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Last updated on April 20, 2014 at 14:04 EDT

Cats And Dogs May Have An Infectious Bite

June 22, 2009

Researchers are now warning that doctors should be aware of the risk of MRSA infection when treating people for dog and cat bites.

MRSA (multidrug-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is a bacterium responsible for difficult-to-treat infections in humans. The bacteria are found on everyone’s skin and are usually harmless, but an insect bite or a skin wound of any kind can allow the bacteria to creep in and cause an infection.

Lancet Infectious Diseases reviewed existing evidence on infection risks from pet animal bites.

They found that as community-acquired MRSA becomes more widespread, the chance of having it passed between humans and our house-pets is significantly increased. 

UK expert Professor Mark Enright said it is more likely the owners, rather than their furry little friends, that carry MRSA.

Every year, 1% of the accident and emergency visits in the U.S. and Europe are the result of dog and cat bites. 

Dogs may be man’s best friends, but they are also responsible for about 60% of the bites, while cats are responsible for around 10-20%. 

Boys between the ages of five and nine are at greater risk for being bitten by dogs. Their shorter stature makes children more likely to be bitten on the face, neck or head.

Cat bites are more often seen in women and the elderly. Cats cause more deeply penetrating puncture wounds than dogs, and carry a higher risk of infection and soft-tissue abscesses.

Cases of severe infections are seen in about 20% of all domestic animal bites, and can be caused by bacteria in the animal’s mouth as well as the infectious agents carried on human skin.

MRSA may not be a common strain in domestic animals, but recently it has been popping up more often.

The team led by Dr Richard Oehler, of the University of South Florida, wrote in the journal, “As community-acquired strains of MRSA increase in prevalence, a growing body of clinical evidence has documented MRSA colonization in domestic animals, often implying direct infection from their human owners.

“MRSA colonization has been documented in companion animals such as horses, dogs, and cats and these animals have been viewed as potential reservoirs of infection.

“MRSA-related skin infections of pets seem to occur in various manifestations and can be easily spread to owners.”

MRSA infections transmitted by pets receive the same treatment as all other MRSA infections. 

Dr. Oehler and his team added: “Pet owners are often unaware of the potential for transmission of life-threatening pathogens from their canine and feline companions.”

He went on to urge clinicians to encourage loving pet ownership while keeping sufficient pet history and being watchful of diseases that can easily be prevented through education and taking simple precautions.
 

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