Plague in Dogs

Plague is a contagious bacterial disease characterized by fever and delirium, typically with the formation of buboes (bubonic plague) and sometimes infection of the lungs (pneumonic plague). Yersinia pestis are the bacteria that cause plague. This is a Gram-negative bacteria that can grow with or without oxygen (a quality called facultative anaerobic). Carriers of this bacteria include rats, squirrels rodent flea (Xenopsylla cheopisand) and mice; the disease is typically transmitted when a rodent either bites, or is bitten by a dog or through the bite of the rodent flea.

There are three types of plague which are classified according to the parts of body affected. The three forms are bubonic plague, pneumonic plague, and septicemic plague.

Bubonic plague is typically transmitted through flea bite or by an infected rodent. Once the dog becomes infected, the bacteria rapidly travel to the lymph nodes and begin to multiply. This causes a rapid multiplication of white blood cells in the lymph nodes, abnormal fluid buildup with swelling and possible skin breakage. 

In septicemic plague, the bacteria enter the bloodstream and infect multiple organs in the body, causing bacteremia and severe sepsis. 

When the infection affects lungs, the condition is known as pneumonic plague. 

Plague is a rare disease in dogs as they have a strong inherent resistance to yersinia pestis bacteria. Although very rare, plague can also be transmitted to the humans from infected dogs. Therefore, proper care should be taken when dealing with a dog suspected of being infected by plague bacteria.

Common signs and symptoms associated with plague are

Painful swollen lymph nodes







Enlarged tonsils


Lymph node abscess

Eye discharge

Mouth ulcers

Weight loss


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