MRSA in Pets and Therapy Dogs

This week I listened to a webinar by Dr. David Aucoin entitled “Emerging Antimicrobial Resistance MRSA to MRSP:  A Growing National Problem”, sponsored by Bayer HealthCare Animal Health.  Methicillin Resistant Staph aureus is usually a reverse zoonosis.  That means pets get infected by people.  If infected, most pets will clear themselves of MRSA within two weeks if not reinfected by a human.  The bigger problem in veterinary medicine is Methicilin Resistant Staph psuedintermedius (MRSP).  At a commercial veterinary lab sighted by Dr. Aucoin, 1 out of 7 dog skin cultures grew MRSP while only 1 out of 50 grew MRSA.    

Since treatment is difficult with either of these staphs, prevention is the key.  If you know you carry MRSA, wash your hands well before touching any animals.  Wear gloves if treating open wounds and skin problems on your pet.  These bacteria may live on inanimate objects referred to as fomites.  Disinfect equipment and surfaces often. 

Since MRSA is common in human hospitals, therapy animals have a greater chance of contracting this bacteria.  To minimize the risk, keep pets off of beds and chairs.  Have patients wash their hands before touching a therapy animal.  Watch the pet closely for health problems after visits.  If skin problems develop, contact your veterinarian so they may culture the infection before treatment. 

Published by kristennelsondvm

Dr. Kristen Nelson grew up on a farm in Watertown, Minn., where she developed a deep love for animals of all kinds. She received a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Minnesota, College of Veterinary Medicine. Kris then completed a small-animal internship at the prestigious Animal Medical Center in New York City. In addition to writing and speaking, she cares for small and exotic animals in Scottsdale, Az. Dr. Nelson is widely quoted in the media. Her credits include Ladies’ Home Journal, USA TODAY, the Los Angeles Times and numerous radio and television interviews. Dr. Nelson has written two books, Coated With Fur: A Vet’s Life and Coated With Fur: A Blind Cat’s Love. Kris and her husband Steve share their home with rescued cats, birds and a dog.