Instead of tripping over "methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus," call this infection by its easier name, MRSA. People, and occasionally pets, can carry Staphylococcus aureus in their nose and on their skin. If your pup has MRSA, methicillin and other antibiotics in the same family won't be of any help.
The Path of Infection
People and pets can carry Staphylococcus aureus without being affected by the bacteria, referred to as colonization. If Wilson had a cut on his ear and got a head rub from a Staphylococcus aureus carrier, that little cut could develop into a nasty abscess. Often, the vet may try methicillin or one of the other beta-lactam antibiotics with fine success. Sometimes, however, the abscess won't heal, which can be the case with MRSA infections. As the infection deepens, your pup's wound may have a discharge or swelling, and he may develop a fever. A dog with MRSA risks a potentially fatal illness; the mild infection can transform to one seizing his major organs, bloodstream, bones and joints.
From Him to You and You to Him
If Wilson has a regular history of needing antibiotic treatment, it may have set the stage for his resistance. The opportunity for a MRSA infection is increased if he's had surgery or hospitalization, or if he's a hospital therapy dog. If a dog picks up MRSA, it's more likely he came in to contact with it from a person instead of another dog. He may not break out with an infection of the bacteria, but he can carry it and pass it along to other animals and people.
Job one is to diagnose Wilson's condition to confirm it as a MRSA infection. After taking a bacterial culture, the bacteria should be given a sensitivity test to determine which antibiotic will be most effective. Since MRSA is resistant to methicillin, that antibiotic isn't an option, nor are others in the same beta-lactam family. In the case of an infection in the skin or soft tissue, treating the wound can be effective treatment on its own. Throwing the most powerful antibiotic at the MRSA is a tempting choice; however, the vet will have to be careful to choose a medication that's effective, but won't build resistance. The antibiotic may come in the form of an injection from the vet, or you may have a regimen of oral medication to give your pup. Regardless of the medicine's form, you must follow the directions to the letter. If Wilson's looking good and you still have three pills left, do not save them for later; give him his medicine exactly as prescribed. Veterinarian Karen Becker of Healthy Pets recommends giving your dog a probiotic to keep his immunity intact while you're giving your dog antibiotics.
Be Careful Out There!
Whether Wilson's infected with MRSA or merely a carrier, you should take control of the situation to keep it contained. Washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water will keep you from sharing the bacteria with other pets and family members. When you're tending to your pup, such as washing his wounds or changing dressing, wear gloves, and dispose of them and used bandages immediately after finishing your tasks. Your displays of affection with your pup will have to be put on ice; no licks or kissing, and he shouldn't share the bed or couch with you. His toys and bedding should be kept clean. Walking him away from other dogs and cleaning up his poop immediately will reduce the risk of spreading the infection. Finally, if there are people in your home with compromised immune systems, Wilson should recuperate off-site to ensure their safety.
- Healthy Pets: If Your Vet Thinks Your Pet Needs Antibiotics, Ask Him to Do This First
- PetMD: Antibiotic-Resistant Infections in Dogs
- Veterinary Partner: Print this article Email this article MRSA: Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus
- VetStreet.com: 5 Things Every Pet Owner Needs to Know About MRSA Infections
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