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Epidemiological analyses were performed in five breeding kennels with Escherichia coli infections in newborn pups using pulsed field gel electrophoresis (PFGE). Previous reports demonstrated the high discriminatory power of this method and its usefulness for detecting epidemiologically related isolates. A total of 113 E. coli strains were isolated from vagina, faeces, oral cavity, milk and organs from 19 adult dogs, and 57 diseased or dead pups from 12 litters. Restriction enzyme analyses were performed using XbaI and BlnI digests and the resulting 91 DNA patterns were aligned for comparison. The results showed that a total of 60% of E. coli strains from progeny were also found in vaginal samples of the mothers. Another bacterial source was the faeces found within the kennels. One instance of milk and oral cavity isolates of the mother was found to be identical with strains isolated from the pups. The results indicate that for repeated cases of E. coli infections in neonates, diagnostic procedures of vaginal and faecal swabs from dams result in isolation of the responsible bacteria with high probability and further suggest that preterm treatment could help to control bacterial diseases and losses in pups. In addition, the observation that two canine strains were found to be identical with an E. coli strain isolated from a human case of diarrhoea strongly supports the canine reservoir hypothesis.