Treating MRSA Skin Infection

Treating MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) in dogs is similar to methods used to treat a MRSA skin infection in a human. Treating an MRSA staph infection involves a veterinarian performing culture and sensitivity tests and prescribing an alternate antibiotic.

The MRSA Bacterium

MRSA is a form of Staphylococci that has developed resistance to current antibiotics. Staphylococci aureus is a common bacterium that normally inhabits the skin, nasal cavity and pharynx, causing a bacterial infection.

In healthy dogs, staph is usually not a health problem. The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that most staph infections are minor and easily treated. In rare cases, however, the bacteria will invade the bloodstream and spread rapidly. Because the bacterium is resistant to our current arsenal of antibiotics, treating MRSA staph infections can be difficult.

Vancomycin, a powerful antibiotic, is effective against some strains of MRSA but it is being used cautiously to prevent the development of resistance.

Causes of MRSA Infections

There are risk factors for MRSA staph infections. Dogs are more likely to develop MRSA in the presence of an other skin disease, such as pyoderma. Other risk factors include:

  • A wound infection, including surgical sites
  • A stay at a veterinary clinic or hospital
  • The use of immunosuppressant drugs

MRSA Can Spread to Humans Through Bite Wounds

MRSA is a zoonotic disease, meaning it can spread from animals to people. It is not, however, spread by casual contact. Most transmissions from dogs to people occur as a result of a bite.

The Lancet Infectious Diseases, a British medical journal, reports that pet to human transmissions are on the rise, but the increase is likely caused by "cycling," a process by which pets acquire the germ from humans and become reservoirs for the germ. The report states "MRSA-associated infections in pets are typically acquired from their owners and can potentially cycle between pets and their human acquaintances."

MRSA Signs and Symptoms

Signs of a MRSA infection are similar to most signs of a bacterial skin disease:

  • Redness, warmth and tenderness of the wound
  • Yellowish-white pus or fluid that may have a foul smell
  • Fever

Your veterinarian will test for MRSA before beginning treatment because the use of an inappropriate antibiotic will not be effective and could lead to more serious illness and resistance.

Preventing MRSA Infections

Take all sensible precautions to avoid dog bites. If you experience a bite that breaks the skin, wash the wound immediately and thoroughly with soap and water. Cover the wound with sterile gauze and seek medical care at once.

Note: Over 40 percent of dog bites occur in children under the age of 14. Teach your children standard dog safety procedures, and be sure they understand the importance of reporting any bites.

Always wash your hands thoroughly after contact with an unknown, injured or sick dog. Observe routine hand washing procedures when visiting a veterinary hospital or clinic.

The spread of drug resistant bacterial infections is frightening, but sensible hygiene practices and routine health maintenance can keep you and your dog safe.