to support this theory.
Bottom line is if you take your dog to the marsh this season, keep a close eye on them for signs of infection and notify your vet as soon as possible.
Take care of your dogs and yourselves out there, and have a good, safe waterfowl season!
Susan Sawyer, Visitor Services Manager
Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge Complex
1000 Auction Road
Fallon, Nevada 89406