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Janet Tobiassen Crosby, DVM

MRSA and Pets - Infection Connection

By June 22, 2009

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Belle and Elmo - credit: GenGloStaphylococcus aureus is a common bacterial "germ" we encounter every day. It is found on our skin and nasal tissue. The methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a more serious form of this bacteria; one that is resistant to antibiotics.

This drug-resistant form of the bacteria became a problem with widespread use of antibiotics in hospitals, and has since evolved (mutated) outside of the hospital setting. Infections with this bacteria can range from simple skin infections to serious life-threatening infections.

Pets and MRSA are in the news after the July edition of The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal was released. The article, "Bite-related and septic syndromes caused by cats and dogs" has created a stir in the media, pitting animal lovers against critics who warn of fear mongering. The author/research team led by Dr Richard Oehler, of the University of South Florida, said that "MRSA colonisation has been documented in companion animals such as horses, dogs, and cats and these animals have been viewed as potential reservoirs of infection."

He added that "MRSA-related skin infections of pets seem to occur in various manifestations and can be easily spread to owners" and that "pet owners are often unaware of the potential for transmission of life-threatening pathogens from their canine and feline companions." Read full article

There are many zoonotic diseases and parasites that pet owners need to be aware of. For me, this news is a good caution and reminder to always use proper sanitation and hygiene with pets to prevent a variety of potential diseases. For MRSA, it is important to note that animals are a potential reservoir of this bacteria, most likely after acquiring it from their owners. In this case, the human may have the MRSA bacteria on the skin and an infection results after a pet bite or scratch, with the bacteria entering the broken skin. If you have been bitten or scratched, please check in with your human physician; animal bites and scratches can turn serious, whether it is MRSA or something else.

Hopefully this news about MRSA and pets won't send people into unnecessary panic about their pets. Common sense and good sanitation should prevail. People most at risk for this infection are the young, elderly, people with compromised immune systems and those who are ill and in hospitals. As always, please call your health provider if you have any health questions or concerns. Don't wait until things are "serious" and emergency care is needed.

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Have you had MRSA or another type of zoonotic disease?
Please share your zoonotic disease story here.

Photo: Belle and Elmo GenGlo

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June 22, 2009 at 8:11 pm
(1) Ingrid King says:

I always get a little annoyed when researchers try to make pets the culprit for spreading disease, because inevitably, it always leads to some people giving up their pets because of irrational fear. I’m glad you mentioned that it is also possible that our pets acquire the bacteria from us, and not just the other way aroud. I think as with everything, education is key, but I wish it could be done without the fear-mongering that is so common these days.

And if it wasn’t for the wide-spread abuse of antibiotics, we wouldn’t be in this situation in the first place, but that’s probably a topic for a whole new blog post!

June 26, 2009 at 4:14 am
(2) online pet shop says:

Hi there,

Myself want to share a few words with the readers too.

Caring for pets offers a tremendous learning experience for kids, teaching them responsibility, gentleness, and respect for nature and other living beings. Like adults, kids can benefit from the companionship, affection, and relationships they share with their pets.

Thankew very much for the wonderful post.

Take Care

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