What do I do when my pet is diagnosed with MRSA Infection?
1. People in contact with your pet:
MRSA is not usually a problem for healthy people as they have a natural
bacterial flora and their immune system to protect them. Some healthy people
and pets even carry MRSA in their nose or mouth as part of their normal flora.
However, if an individual has underlying health problems, they will be at
increased risk for acquiring infection from contact with your pet just as from
contact with MRSA-carrying people. You need to identify anyone in your
household who might be at a higher risk and those individuals should not be
involved in the daily care for your pet. You should discuss this with your GP by
telling him or her that your pet has been diagnosed with MRSA infection.
2. Risk of re-infection to your pet
Your vet will have started your pet on medication to treat the MRSA
infection (often antibiotic tablets, capsules, injections and sometimes creams). In
some cases of wound infection, the infection can be resolved before the wound
has healed completely. In those circumstances it is important to reduce MRSA
from the environment to prevent MRSA contaminating the wound and starting
infection again. While MRSA cannot survive on dry surfaces for very long,
people, other animals in the house and the patient itself may all carry MRSA in
the nostrils, in the mouth or on their fur without any harm to their bodies. In order
to prevent re-infection of your pet from humans or other animals you can ask
your GP to take a swab for MRSA from your nose and your vet may do the same
with other pets living in your house (you will be asked to cover the cost as part of
the treatment regime for your pet). Once you know whether you or other family
members carry MRSA you can either treat it (your GP will advise you on this) or
you can avoid contact with your pet or wear a mask to prevent MRSA transfer
from you to your pet.
Wound management will be very similar to the handling of any other infected
wound. Your vet will advise you on this (medication, collar, bandages etc) as
each wound is different and needs individual assessment. However, should you
encounter any problems in following your vet’s advice, for example, if your pet
refuses to take the tablets or resists having the wound inspected, tell your vet
immediately. MRSA infection is difficult to treat but for most animal patients,
medication is still available for successful treatment provided it can be given
correctly. Communication between you and your vet is very important in dealing
with these infections and you should let your vets know if you are worried about
the progress of wound healing (redness, discharge, odour) so that they can re-
assess changes. Sometimes, repeated swabs or a change in medication
becomes necessary as the bacteria involved in wound infections can change
4. Hygiene precautions
The most important means of preventing the spread of any infection, including
MRSA, is good hygiene. If your pet has been diagnosed with MRSA infection,
hand washing, the single most important factor of preventing spread of bacteria
amongst individuals, should be carried out before and after stroking your pet,
before and after dealing with the wound, after coming home from work and
before going out, in addition to the usual hand washing occasions during the day.
Jewellery should be removed prior to handling your pet. Hands should be
washed under warm flowing water using soap or an antiseptic solution (according
to the manufacturers’ instructions if those are given). Take care to rub all areas of
the skin thoroughly including the thumbs, finger tips and the back of your hands.
This process should take one to two minutes before thorough rinsing. Hands
should then be dried with disposable paper towels or frequently washed hand
towel that is not used for other purposes.
Bandages from your pet should be disposed of in separate plastic bin bags
immediately. Avoid letting them lie around where they could be dragged around
and avoid contact of the bandages with floors, furniture or bedding. It may be
helpful to keep your pet confined to an area where floors can be wiped easily,
e.g. a tiled room downstairs.
In summary, general hygiene procedures such as cleanliness, frequent and
thorough hand washing and careful handling of bandage material will aid the
treatment of your pet’s MRSA infection. However, successful treatment will
depend on a combination of various factors such as hygiene, appropriate
medication and close monitoring of progress, which is where communication
between you and your vet becomes very important.
Anette Loeffler, MRCVS