So-called “superbugs” are something that a lot of us have read about on the internet or seen mentioned on the news or on documentaries, and the term “superbug” is usually reserved to describe several different types of bacterial infections that are resistant to antibiotics, and that can make the affected party very sick, even in some cases proving fatal.
Superbugs and stories surrounding superbugs have become quite common in recent years, with many frightening tales going around of people checking into a hospital for an injury or minor ailment, only to contract an unrelated bacterial infection during their stay and potentially, becoming quite ill. This is indeed something that has been documented as happening in the UK on more than one occasion, although the likelihood of it happening now to any given patient is very low – and many dog owners are also concerned about the threat of superbugs against their pets too.
One of the best-known superbugs that gets a lot of airtime due to its prevalence and the difficulty of treating it is MRSA – or to give it its full name, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. This is a type of bacterial infection that can affect both dogs and people, and one that often concerns dog owners.
With this in mind, this article will share some more information on MRSA and dogs, including how much of a threat it really is, how dogs can catch it, and whether or not it can be treated. Read on to learn how dangerous MRSA is to dogs.
MRSA is a specific strain of bacterial infection that is particularly notable because it is highly resistant to most types of antibiotics that would otherwise be used to treat it, making it difficult to treat as well as sometimes quite acute.
However, this doesn’t mean that MRSA is untreatable, and antibiotics of different forms can sometimes prove effective – and alternatives such as wound treatment with live Manuka honey have also proven to be very successful in some cases too, and are becoming ever-more widely considered by vets.
One of the reasons why we hear so much about MRSA and why it can be such a threat to people is because more serious cases can prove fatal if they cannot be treated effectively, and because a potential route of infection is by means of exposure within a hospital or other healthcare setting that a person might have attended for another issue entirely.
However, when it comes to dogs, MRSA infections are not hugely common – certainly not as common as they are in people – although there are other so-called superbugs that in turn, are more likely to affect dogs.
Dogs contracting infections from veterinary clinics is very rare, and MRSA isn’t actually one of the more common clinical threats in veterinary surgeries either.
Additionally, many dogs will not suffer from exposure to MRSA or even the presence of it on or in their bodies, and it will not necessarily make them very ill even if they do – healthy adult dogs with strong immune systems will often fight off such an infection on their own.
Even people in the peak of health often carry traces of bacterium like MRSA on their skin, or inside the mucous membranes of their noses – and whilst they can pass it on to other people who might in their turn be affected, most people carrying such bacteria don’t become ill with MRSA nonetheless.
People can pass MRSA on to dogs and vice versa, but your dog will not necessarily become sick as a result of this, and they may simply carry the condition without being affected themselves. However, if the dog is already ill, has a compromised immune system, an injury or open cut, or needs surgery and they are carrying MRSA, this can provide an opportunity for infection to take hold.
However, in healthy dogs with strong immune systems, the risks of MRSA are low.
Dogs may become exposed to MRSA in a wide variety of different ways, and few of them result in infection. Contact with another dog or person that is a carrier for the bacteria can pass it on to another, and whilst it is uncommon, they could also be exposed to it in their veterinary clinic or waiting room, although as mentioned, this doesn’t necessarily mean they will become ill.
Additionally, if your dog visits someone who is not in great health or suffering from an infection – or if they visit a healthcare setting like a nursing home – they might once more become exposed.
If your dog is diagnosed as having an MRSA infection, don’t panic. Whilst the risks are higher for pets that are very young, elderly, or have a compromised immune system, there are still various ways that your vet can approach treatment, and if one doesn’t work, they will move onto another option.
Different types of antibiotics may be used to find the most appropriate one for the issue, alternative options like live honey are another option, and supportive care whilst your dog’s body works to fight the infection off on its own are all potential routes to follow for different dogs too.
One point to note is that if your dog is being cared for in the clinic due to an MRSA infection, they will be placed in isolation to reduce the risk to others, and you will need to follow the clinic’s directions when visiting your dog to protect yourself from becoming a carrier for the infection and spreading it in your turn.