The term septicaemia is employed to indicate certain forms of blood-poisoning which result from the entrance into the circulation of disease-producing bacteria or their products. All the various contagious disorders, such as glanders, strangles, etc, are so many special forms of septicaemia, in addition to which there are others commonly originating in wounds.
When septicaemia results from the entrance of bacteria into the blood, it is termed septic infection.
If the blood of such an animal be inoculated into a healthy subject the disease is communicated by the bacteria which it contains.
In this form of the affection, therefore, bacteria are the direct inducing factor.
But septicaemia may also result from chemical poisons formed by certain kinds of bacteria, as when organisms of putrefaction set up decomposition of the tissues in wounds, and the poisonous products resulting therefrom are absorbed into the blood. This form of septicaemia is known as septic intoxication, and is not transmissible by inoculating the blood into healthy stock.
Pyaemia is also a form of septicaemia, but distinguished from all the rest by the development of abscesses in various parts of the body. The organisms by which this disease is excited have the peculiar property of inducing the formation of matter (pus).
Blood-poisoning in any form is a dangerous and commonly fatal affection. It is ushered in by a fit of shivering, which may be repeated again and again. There is a marked rise of temperature, attended with great prostration, a quick feeble pulse, and increased respiration. Muscular pain and weakness is shown by the weight of the body being constantly shifted from one limb to another. The mucous membranes of the eyes and nose are of a yellowish-red hue, and in severe cases blood spots or blotches appear upon them. The mouth is clammy, the tongue furred, and food is altogether refused.
In pyaemia there is, in addition to these symptoms, the formation of abscesses in various parts of the body, sometimes on the surface, at others in one or more of the internal organs. The lungs, brain, liver, and kidneys, in some instances the joints of the extremities, are the parts most frequently invaded. The duration of pyaemia is more protracted than in the other forms of septicaemia, and although very fatal, it is not so generally destructive.
In dealing with this form of disease it is of the first importance that the strength of the patient should, as far as possible, be upheld. If the appetite fails, as is usually the case, eggs and milk should be freely given three or four times in the course of the day.
The flagging heart must be stimulated by the administration of brandy, whisky, or gin, with which quinine should be given three or four times, or more, in the twenty-four hours.
Where wounds exist they should receive prompt attention. The hair should be removed from about them, and the surrounding skin and the wounded surface must be thoroughly washed with well-boiled water and then freely irrigated with some antiseptic solution, after which it should be enclosed in antiseptic wool, and be carefully dressed as occasion requires.