According to DVM360, sepsis is a "systemic inflammatory response to infection." Sepsis in dogs typically originates in the gastrointestinal or respiratory tract. Symptoms may be hyperdynamic or hypodynamic, and often affect the mucous membranes as well as heart and respiratory rate. Severe dental disease, chronic urinary tract disease and contaminated wounds are also common sources of sepsis in dogs.
Sepsis may develop slowly or rapidly. When a dog's infection progresses to the point that it's coursing through his bloodstream, it has the potential to trigger a host of symptoms.
A dog showing hyperdynamic symptoms of sepsis may have a fever and dark red mucous membranes, such as his gums and the inner tissue of his eyelids. His heart rate may be fast -- faster than the normal range of 60 to 140 beats per minute -- and he may have a racing pulse.
As sepsis progresses, the symptoms may change to a hypodynamic response. The mucous membranes will be pale, and the respiratory and heart rate may drop. As well, the dog may become cold -- hypothermic -- instead of experiencing a fever.
Blood tests also may indicate sepsis. Potential serum chemistry irregularities include hypoglycemia, hyperglycemia, elevated blood urea nitrogen, excessive bilirubin and low levels of albumin. A septic dog may have excess acid in his body as well as coagulation abnormalities.
Left untreated, sepsis is fatal. As the infection progresses to severe sepsis, the dog's organs will begin to fail. A dog in septic shock will have low blood pressure, even with intravenous fluid therapy, requiring medication to return the blood pressure to a normal level. Medication to address the infection is required and occasionally a feeding tube is necessary, as it's typical for a dog to lose his appetite as a result of the illness. Medication to minimize nausea and address deficient gastrointestinal motility is often used to treat a septic dog. A critically ill dog may need blood transfusions to address anemia and clotting problems that sometimes present from sepsis.