Staph Infection in Dogs – Types, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment and cost

How Does a Dog Get a Staph Infection

What are Staph Infections?

Staphylococcus Infection is a group of infections caused by the bacterium Staphylococcus. You may have heard them referred to as “staph infections”.  These germs are widespread and most are harmless. Staph bacteria can cause a wide range of infections, from relatively minor skin infections such as boils, to more serious infections of the blood, lungs and heart. There are many types of Staphylococci, but most infections are caused by a group called Staphylococcus aureus.

Staph infections come in many types and cause damage to many parts of the body. Most common is an infection of the skin where a cut, wound or scratch has allowed bacteria from the environment to enter the body. Signs of a Staph infection often include pus at the wound site, redness and sensitivity of the surrounding skin, and crusting of the wound and surrounding skin. If left untreated, serious Staph infections may progress to septicemia (blood poisoning) and death.

What are the symptoms of Staph Infection in Dogs?

Staph infection is the kind of infection that occurs only in cat and dog. No other creature ever had this infection. One of the primary symptoms of staph infection in dogs and cats is skin lesions. There are two types of lesions that may appear: one is characterized by a red area with pimple-like pustules. The other is also red, but is distinctly circular, with crusting around the circle’s edge and hair loss in the center. Additional symptoms include fever, severe pain, itching, loss of appetite and secondary infections, pus in and around wound site, redness and inflammation, weakness and lethargy, atypical behavior and abnormal crusting/scaling of wound site. Although staph bacteria can be spread from person to person and animal to animal, a staph infection cannot. A staph infection only occurs when the host’s skin is irritated or the immune system is weakened.

What are the types of Staph Infections in Dogs?

Staph infections can be broadly classified into two groups: skin and soft tissue infections, and invasive infections. Examples are given with each type.

1) Skin and soft tissue infections

Most infections caused by staph bacteria are relatively minor and only affect the skin or underlying tissue. Common examples include:

  • Boils – red, painful lumps on the skin that usually develop on the neck, face, armpit or buttocks.
  • Impetigo – a highly contagious skin infection that mainly affects children, which can cause sores, blisters and crusts to develop on the skin.
  • Cellulitis – an infection of the deep layers of the skin, which can cause affected areas to quickly become red, painful, swollen and hot.
  • A skin abscess – A collection of pus that appears as a painful lump under the surface of the skin.
  • Folliculitis – an infection of a hair follicle (small sac in the skin that a hair grows from), which causes an itchy pus-filled bump to develop.
  • Wound infections – an infection of a cut or graze or surgical wound, causing redness, swelling, pain and pus.
  • Staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome (SSSS) – A more serious condition that mainly affects babies and young children, where staph bacteria releases a toxin that damages the skin, leading to extensive blistering that looks like the skin has been scalded.

2) Invasive infections

In a small number of people, a staph skin infection can lead to a more serious, invasive infection deeper within the body. Examples include:

  • Septic arthritis – a joint infection that causes pain, swelling, redness and tenderness in affected joints.
  • Osteomyelitis – a bone infection, usually affecting one of the legs, causing bone pain, restricted movement, and swelling, redness and warmth in the affected area.
  • Pneumonia – an infection of the lungs that causes persistent coughing, breathing difficulties and chest pain; this often occurs after a viral illness such as flu.
  • Endocarditis – an infection of the inner lining of the heart, causing a fever, chest pain, coughing, weakness and shortness of breath.
  • Sepsis – an infection of the blood that causes a high temperature (fever), rapid heartbeat and rapid breathing.
  • Toxic shock syndrome – where bacteria release toxins into the blood, it can cause a sudden fever, vomiting, diarrhea, fainting, dizziness, confusion and a rash.

What are the causes of Staph Infection in Dogs?

The causes for this type of infection are infected cut, scrape or wound, contaminated material entering nose, mouth or eyes, ingestion of contaminated material and improperly sterilized medical equipment. These are the main causes which dogs can go through.

What is the diagnosis of Staph Infections in Dogs?

If you, as an owner notice that your pet is experiencing a fever and exhibiting weakness and confusion, you should immediately contact a doctor. Once a wound is infected, it is not always possible for it to heal on its own. A doctor will suspect a Staph infection if your pet has an infected wound or abscess producing pus, with redness of the surrounding area and pain disproportionate to the size of the injury. Swabs of the wound can be sent to the lab for culturing to definitively identify the cause, but most often this is not necessary, as the treatment for nearly every skin infection is antibiotic ointment sometimes given in conjunction with oral antibiotics. The Staph genus can also be responsible for infections of almost every major organ. A doctor may request a urine sample for culture, microscopic examination, or perform additional testing as needed. In rare cases, Staph can infect the disks between vertebra in the spinal column, and/or the bone itself. This causes significant pain along with fever, swelling and weight loss. If the inflammation is great enough to compress the spinal cord, tremors and lack of coordination may also appear. The doctor may ask for X-rays, a spinal tap, or blood cultures to definitively diagnose the illness.

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 What is the treatment of Staph Infections in Dogs?

The primary treatment for Staph infections is antibiotics. In the case of skin infection, an antibiotic cream will most likely be prescribed and possibly oral antibiotics to prevent the infection from spreading internally. Topical cream should be applied until the wound has healed, and a course of oral antibiotics should be taken in its entirety to avoid the possibility of re-infection. In the case of an internal infection, a variety of treatments in conjunction with antibiotics is possible, and will depend on the specific case. Insertion of stents to drain excess fluid, surgical intervention, and removal of necrotic tissue may be warranted at the discretion of a veterinarian.

What are the chances of recovery of Staph Infections in Dogs?

As long as the owner administers the medication as directed and the pet is kept in adequately warm, sanitary conditions, Staph infections of the skin usually heal completely in a matter of days or weeks. Rarely, an infection may be resistant to the given antibiotic, and so a course of multiple antibiotics will be prescribed. The outlook for internal infections tends to be less positive – antibiotics alone cannot curb the damage infection can cause to organ structures and surrounding tissue. With the appropriate therapy as prescribed by a doctor, there is a significant chance of recovery in most cases.

What is the cost of Staph Infections in Dogs?

Staph infections can most commonly be a skin infection or an internal infection. For most staph infections classified as skin infections, the veterinarian will prescribe an antibiotic cream to help combat the infection. The doctor may prescribe oral antibiotics as well. If the staph infection is caused by an internal infection then there could be more extensive treatments done. In addition to oral antibiotics, the doctor may combat the internal infection with stents to drain any fluid buildup. Surgery may also be an option in order to remove any necrotic tissue.

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