Antimicrobial resistance for pets is when bacteria develop the ability to resist antibiotic (antimicrobial) drugs that are meant to kill the bacteria. This can lead to infections that are difficult to treat, extended hospital days, and expensive alternatives. 

Only certain tests can confirm if a pet is resistant to bacteria. If a pet is antimicrobial-resistant, then it can be very difficult to treat them when they get sick. This is why it’s so important for pet owners to understand everything that they can about this condition.

Are you interested in learning more? If you are, then keep on reading and we’ll walk you through everything that you’ll want to know.

1. The Forms and Prevalence of Antimicrobial Resistance

Antimicrobial resistance is one of the biggest veterinary and human challenges that we face today. In recent years, this problem has become even more serious in veterinary medicine, having a major impact on animal welfare and health.

Antimicrobial resistance has been found in various species of bacteria. Those of the biggest concern to animal health include:

  • Pseudomonas spp
  • Escherichia coli
  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • Staphylococcus pseudintermedius

Commonly found antimicrobial-resistant forms of these bacteria include methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus pseudintermedius (MRSP).

It’s very important that your vet prescribes antibiotics responsibly so that they don’t increase the pet’s risk of infection.

2. Who Gets It?

Antimicrobial resistance occurs in all regions of the world. All people and animals are at risk of suffering from antimicrobial-resistant infections. Individuals, including people and animals, who are immunocompromised are at the greatest risk.

The most commonly found antimicrobial-resistant infection in dogs is MRSP while MRSA is most commonly found in humans. However, these bacteria can travel between humans and animals. 

Some infections, like MRSA, usually start in humans and then make their way to animals. All of the antimicrobial drug classes that we use to treat infections in animals are also used in people.

Because of this, pet owners should be aware of the possible impact of veterinary antimicrobial use on human health. When our pets develop antimicrobial resistance, our own health can also be impacted. 

3. How Is It Diagnosed? 

A vet will diagnose an infection that is antimicrobial-resistant based on the dog’s recent use of antimicrobials, clinical findings, exam findings, and confirmation through bacterial culture and susceptibility. Susceptibility and culture testing involve sending a tissue or swab sample from the affected area on the pet to a diagnostic lab for culture. 

This test will show which species of bacteria is causing the problem. It will also show the animal’s susceptibility to various antimicrobials.

This will allow the veterinarian to make the best decision for treatment. With resistant infections, an infectious disease specialist might be consulted to help with therapy.  Although this testing has been the gold standard of detection, it takes  more than a week to recieve results which leave vets treating empirically (guessing which one will work based on clinical experience.  

Advanced methods, such as PCR (polymerase chain reaction) have proven virtually 100%, rapid accuracy in detecting resistance for quick decisions in treatment. 

4. What Is the Treatment?

Based on the pet’s clinical disease, history, and lab results, your vet will be able to prescribe the most appropriate antimicrobial.

If an infection that is antimicrobial-resistant is found, treatment might involve a more expensive microbial. It might involve a longer duration of treatment or come with a higher risk of negative effects.

Most of the time, this treatment is going to work and the pet will make a total recovery. However, there are some instances when the antimicrobial might not stop the infection.

In these situations, the veterinarian will need to find the approach or medication that’s able to successfully treat the animal or reduce the power of the infection. In rare situations, there aren’t any effective treatment options.

Most of the time, bacterial infections are secondary to another medical problem. They can be due to ear mites, allergic skin disease, or endocrine problems. 

Your vet will need to diagnose and properly treat the primary conditions to make sure that secondary bacterial infections associated with these problems can be successfully treated. 

5. Outbreak Management

Depending on the location of the infection and the species of the bacteria, in most cases, animals with these infections shouldn’t come into close contact with other animals. They should also be kept away from people who are immunocompromised. At least until the infection has been cured. 

Until the pet is cured, they should not go to places where they will likely come into contact with people who are at increased risk. Such places include nursing homes and human hospitals.

They should also avoid areas where are a lot of pets come together. Examples include:

  • Dog shows
  • Dog parks
  • Groomers
  • Daycare

When a lot of pets in a group become infected, it’s recommended that a veterinarian is contacted immediately. They will be needed to control the further spread of the disease. 

It’s critical that an effective infection control program is put in place. This will control and prevent any outbreaks from occurring. 

Additional measures, such as reducing unnecessary interactions between animals and people are important too. 

6. Protecting Yourself 

When your pet gets sick from an antimicrobial infection, it’s very important that you don’t just protect them but yourself as well.

You should regularly wash your hands and don’t come into close contact with the infected pet. The pet shouldn’t be allowed to lick people or sleep in a person’s bed. 

Also, the pet’s bedding should be washed every few days.

The Importance of Knowing About Antimicrobial Resistance for Pets

Hopefully, after reading the above article, you now have a better understanding of antimicrobial resistance for pets. As we can see, these kinds of infections can be extremely concerning for pets and humans alike. 

Are you looking to receive fast and accurate diagnostics for your pet? Contact us today and see what we can do for you.