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Dangerous Hot Spots: Staph Infection in Pets

You might think that only humans get aggressive and potentially life-threatening antibiotic-resistant staph infections. But our pets are also vulnerable to these dangerous staph infections. In the WebMD Pet Health Community, M. Duffy Jones, DVM, advises pet owners to keep a close eye on any "hot spots" -- superficial skin infection that's often caused by a flea bite -- that you notice on your pet’s skin. It may be something more serious than you think. It may be a sign of staph infection.

One WebMD community member tells a heartbreaking story of losing her beloved golden retriever to such an infection. After a routine operation, her dog was given a drug that he could not tolerate, and the resulting itchy hot spot became infected. After courses of three different antibiotics, the dog developed Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Beta-Hemolytic Streptococcal (Strep) infections. And he ultimately had to be put to sleep.

Jones offers important advice for pet owners on hot spot management in order to protect pets from MRSA and Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus pseudintermedius (MRSP), both of which can be fatal and have recently been on the rise in pets. Jones states that if your pet has a history of hot spots, make sure she’s tested for both MRSP and MRSA bacteria. Infected pets should be treated aggressively, as soon as possible.

It's also important to know that MRSA and MRSP can both jump between animals and humans. So if your pet is infected:

  • Avoid contact with your pet's mouth, nose, and any visibly infected areas on the skin.
  • Don’t allow your pet to sleep in bed with you.
  • Wash your pet's bed and toys frequently.
  • Wash your hands often.

Also, remember that most hot spots are initially caused by fleas. So year-round flea control can make a significant difference in helping your pet dodge these types of infections.

Discussion led by M. Duffy Jones, DVM Guest Expert
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