Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, aka MRSA, is an antibiotic resistant "superbug," which can be a life-threatening infection in humans. While it has not been as common in animals in the past, we are now seeing a rise in the last several years.
Healthy people typically carry Staphylococcus aureus on their skin and nasal passageways as normal flora.
Staphylococcus only becomes an issue in the presence of a cut or abrasion that allows the bacteria to enter the body and cause infection.
In case of infection a common class of antibiotics called beta-lactams is used. If the bacteria are resistant to Methicillin, a type of beta-lactam, they are typically resistant to penicillin and amoxicillin as well. This makes treating the infection very difficult.
MRSA infections are now considered a rising zoonotic disease. This means it may be transmitted between humans and animals. MRSA has been isolated in dogs, cats, rabbits and other domesticated pets.
The concern for pet owners is real but still leaves a lot of questions to be answered. Not all people or animals that have contracted MRSA exhibit any symptoms.
They may be carriers of the infection and only become sick once they have a cut or an abrasion that allows the infection to cause disease.
MRSA is spread by contact from infected pets, people or contaminated objects. Symptoms of MRSA in humans typically begin with red bumps resembling pimples or insect bites.
Symptoms in pets often include open sores, fever and weight loss or appetite supression. MRSA can live on a non-host object for up to 90 days.
Animals with MRSA can rapidly decline, and may even die, although most will recover with proper treatment.
If you suspect your pet may have a MRSA infection, contact your veterinarian immediately. The diagnosis is easily made through a process called culture and sensitivity that can be performed at most clinics and submitted to an outside lab. Identifying the correct antibiotic and using good hygiene practice can help eradicate this very contagious and deadly "super bug" from your furry friend and your environment.
Feel free to email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Veterinarians Charlie Meynier and Tom Suplizio practice at the Vail Valley Animal Hospital and ER, with locations in Eagle-Vail and Edwards that offer comprehensive small animal medicine and surgery. On-call vets are available after hours, and an emergency hospital in Edwards is open 24 hours a day, with a doctor on the premises weekends and holidays. For more information, call 970-926-3496 or visit www.vailvalleyanimalhospital.com.