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What Are the Causes of Sepsis in Dogs?

| Updated September 26, 2017

Sepsis is a major cause of death in dogs as well as humans. Sepsis can occur with the onset of infection or a traumatic injury. Death can come swiftly once sepsis sets in, often occurring within hours of the dog showing symptoms.


When a dog has an injury or infection, the immune system releases cells to sterilize the wound or combat infection. This can damage healthy tissues, which may become hot, red and inflamed. If the immune system in the dog is not up-to-par, sepsis can set in. Sepsis is difficult to diagnose early, and once the dog has symptoms, can turn into a life-threatening situation.

GI tract

The leading cause of sepsis in dogs, originates in the GI tract. Canine parvoviral enteritis, is the most common cause of sepsis in dogs. Puppies and younger dogs are most likely to contract this condition.

Respiratory tract

Another cause of sepsis in dogs is the presence of pneumonia in the respiratory tract. Bacterial pneumonia can cause sepsis and death in dogs of all ages. This condition must be diagnosed and treated quickly to achieve the best outcome for the dog.

Dental disease

Diseases of the teeth and gums can cause sepsis. It is important to clean your dog's teeth on a regular basis to avoid this scenario.


Wounds that become infected are a cause of sepsis in dogs. This can include wounds from auto accidents or altercations with other animals.


Gram-negative infections, such as E. coli, are a common cause of sepsis in dogs. However, any bacterial, parasitic, viral or fungal organism can cause this condition to occur.