This is a question that I get on a regular basis. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is an antibiotic resistant bacterium that is a major cause of disease in people and is also a cause of disease in various animals species, including dogs and cats. It can cause a wide range of infections, from mild skin infections to rapidly fatal disease. Most MRSA infections in animals are treatable if managed properly and most are treated in the home (as opposed to requiring a stay at a vet clinic). Because of this, there are concerns about transmission of MRSA from infected pets to people in the household. Transmission of MRSA between people and pets (in both directions) definitely happens, although we don’t really know how often this occurs.
If your pet has MRSA:
- Talk to your veterinarian about how to handle the infection
- Avoid contact with the infected site. If you have to touch it, use gloves and wash your hands immediately afterwards.
- Wash your hands regularly after contact with your pet
- Avoid contact with your pet’s face…MRSA often lives in the nose, in addition to the site of infection
- Try to limit overall contact with your pet until the infection has resolved. Close, prolonged contact such as letting the pet sit on your lap or sleep on your bed should be avoided
- Follow your veterinarian’s instructions closely. Always complete the full course of treatment, even if your pet looks better
- Talk to your physician if you have concerns about your health, particularly if you or someone in the household has a compromised immune system
Should I be tested?
Current recommendations are that there is no indication to test people or pets for MRSA carriage when there is an infected pet (or person) in the household. Testing might be reasonable in some circumstances where uncontrolled transmission of MRSA appears to be occurring in a household, but there does not seem to be a reason to test with single incidents of MRSA infection.
Studies are currently underway looking at transmission of MRSA in households where pets have an MRSA infection. Better information will likely be available in the future as a result of these studies.
More information on MRSA in pets will be available soon in our Resources section. Another good source of information is the Bella Moss Foundation, a charitable foundation dedicated to MRSA in animals.