March 29, 2005
Warning to pet owners and vets after first ever UK MRSA dog
—dies of human strain“
Web site reveals widespread global problem
The UK‘s first recorded dog to die of MRSA had a human strain of the disease, it is
In an alarming development for millions of pet owners, a leading independent
microbiology laboratory told Jill Moss of Edgware, Middlesex, that 10-year-old Bella,
her beautiful white Samoyed, must have become infected during surgery. Bella had
contracted a particularly resistant strain and the surgeon —most probably was
colonised and not wearing a mask“.
And the problem, far from being isolated, could be global. The website of the Bella
Moss Foundation, Jill‘s animal welfare charity dedicated to protecting companion
animals from MRSA and other serious infections, has attracted a flood of case studies.
The British Veterinary Association is warning all its members about the risk.
The Bella Moss Foundation is campaigning to change veterinary standards on
infection control, and Jill plans a veterinary clinic specialising in the treatment of pets
suffering serious infection.
Jill‘s tireless website campaign has brought the issue to the fore in the veterinary
world, and the British Veterinary Association, in response to the threat, has taken
steps to warn its members. At present there are no statutory or enforceable regulations
to which vets are accountable for their infection control practices.
Bella‘s problems started in summer 2004 when she ruptured a ligament in her hind leg
while playfully chasing squirrels. She immediately underwent emergency surgery at a
London multi-chain veterinary group, and returned home, but for two weeks was in
distress and failed to recover. Vets visited regularly, telling Jill that her pet was
suffering from pain reaction to surgery.
Then, Bella‘s wound burst open and she was rushed into hospital where, over the next
few days, she continued to deteriorate. Finally, Jill decided to remove Bella to a
specialist veterinary clinic where Bella was discovered to have pneumonia and septic
shock. She was critically ill and underwent another emergency operation that found
that the infection, which had been present for three weeks and was later identified as
MRSA, had caused severe damage to her leg. Bella miraculously survived the
operation, and after three weeks was discharged home with a plan to reconstruct her
leg after another month.
However, after returning home, Bella became ill again, but was unable to return to the
specialist clinic because of its referral policy. A senior partner at the multi-chain
group where the original surgery was performed, and whose father had died after
contracting MRSA, persuaded Jill that everything she and Bella needed would be
provided. On that basis, Bella returned to the place where her infection had originally
The following 48 hours were the worst of Jill‘s life.
She said: —Bella and I were confined to a consulting room, and as Bella lay on the
floor gasping for breath, I watched helplessly as young unqualified veterinary staff
refused to treat her for fear of becoming infected themselves. In the end I had to nurse
Bella personally, even to the point of having to phone the practice switchboard on my
mobile from the consulting room where Bella and I were confined because no-would
come in. Eventually, with no other choice, I had to have her put her to sleep.
—The experience of watching my most beloved friend deteriorate in front of my eyes
and be refused care has left me feeling determined that no other animal or pet owner
should ever suffer in this way. If I had known about MRSA in animals or understood
the risks, Bella could have been saved not just from death but from inhumane
was launched, Jill has been inundated with requests for
help from hundreds of owners of pets with MRSA from all over the world.
She continued: —We have found that this problem is widespread throughout the world,
and we are determined to inform and warn pet owners and vets, and be a supportive
but persistent voice calling for better infection prevention, to avoid it happening
again. Post-operative infections are not simply bad luck, too often they reflect bad
Research by Professor David Lloyd in the Veterinary Dermatology Department at the
Royal Veterinary College suggests MRSA infection in veterinary practice is on the
rise. His research publishes 12 confirmed cases over a few months at the Queen
Mother hospital in Potters Bar. He said: "We've surveyed the hospital and taken
samples from animals and staff, and found that 20 per cent of staff were colonised.
There is a potential to transfer the infection from humans to animals, and any animal
being treated with antibiotics may be susceptible to MRSA.“
Jill is appealing for funds to promote information on MRSA for vets and pet owners,
sponsor conferences, produce publications, and develop a veterinary clinic
specialising in the treatment of pets suffering serious infection.
Claire Rayner, Honorary Patron of PETS-MRSA.COM and The Bella Moss
Foundation, said: —We as a society need to be concerned with animals contracting
MRSA. It is a very worrying situation. More research needs to be done for the future.
—I am concerned about MRSA cross contamination from people to animals, and vets
should be diligent about infection control. We should all be concerned with protecting
pets from unnecessary suffering and death.“
Jill Moss added: —Unless important changes take place in the way veterinary practices
perform surgery and take better care of postoperative infections, the levels of MRSA
in animals will rise. At present we really have no clear idea of how MRSA moves
through the pet population, nor how it might affect humans, and this is the reason we
desperately need more research. In the meantime, it is absolutely crucial that vets take
this risk seriously; what happened to Bella shouldn‘t happen to a dog.“