By Dr. Karen Becker
MRSA is short for Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.
Staphylococcus aureus is a strain of bacteria naturally found in most animals, including humans.
In your dog or cat, staph can be found as naturally occurring bacteria on the skin, in mucous membranes, as well as in the GI tract.
Occasionally pets can become infected by their own normal flora.
I refer to these infections as “pet acne,” because they are usually harmless and very easily treated, but when a pet’s normal flora develops resistance to broad-spectrum antibiotics, it becomes a very dangerous health threat.
If these bacteria undergo genetic mutation — making them resistant to even the strongest antibiotic available, including methicillin — it can cause serious illness and even death in pets.
MRSA symptoms are similar in both people and animals.
A MRSA skin infection usually starts as a small red bump or boil which can develop into a deep painful abscess.
Common locations in the body where an infection occurs are the skin, ears, and at wound sites, especially after surgery.
Initially, MRSA can look like any other infection, but it doesn’t respond to antibiotics.
When the skin lesions refuse to heal, that’s often when people start to realize they’re dealing with a potentially life-threatening infection.
The infection can progress to necrotizing fasciitis. It can also move to the lungs as necrotizing pneumonia, which means pneumonia that slowly kills off lung tissue. About a third of MRSA infections in the lungs cause death.
A septic infection of the entire body can also develop.
Because MRSA is so difficult to treat, it can progress from a mild skin rash into a life-threatening infection that invades your pet’s bones, joints, and major organs, as well as the bloodstream. About half of MRSA infections in the bloodstream are fatal.
Why MRSA Has Become a Problem for Pets
How did MRSA even come to be? How did it develop in pets?
We are overusing antibiotics in human and animal medicine. We’re also exposed to even more antibiotics when we eat factory-farmed animals and animal products.
If it was not for the indiscriminate use of antibiotics in veterinary medicine, there would be no need to make this video. The decision to use antibiotics should never be taken lightly. They should not be prescribed unless absolutely necessary. Aside from the ability of bacteria to mutate and develop resistance to antibiotics, these drugs also have side effects like every other chemical does.
Many of the health problems for which antibiotics are routinely overprescribed respond just as well and often better to safer alternatives like herbs, common sense approaches like disinfecting wounds, as well as nutritional supplements.
Unless your pet has a life-threatening illness or injury that can only be treated with antibiotics, let your veterinarian know that you prefer to at least try and treat, if possible, without antibiotics.
Avoiding Overuse of Antibiotics
Hopefully, an increasing number of health professionals are waking up to the problem of antibiotic overuse, but if your vet isn’t quite there yet, and is handling most cases by just constantly or recurrently dispensing antibiotics, you might want to consider finding an integrative vet who’s more apt to work with you on reducing the use of antibiotics.
Culturing an infection will identify whether it’s bacterial in nature, and only bacterial infections are responsive to antibiotics.
Viral and fungal infections do not respond to antibiotics. Dispensing antibiotics to treat a viral infection is a classic example of indiscriminate overuse of the drug, and I see it happen all the time in veterinary medicine.
If the culture is positive for bacteria, it will also identify the specific type of bacteria, allowing the most appropriate antibiotic to be used. Not every antibiotic works equally well on every infection.
If your pet has an infection that requires antibiotics, I really think you need to demand that your veterinarian do a culture and sensitivity test. Otherwise, your vet’s basically guessing as to what antibiotic is most appropriate, and potentially fostering antibiotic resistance by choosing incorrectly. Once the culture has identified what type of bacteria is growing, then your vet will be able to identify what antibiotic is best used to treat the infection.
Making sure your vet is making the best choices is the very first step in successful treatment. Giving the proper dose at the proper intervals and using the entire prescription is important, even if your pet seems to be fully recovered before the medication has run out.
This will ensure the infection is totally resolved and prevent your pet from having to take another full course of antibiotics because the first course wasn’t fully administered, and the infection wasn’t cleared.
I see this most commonly in my practice with skin infections. The skin appears to be getting better, so clients stop the antibiotics before the really deep life-threatening skin infection is thoroughly treated. This not only increases the risk of developing antibiotic resistance, but also leaves the pet not fully treated. Recurrence is inevitable.
All-Natural Help for MRSA Infections
Make sure to give your pet a high quality pet probiotic during any antibiotic therapy.
Antibiotics kill off the good bugs right along with the bad ones. Giving a probiotic will reseed your pet’s gut with the appropriate healthy bacteria that he needs for a strong and balanced immune system.
In my practice, I use other things to help reduce bacterial growth, including oregano oil, propolis, and olive leaf extract. I also use essential oils, colloidal silver, Manuka honey, and Pavia cream to naturally treat MRSA.
There are many other options that holistic vets use, and they have identified them to be quite successful at treating MRSA infections naturally. Deciding exactly what protocol to use and how to use it is really best done with the help of your integrative veterinarian.