What are Antibiotic-Resistant Infections?
MRSA is caused by bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics. This happens because every time your dog gets sick and is treated with antibiotics, there are always a few survivors (bacteria) that now are resistant to that antibiotic. These bacteria will pass on the resistance to other bacteria and this will keep happening until there are millions of bacteria that are drug resistant. Consequently, when your dog gets an injury or illness these bacteria will then take advantage your dog’s weakened immune system.
The Staphylococcus bacteria is often found on people and dogs without causing illness. You can be a carrier and not even know, but if you come in contact with your dog when he is sick or has an open wound he may get MRSA. Two and a half million people in the U.S. are carriers of the MRSA bacteria and they do not even know it, but they can pass it on to others with weakened immune systems or injuries. Actually, the majority of cases reported were caused by contact with a person who has or is a carrier of MRSA.
Antibiotic-resistant infection or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is one of the most common causes of antibiotic resistance in dogs. MRSA infection can be life threatening because it is hard to get rid of as it resists the antibiotics that veterinarians usually prescribe such as penicillin and amoxicillin. Your dog can be infected through a skin abrasion, cut, incision from surgery, or from your dog’s ears or nose. This is most often seen in animals that have been treated with antibiotic therapy or those in crowded situations, such as a breeder. MRSA is extremely contagious and can be passed from people to dogs and vice versa.
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Symptoms of Antibiotic-Resistant Infections in Dogs
The most commonly recognized symptoms of MRSA are sores or injuries on the skin that will not heal. Some of the other symptoms of MRSA are:
- Abscesses or ulcers
- Skin peeling
- Bald patches anywhere on the body
- High body temperature
- Frequent infections – can be any infection from a mild skin infection to a life-threatening lung infection like pneumonia
- Secondary infections – more than one infection (i.e. skin and urinary infections, bloodstream and lung infection) at the same time
- Unusual infections – pyomyositis (infection of the skeletal muscles), endocarditis (heart muscle infection), and tuberculosis
Causes of Antibiotic-Resistant Infections in Dogs
MRSA is caused by contact with someone who either has or is a carrier of MRSA. The most common cause of MRSA in dogs is people. Here are some risk factors to avoid to keep your dog from getting MRSA:
- Exposing your dog to others when he has an injury or illness that lowers his resistance
- Using kennels or doggy day care when your dog has an open sore or illness
- Repeated use of antibiotics
- Stopping antibiotics before they are gone; always give your dog all of the medication the veterinarian gives you
Diagnosis of Antibiotic-Resistant Infections in Dogs
Your veterinarian will need to do a complete physical examination, which will include weight, body temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate. He will check your dog’s entire body for skin lesions or rashes as well as inside your dog’s mouth, nose, and ears. Be sure to tell your veterinarian if your dog has had any injuries or illnesses recently, or if he has been exposed to others who may have MRSA. You should also let the veterinarian know if your dog has gone to doggy day care or a kennel recently. List the symptoms you have noticed, when they started, and if they have gotten any worse.
The veterinarian will need to run some tests on your dog to rule out other illnesses. Some of those tests are a complete blood count (CBC), glucose test, urinalysis, and fecal exam. A nasal swab will be taken for a bacterial culture, which is the most important test to diagnose MRSA. The veterinarian may also get a swab from one of the infected wounds or sores on your dog.
Treatment of Antibiotic-Resistant Infections in Dogs
The veterinarian will start with a bacterial culture and sensitivity test to choose the best antibiotic, and prescribe a special shampoo and topical medication to treat any sores or open wounds. Some of the antibiotics commonly used for MRSA are Clindamycin, Doxycycline, Rifampin, Fluoroquinolones, and Minocycline. Many times, your veterinarian may suggest or prescribe probiotics for your dog to take daily. If your dog has any lesions, the veterinarian will prescribe a topical antibiotic such as Neomycin.
Your veterinarian may prescribe a medicated shampoo with chlorhexidine to bathe your dog once or twice a day as long as he thinks it is needed. Be sure to wear gloves when bathing your dog, changing bandages, or washing your dog’s belongings because MRSA is very contagious between dogs and people.
Wash all of your dog’s bedding, food dishes, leash and collar, toys, etc. Throw away bones or chews that your dog chews on. Clean any lesions and surgical incisions with 70% alcohol. If your dog has abscesses or open skin wounds that will not heal, your veterinarian may decide to do surgery to drain or remove the wound.
Recovery of Antibiotic-Resistant Infections in Dogs
Since MRSA is resistant to many of the commonly used antibiotics (i.e. amoxicillin, ampicillin, penicillin), your veterinarian will have to use a stronger medication such as oxacillin, clindamycin, or doxycycline. Since it is so difficult to treat MRSA, a small infection on the skin can turn into a deadly infection of your dog’s heart valves, joints, bones, and bloodstream. That is why it is so important to take your dog to the veterinarian if you see a sore that is taking too long to heal.
Antibiotic-Resistant Infections Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
What is the prognosis for treatment of MRS infection that was a complication following TTA surgery to correct a CCL and meniscus injury of the knee? Original TTA surgery was performed in early October. Because of the infection, the bone was not healing around the metal "cage" put in place during the TTA surgery. The surgical incision exhibited some oozing. A subsequent surgery was performed eight days ago, and metal parts removed. The dog seems to be healing and walking well, but we are concerned: could the infection have entered the bone, and if so, does this present a particular challenge to treating the infection? The dog, a 4 y.o. female Chow, is now asymptomatic. After the second surgery, she took 150mg clindamycin twice a day for a week until the MRS was diagnosed. Now she is on 200mg doxycycline twice a day. Cultures are in progress to test additional antibiotics. Again what is the prognosis, and other than antibiotic treatment, are any other treatments needed?
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In. May of 2015 our dog suffered from an antibiotic resistant skin infection due to taking antibiotics too frequently. Fortunately, she survived. Since that time she took minocycline for three months with success. She also to simplicef for three weeks, total failure by the way.
Our concern is if she needs a deep dental cleaning and may need an antibiotic afterwards?
Thank you for your question. The resistance to an antibiotic is dependent on the bacterial infection (specific type of bacteria) and not on the host; so for a regular cleaning, if antibiotics are prescribed, they may be common broad spectrum antibiotics. Obviously in such cases, Tonka would need to be monitored carefully to ensure that there are no surprises. These are concerns to be addressed with your Veterinarian when any procedure is to be carried out; especially if prednisone is being used long-term. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
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