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Bacterial infections are a sadly common fact of life, with some being much more serious than others. While a simple stomach infection can result in an afternoon of vomiting or diarrhea, bacteria growing in an open wound can lead to necrosis, gangrene, organ failure and even death. The bacterium Staphylococcus (more commonly known as ‘staph’) is one of the more dangerous bacteria that people can expect to encounter. Staph mainly affects the skin of the victim, but the infection can soon spread to the major organs if it is left untreated. The organism can cause a range of unpleasant symptoms depending on what part of the body it has managed to infect and how far it has spread. In some cases, the infection can prove to be lethal. But while we humans are at risk, is the bacterium also capable of harming canines?
Can Dogs Get A Staph Infection?
Unfortunately, this is the case, with staph infections being commonly treated by vets in a variety of circumstances. If you believe that your dog has become infected with Staphylococcus, it is vital that you seek veterinary assistance as soon as possible, as otherwise, the infection could endanger the life of the animal.
Does My Dog Have A Staph Infection?
In order to determine if your dog has fallen victim to a bacterial infection, you should check for some specific symptoms. As staph most commonly attacks the skin of its victims first, there should be some clearly visible signs that something is wrong with the dog – boils and blisters are a common sign of the bacteria’s presence, as is an uncomfortable rash that may cause the dog to lick its skin excessively. An open wound that has become infected will after a short time start to give off an unpleasant odor and discharge a bacteria-filled pus. Likewise, if the dog has somehow contracted an eye infection, the pus will often start to leak from under the eyelids and matt in the fur of the face.
Typically, staph will be picked up from surfaces that other infected animals have come into contact with and will only tend to affect animals with weakened immune systems, such as those that are already sick or especially young or old dogs. However, some strains of the bacteria are especially virulent and can easily make their home in an open wound that has not been properly cleaned. To diagnose the problem, your vet will typically take a sample from the infected area using a swab and then examine it under a microscope. Blood testing can also be used to determine how far through the body the infection has spread and to find out if the immune system is capable of fighting back.
For more information on staph infections and how they are identified, check out our condition guide, Staph Infections in Dogs .
How Do I Treat My Dog’s Staph Infection?
Once the vet has identified the Staphylococcus bacterium as being the cause of your dog’s infection, they will be able to provide your dog with the correct antibiotic drugs. These will halt the spread of the condition, allowing the animal’s immune system to effectively fight back against the virus. However, you will have to make sure that the drugs are given to the dog on a set schedule, as otherwise, they will be ineffective and possibly allow the staph to become resistant to further treatment.
In total, it should take several weeks for the dog to recover, provided they get plenty of rest and any open wounds are dealt with. You should keep in mind, however, that some types of Staphylococcus are resistant to antibiotics, meaning that alternative treatment methods such as surgical removal of infected tissue will be necessary in order to save the dog. The recovery time needed after such a procedure will depend on the exact amount of flesh that the vet will be forced to remove.
To read accounts from dog owners who have dealt with staph infections in their pets and to consult with one of our in-house vets, go to our condition page, Staph Infections in Dogs .
How Is a Staph Infection Similar in Dogs and Humans?
While dogs and humans have some considerable physical differences, there are some ways in which staph infections may appear similar in both species.
Skin irritation and swelling are universal indicators of a bacterial infection, being found in all animals, along with discharge and foul odors emanating from infected wounds.
The most common transmission vectors for the staph bacteria are other animals, meaning that it is perfectly possible for the dog to pass bacteria that has settled on its coat to another animal and vice-versa.
How Is a Staph Infection Different in Dogs and Humans?
Although there are certain ways in which staphylococcus infections in dogs and humans can bear a resemblance to each other, there are also some obvious differences.
Due to our fairly hygienic nature, humans are much less likely to fall victim to staph infections than dogs, who typically have the bacteria already present on the surface of their skin prior to the skin becoming compromised and letting the bacterium into the body.
The mild forms of staph infection may be difficult to spot on dogs due to their coats obscuring their skin, whereas humans will find it easy to observe such a rash on other people or on their own body.
Humans are far more likely to encounter antibiotic-resistant bacteria due to our comparatively frequent contact with medical environments (hospitals and surgeries), in which such organisms are often found.
A husky manages to get into the garbage bin of its owner’s house, eating a sizeable amount of food and garden waste, but also cutting its back leg in the process. The dog becomes ill from the rotten food it had eaten and takes several days to recover. During this time, the owner notices that the cut on its back leg has turned somewhat yellowish in color and is starting to emit an unpleasant odor. Fearing an infection has taken hold, they take the dog to see their vet, who confirms that Staphylococcus is present in the wound. Unfortunately, further testing shows that the bacterium is of a strain that is known to be resistant to antibiotics. Fortunately, however, the prompt response of the owner means that the vet can simply cut away the small patch of infected skin without too much hassle. This removes the infection from the dog’s body and within a few weeks, the husky is back to normal save for the small amount of scar tissue on his rear leg.