Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Pet Talk

September 4, 2012

Animals are susceptible to Staph infections, too

— Staphylococcus (staph) bacteria are all around us in an intimate way since it normally lives on the skin and mucous membranes of both people and animals alike.

It usually is not of a concern to the individual if the skin is functioning normally and there is not a risk for infection.

When infection is present, most staph bacteria are susceptible to commonly prescribed antibiotics. Although many individuals walk around every day with staph bacteria, not all staph are alike. Indeed, Staph aureus prefers people (as well as pigs and some horses) over dogs and cats.

Staph pseudintermedius likes the skin of companion animals over man.

“Methicillin-resistant staph” refers to Staphylococcus bacteria that have developed a resistance to commonly prescribed penicillin and penicillin-like antibiotics, making infections difficult to treat. Again, most staph bacteria are susceptible to a wide array of antibiotics, but these particular staph have developed resistance to typical antibiotics, hence they are more challenging to eliminate.

Dr. Adam Patterson, clinical assistant professor and chief of dermatology at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences Small Animal Hospital, explained staph skin infections (pyoderma) in animals present as skin sores recognized as redness, pimples, scabs, dander, and hair loss.

Many times these infections itch and result from uncontrolled allergic skin disease. When this type of infection occurs, it usually responds to correctly prescribed and administered topical and/or systemic antibacterial treatments.

If the infection is not easily treated by an appropriate course of antibiotics, then the chance for a “resistant” infection is heightened. When these risk factors are present in animals with pyoderma, veterinarians perform a culture of the skin sore to determine if the bacteria are indeed methicillin-resistant.

“A resistant infection doesn’t look different than susceptible infections, the only way to know is to culture the skin,” Patterson said.

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