Drug Resistant Staph Infections Affecting Dogs

This new threat to our canine companions’ health is very scary and very dangerous because it is so new which makes it harder to accurately diagnose, and so hard to treat because it is drug resistant.

We’ve been hearing more and more about MRSA or methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a drug resistant staph infection which affect people. It can be found and spread almost anywhere, from hospitals to daycares and from gyms to schools.

Now we’re hearing about the latest dog health danger, MRSI or methicillin-resistant staphylococcus intermedius. Basically, it’s the same thing but a little different.

MRSA and MRSI are actually strains on common bacteria the people and pets have on and around them that have become resistant to drug that are normally used to treat them.

MRSI infections were the hottest topic at the recent North American Veterinary Dermatology Forum, and while there is some increased awareness leading to more frequent diagnosis, there’s no question the infections themselves are becoming more widespread.

“Definitely in dogs it’s an emerging problem,” she [veterinary dermatologist, Laura Stokking] told me. “Up until recently, the bacteria that most commonly affected dogs didn’t tend to trade resistance information with other bacteria the same way that the staph in humans did.” Those days are gone, however, and she says both the incidence and prevalence of drug resistant bacteria are spreading in companion animals.

Given that MRSI infections are of increasing risk to dogs and cats, the most useful information a pet owner could get would be how to prevent them. To do that however, we’d need to know where the pets were getting the infections.

Stokking agreed that the origin of most MRSI infections in pets is unclear… “We don’t usually see a link between hospitalization or veterinary visits and the acquisition of this strain of staphylococcus,” she said.

What about the canine or feline equivalents of the daycare center or gym, such as dog parks, boarding kennels or groomers? “Contaminated water, contaminated shampoo bottles,” she agreed. “It’s possible.”

Pets living in the same household with an infected dog or cat will sometimes get MRSI from the sick pet. (Humans virtually never get MRSI from animals, although we can transmit MRSA to them.)

The truth is, we really don’t know where dogs and cats are being exposed to these bugs, which makes it almost impossible to prevent our pets from getting them.

However, uncertainty about prevention doesn’t mean there’s nothing pet owners can do to minimize their pets’ risk of resistant infections. Because rapid diagnosis and effective treatment are key to preventing the more serious forms of the disease, pet owners and their veterinarians need to be on the lookout for it.

They first need to be aware that many skin infections with MRSI or MRSA are initially misdiagnosed as spider bites… Stokking said that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have a poster used in human medicine that says, “Looks like a spider bite but isn’t? MRSA.” Since it’s such a common misdiagnosis, she believes it’s probably a good idea to do a skin culture on any suspected spider bite and any skin infection that doesn’t immediately respond to the usual antibiotics.

Owners also need to be aware that trying to save money by delaying or skipping diagnostic tests can cost them much more money in the long run. A skin culture might cost over $100, but wasting time on an ineffective antibiotic can cost much more.

“Don’t be afraid to culture,” Stokking said. “It’s better to do a culture and then find out that it would have responded to cephalexin than not culture and let it go three weeks before realizing that you’re dealing with a methicillin-resistant strain.” (SF Gate)

For your dog’s sake, take the time to learn about health problems. Keep an eye on your canine companion and do regular home examinations. This way you can possibly identify problems in your pet’s health before they turn into crises!

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