Staph and MRSA are a common part of today’s environment for both us and our pets. Because we are so close to our pets, bacteria like MRSA have an easy way to pass between our pets and us. Today I want to share a bit about natural ways of treating MRSA in dogs, cats and other pets as well as effective ways to protect against infections spreading back and forth.
How do dogs and cats get MRSA in the first place?
There are warning signs and risk factors that may signal a possible MRSA infection in your companion animal. Common signs of MRSA in pets include infections of wounds caused by trauma or operations, infections from catheters or orthopedic implants or other skin infections that just don’t get better. Pets have a higher risk of MRSA if they have been infected before or if their owner is infected. The risk is also higher if the pet or the owner is a MRSA carrier. A visit to a vet clinic experiencing an outbreak of MRSA also increases the risk.
An important note is that MRSA (caused by the bacteria Staph aureus) is more commonly associated with people than originating from pets. And, pets can carry MRSA bacteria without becoming infected.
MRSA diagnosis in pets
MRSA cannot be identified by symptoms alone. A MRSA test is needed to confirm what’s causing the infection. Another test, called a antimicrobial susceptibility test, can help your vet choose the best antibiotic for the infection, if antibiotics are needed. Fortunately, most MRSA infections in pets are not severe and tend to be limited to skin infections. Mild and moderate infections often respond well without antibiotics by using good wound management and diligent hygiene and prevention techniques. And, there are alternative remedies that work very well for animals.
Pets and owners can pass MRSA between each other in both directions. In fact, recurring infections in some people have be linked to close contact with an infected pet (J Hosp Infec. 1988). If you have a pet with MRSA, washing your hands often and keeping high-touch surfaces regularly cleaned and disinfected is most important. Keeping open wounds covered and well treated will also reduce the risks. Washing and bathing with natural antibacterial products can help decolonize the bacteria from your pet’s skin.
Just as hospitals are the most common place for people to get MRSA, vet clinics have the highest risk for pets to catch the infection. Most MRSA in cats and dogs occur at surgical sites and in open wounds. Vet clinics can lower the risk of MRSA spreading with good hand washing and cleaning of examination surfaces between patients. Vet staff can also wear disposable gloves, plastic apron, mask and cap when working with an infected patient to reduce MRSA spreading to other pets or people in the clinic. And, using antibiotics sparingly and prudently will help prevent the spread of MRSA.
If your animal requires any type of surgical procedure, be sure to talk to your vet clinic about procedures they have in place to prevent the spread of infections or MRSA to your animal friend.
Treating pets with MRSA
As I mentioned above, antibiotics are most commonly used to treat MRSA or Staph. Be sure your vet tests the infection to determine the right antibiotic if you choose to use them. Many of the same natural remedies that work for people with MRSA can also help with pets, especially dogs and horses. In fact, essential oils like tea tree, lavender, eucalyptus and some antibacterial blends can be used for larger dogs just as for people with skin infections. For smaller dogs, essential oils must be diluted with a carrier oil (such as grape seed oil) before applying to the skin.
Unlike dogs, cats are very sensitive to some natural remedies, including essential oils and most garlic preparations. As a general rule, essential oils should be altogether avoided with cats. If you are using essential oils yourself, consider keeping your cat in another room while applying them, especially when using an air diffuser. Because cats are so small, natural remedy dosages must be greatly reduced for cats relative to people. Homeopathic remedies can be a better choice for cats, as well as herbs like Goldenseal to help support the immune system.
An important note, some foods, herbs and remedies that are safe for people are dangerous for pets. Be sure to do your research before using a natural remedy with your pet. Always talk with your vet about proper dosage and usage to make sure it’s a right choice for your animal. Alternative or holistic vets will be much more educated about non-antibiotic choices.
Pet food and diet
Just like people, diet plays a big role in warding off infections for our pets. The more natural and less processed your pet’s food, the stronger their immune system and the easier it is to recover and prevent infections. At a minimum, your pet’s food should meet AAFCO requirements to ensure you pet’s basic nutritional needs are met. Because the words ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ are not regulated, you need to look beyond the food’s label and marketing materials to judge its true quality.
For both cats and dogs, look at the list of ingredients for lots of real meat (beef, turkey, chicken, etc) and preferably no corn, soy or wheat or any artificial ingredients. As with people, nutritionally balance raw food blends can be an excellent choice, though there is a transition period if your pet is not accustomed to raw food.
For a great resource on natural and holistic pet health topics, including diet, nutrition and common health conditions, check out Doctor Becker’s website at healthy pets at mercola.com.
To your best health,