What Is MRSA Infection In Dogs? Symptoms, Causes, & Treatments

Staphylococcus aureus MRSA bacteria, computer artwork. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA, orange) is a Gram-positive, round (coccus) bacterium, shown here on a filamentous surface. It is resistant to many commonly prescribed antibiotics. S. aureus is carried by around 30 per cent of the population without causing any symptoms. However, in vulnerable people, such as those that have recently had surgery, it can cause wound infections, pneumonia and blood poisoning.

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MRSA is a so-called “superbug” that is resistant to many forms of antibiotics and can be fatal for dogs that are infected. The acronym MRSA stands for Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcal Aureus, and unlike normal staph infections that are fairly harmless to dogs and easily treated, MRSA is deadly and requires expensive antibiotics and aggressive treatment. The earlier it is diagnosed and treated, the better the chances are of recovery. Initially, MRSA looks like a normal skin infection, but as the infection continues to worsen and the dog doesn’t respond to antibiotic treatment, the bacteria can get into the blood stream and become toxic. If you see the signs of a staph infection in your dog that doesn’t heal with antibiotics, consult your veterinarian for a diagnosis and treatment right away. Here is what you should know about the symptoms, causes, and treatments for MRSA infection in dogs.

Symptoms Of MRSA Infection In Dogs

a dog try to scratching its skin.

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The symptoms of MRSA infection in dogs are similar to a normal staph infection, but they do not disappear with antibiotic treatment and continue to worsen. Infections can appear anywhere on the skin, but often affect the ears and sites of wounds, especially after surgery. If your dog’s staph infection is not clearing up with treatment, MRSA may be the cause. Here are some symptoms you should look out for.

  • Small, red bumps or boils
  • Bulls-eye shaped lesions
  • Itchiness
  • Skin ulcers
  • Pus-filled blisters
  • Scaling skin
  • Discoloration of the skin
  • Alopecia
  • Pneumonia
  • Sepsis

Causes Of MRSA Infection In Dogs

Yorkshire Terrier being given medicine.

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MRSA can be passed from dogs to humans or from humans to dogs. It is carried in the nasal cavity and can infect other parts of the body, then enter the bloodstream, which is when it becomes deadly. MRSA can be passed into the environment and infect other susceptible hosts through direct contact or contact with contaminated objects. This can especially happen when people do not wash their hands properly.

MRSA is the result of improper antibiotic use, which has caused the bacteria to develop an immunity to most forms of treatment. This happens when dogs only receive a partial antibiotic treatment that fails to kill all the bacteria or when they are over-prescribed antibiotics, especially for conditions like viral or fungal infections that are not treatable with antibiotics. Many vets now recommend that minor, non-life-threatening infections be treated with bathing, immune-boosting foods and supplements, and other holistic treatments to avoid overuse of antibiotics, which causes bacteria like MRSA to exist.

Treatments For MRSA Infection In Dogs

Doctor Testing Biological Specimen

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MRSA infections in dogs are often treated with expensive antibiotics that aren’t usually found in a normal veterinary clinic. In fact, most MRSA medications are for humans, and they are often saved to treat life-threatening infections in people rather than skin infections in dogs. Topical shampoos may also be prescribed.

During the time of infection, dogs should be quarantined in a clean environment and all toys, blankets, and items the dog comes into contact with should be thoroughly and regularly washed. Dogs infected with MRSA may be given probiotics, as antibiotics kill off both good and bad bacteria, and probiotics encourage good bacteria to replace those that have been killed off. Herbal remedies, supplements, and dietary changes can help boost the immune system and the dog’s ability to fight off the infection naturally.

MRSA can be very deadly, and many dogs do not recover. Treatment is more effective when it begins early, so if you see the signs of a staph infection in your dog, get to your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis. Proper grooming, maintaining a clean environment, disinfecting wounds, and giving your dog an immune-boosting diet can all go a long way in preventing infection.