I often get asked about testing of healthy pets for Clostridium difficile. This bacterium is an important cause of disease in people. While most common in people in hospitals, cases of C. difficile infection are occurring more in people in the general population. Also, C. difficile can be found in various animals, including dogs and cats. This has led to concerns about the role of pets in C. difficile infection in people. The role of animals in human infections has not been determined, but it is plausible that C. difficile could be transmitted between people and pets, in both directions.
I have been diagnosed with C. difficile. Should my pet be tested?
No. There is no evidence that it is useful. Even if C. difficile is isolated from your pet, it would not tell you if the pet was the source. Your pet could be carrying a completely different strain of C. difficile. Molecular typing of the recovered bacteria (from both you and your pet) would be needed to determine if they are the same strain, and this type of testing is not readily available. Even if you both had the same strain, your pet could have picked it up from you. So, testing of your pet really wouldn't tell you anything.
I'm worried that I may have acquired C. difficile from my pet. Can I just have my pet treated at the same time I'm being treated?
No. Treatment of healthy pets to eliminate C. difficile is not recommended. There is no evidence that we can eliminate C. difficile from a healthy pet with antibiotics.
More information on Clostridium difficile can be found in our Resources page.