Man’s best friend… Part of the family… One of the kids… Anyone who reads these phrases knows we are talking about their dog. When we add “with MRSA” to our phrases it would make any dog lover/owner worry.
MRSA (methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus), which is a difficult staph infection to treat but keep in mind it is treatable, can be found in our dogs. It is very similar to when this infection is found in humans with the preventions, symptoms and treatments being close to identical. It was originally believed that the transmission was only spread from human to dogs not the other way around, current studies show that transfer from dogs to humans is possible.
Identical to humans, dogs are more vulnerable to this infection when they have a weakened immune system. When symptoms of MRSA are evident, the dog should be tested by a veterinarian and treatment should be started immediately to help prevent the chance of the infection to spread and become more serious. For example, once in the bloodstream, it can move to any part of the dog’s body and travel from area to area. We will begin with one of the most common question asked if our dog has MRSA.
What should you do if your dog has MRSA?
- Contact your veterinarian and schedule an appointment as soon as possible.
- Avoid touching your dog’s nasal and anal area because these are the most likely areas to have colonized MRSA. If you must touch those areas make sure to wear gloves and afterwards wash your hands.
- Don’t allow your dog to encounter other animals or people until after treatment is finished.
- Handle their stool with care and dispose immediately.
- Don’t allow your dog to lay on beddings or clothes used by you.
- Disinfect surfaces that your dog comes in contact with.
Prevention, it shall not spread!
- From dog to human:
When this staph infection, MRSA, is present on a dog. To avoid the chance of it to spread, treatment needs to begin as soon as possible. The dog owner should follow precautions like washing their hands after contact and covering the any infected wound. Reading our article, “5 Ways To Prevent MRSA In Homes“, could help. Also keep in mind, the infected dog should not be around someone with a weakened immune system.
- From dog to dog:
Shared equipment, especially grooming equipment, should be properly cleaned every time to prevent MRSA and other bacteria to spread from dog to dog. When a dog is infected with this staph infection, the owner should not take him or her to the dog park, a friend’s house, or anywhere else other dogs will be present. If your dog must interact with another dog, make sure the infected wound is covered.
- From human to dog:
A person who is diagnosed with MRSA might remember to take the proper precautions to prevent the spread from human to human but might forget about taking precautions to prevent the spread from human to dog. This person should wash their hands before touching a dog, have their wounds covered, not allow the dog to lick them.
Keep your eye on the symptoms
A dog that is infected with MRSA has similar symptoms to a human with this infection. On the dog’s skin, it will usually be evident with a sore or boil which becomes red, swollen and painful to the dog. It will look comparable to a pimple with a bump in the middle. The skin around the infected area may appear crusty. Another symptom is when the dog is contently itching at the spot of the infection. Because of the itching it can cause hair loss. When the MRSA infection becomes more severe it can cause drainage of pus from the wound.
Summing up the symptoms:
- Evident sore or boil
- Pimple like with a bump in the middle
- Crusty skin
- Consistent itching
- Hair Loss
- Pus Drainage from the wound
When a dog has 2 or more of these symptoms, it should cause concern and be examined by a veterinarian. The vet can perform the proper tests to determine if it is MRSA or not.
A little about Treatment
Treating dogs for MRSA is similar to treating humans. A dog will usually be treated with antibiotics (Linezolid, Baytril, Vycomycin, or Daptomycin) that are effective in handling the specific strain, which the dog is infected with. In the case of a severe infection, a dog may need surgery or to stay in a veterinarian facility to receive additional treatment.
Therapy Dogs Awareness
Therapy dogs that go to nursing homes, hospitals, and group homes should be protected from a MRSA infection because the residents are at a higher risk of being infected or colonized. If the dog has any breaks in the skin or has any condition that may lower its immune system, it should not go to high risk facilities. People touching a therapy dog should always wash their hands before having contact with the dog.
Awareness of MRSA for dog lovers/owners is necessary. When untreated it can be a life threatening infection for the dog and possibly spread to the owner. With simple precautions and being aware of the symptoms, dogs’ lives can and will be saved!