Any time your precious pup gets a wound or infection, it's cause for concern and a trip to the veterinarian. A typical treatment might involve antibiotics or special ointments. When it comes to methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections, though, things are more complicated, since MRSA is a staph bacteria that doesn't respond to first-line antibiotics.
MRSA spreads primarily through contact. If an infected person pets your dog, or if your dog shares items such as toys, water bowls, blankets or food dishes with an infected pet, your dog is at risk. Older dogs, very young dogs and dogs with wounds or diseases are most likely to develop a problem, as are dogs in kennels and other crowded locations.
Since MRSA often causes skin problems, keep watch for hair loss, strange lesions, scrapes, lumps or swollen spots. If you notice any minor wounds that don't heal on their own or that produce pus -- especially when accompanied by a fever or lethargy -- get that dog to a vet ASAP. The veterinarian will take a culture of the wounded area and test it to determine if it's resistant to antibiotics.
Once MRSA is confirmed as the culprit of a pup's infection, the vet may drain and clean the wound. Afterword, he'll likely prescribe an alternative oral antibiotic and possibly an antibiotic ointment to aid in healing. Dogs that are carriers of MRSA but who show no symptoms may eliminate the bacteria on their own. You must follow the vet's instructions exactly, and it may take several courses of treatment with different antibiotics to clear up the infection.
Your dog, whether he has an active infection or is asymptomatic, can pass MRSA to you and your family. Do not let a dog with MRSA sleep in your bed or on your furniture. It's best to separate him from other pets and prevent older and very young family members from having contact with him until he's healed. You must also thoroughly cleanse your house and practice good personal hygiene. Wear gloves when handling the dog and his bowls and bedding. Launder everything and use a disinfectant.
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