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Fluffy And Fido May Be Harboring MRSA

Posted by Jane Akre
Monday, June 22, 2009 11:49 AM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: MRSA, Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, Bacteria, Community-Acquired Staph

Dogs and cats may harbor the community acquired variety of MRSA.

They Can Get It Too



IMAGE SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons/ Fox terrier and kitten/ author: Prskavka 


MRSA or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infections are known to like dark, damp places to grow and colonize.  A human nose may harbor the bacteria, and new research shows that MRSA may live just as well in your pet.

Writing in the British medical journal, Lancet Infectious Diseases, Dr. Richard Oehler and colleagues at the University Of South Florida College Of Medicine in Tampa, find that dogs and cats can colonize MRSA germs they get from their owners.

Many are transmitted back to humans by a scratch or a bite.   Petting will generally not transmit the pathogens.

Without human transmission, the pets on their own carry a slightly different strain of Staphylococcus bacteria.


MRSA appears as a spider bite with a red center and swelling around it.  The boil, as it appears, can be treated early on by soaking. Otherwise they have to be lanced and drained. An infection can enter the bloodstream infecting heart valves, joints, lungs and bones. 

MRSA can enter the body through any breaks in the skin including bites, cuts, open wounds, or medical procedures such as surgical incisions or catheters.

Twenty years ago researchers reported that a cat, living among the elderly in the United Kingdom, had passed MRSA back to the residents in the geriatric unit. 

Three years ago, science discovered that human MRSA, the community-acquired variety, can be transmitted to our pets.  A short-haired domestic cat was found to have skin sores with the pathogen USA300, also a source of community-acquired MRSA or CA-MRSA.

Then the cat’s owner had been reinfected and had soft-tissue staphylococcal infections.

With more than 350,000 emergency room visits due to dog bites in 2001, about 20 percent can become infected. ABC News reports the cost for treatment exceeds $1 billion a year. 

Pets can also transmit other bacteria such as Pasteurella, Streptococcus, Fusobacterium and Capnocytophaga, among about 30 other pathogens, reports Oehler. 

Take Action 

MRSA can be avoided through regular hand washing and use of antiseptic hand gels. 

To decolonize the bacteria in your home, clean the bathroom with a bleach solution and do not share towels or personal grooming items. 

Humans who repeatedly get MRSA should have a nose swab to see if it is colonized there. Anyone in the family also could be a carrier so should be tested as well.  

The CDC has launched the  National MRSA Education Initiative, aimed a specific actions parents can take to protect themselves and their children from the bacteria.   #


Posted by Michael Bennett
Monday, June 22, 2009 4:35 PM EST

While this study, and a couple of others, suggests that house pets can be a source of certain strains of MRSA, it's important to put this data into context.

Community-acquired MRSA (CA MRSA) accounts for about 15% of all MRSA infections. The other 85% of MRSA infections are hospital-spread. The percentage of CA MRSA attributable to cats and dogs is likely less than 1%, if it's quantifiable at all.

Considering that many in healthcare have tried to shift the focus away from hospitals by placing an unwarranted emphasis on CA MRSA, we need to be vigilant that this new study does not go to serve a similar purpose. It would be a shame if Fluffy and Fido were transitioned into scapegoats for the failures of healthcare leadership.

Posted by Jane Akre
Monday, June 22, 2009 11:59 PM EST


You are so right- thank you for putting that in the proper context. Also note that your pets would have to scratch you to transmit the bacteria and even then it's unlikely.

And no, Fluffy and Fido should not take the blame!

Comments for this article are closed.

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