Questions and Answers About Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus for Pet Owners

What is MRSA?

MRSA is a type of bacteria that is resistant to some antibiotics. Although MRSA is primarily found in people, animals also can carry or be infected with the organism.

How is MRSA transmitted to people and animals?

Direct skin-to-skin contact is the most common way MRSA is transmitted, but it also can be transmitted by contaminated objects such as bandages from a MRSA-infected wound.

What are the symptoms of MRSA in animals?

MRSA can cause skin or wound infections.

What are the symptoms of MRSA in people?

Most infections caused by staph are skin infections, such as pimples or boils. Staph skin infections can be red, painful, swollen, or have pus or other drainage. More serious staph infections can also cause pneumonia and infections of the blood and joints.

Can a pet or person have MRSA and not be sick?

Yes, people and pets can be carriers. They may carry MRSA on their skin or in their nose and have no outward signs of illness. This is called colonization with MRSA.

How is MRSA diagnosed?

A swab is taken from the affected area and is submitted to a laboratory for culture.

Do I need to get rid of my pet if it tests positive for MRSA?

It is usually not necessary to get rid of a pet if it tests positive for MRSA. It is important, however, to be aware that dogs and other pets living in close contact with persons who are MRSA-infected or colonized also can become colonized with MRSA and this could result in recurrent MRSA colonization or infection in humans. Most MRSA skin infections can be prevented with proper hygiene. Healthy people rarely develop serious infections such as pneumonia, bloodstream infections, or bone infections.

How is MRSA treated?

Treatment varies from case to case. If the person or pet is colonized, no treatment may be needed. Persons with signs and symptoms of skin infections (e.g., redness, swelling, warmth, pain, tenderness) should consult with a health care provider. Pets with these symptoms should be taken to their veterinarian. Purulent skin infections may undergo incision and drainage. More serious infections may require antibiotic treatment. The choice of antibiotics should depend on culture-based antimicrobial susceptibility tests.

If my pet has a MRSA infection, what can I do to avoid getting infected?

  • Follow all wound care instructions from your veterinarian.

  • Keep your abrasions, cuts, and scrapes clean and covered with a clean, dry bandage until healed.

  • Practice good hand hygiene. You, your family, and others in close contact with the pet should wash their hands frequently with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially after changing the infected animal’s bedding, bandages or any other objects that may have been in contact with the infected wound.

  • If possible, wear disposable gloves when touching items such as the animal’s bedding, bandages or any other objects that may have been in contact with the infected wound. Perform hand hygiene after glove removal.

  • Clean washable items that become soiled with hot water and laundry detergent (use bleach if possible). Drying laundry in a hot dryer, rather than air-drying, also helps kill bacteria.

  • Use a household disinfectant or 1:100 dilution of household chlorine bleach to clean any surfaces contaminated by wounds or drainage. To make bleach solution mix 2 tablespoons of bleach into 1 quart of water. Be sure to mix a new bleach solution every day. Never mix bleach with other cleaners, especially ammonia.

  • If anyone in your home has recently had surgery or is immunocompromised, he/she should avoid contact with the infected pet, the pet’s wound and any contaminated items such as bandage materials.

Is MRSA in animals reportable?

No, MRSA in animals is not reportable. If a cluster of animal cases occurs which may have public health implications please report these to your local health department.

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Illinois Department of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
Phone 217-782-4977
Fax 217-782-3987
TTY 800-547-0466
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