THE BLOG
06/14/2013 01:04 pm ET Updated Aug 14, 2013

If Your Vet Thinks Your Pet Needs Antibiotics, Ask Him to Do This First

MRSA is short for Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Staphylococcus aureus is a strain of bacteria naturally found in most animals, including humans.

In your dog or cat, staph can be found as naturally occurring bacteria on the skin, in mucous membranes, and in the GI tract. But occasionally pets can become infected by their own normal flora. These infections are usually harmless and easily treated, but when a pet's normal flora develops resistance to broad-spectrum antibiotics, it becomes a very dangerous health threat.

If these bacteria undergo genetic mutation -- making them resistant to even the strongest antibiotic available, including methicillin -- it can cause serious illness and death.

MRSA Symptoms

MRSA symptoms are similar in people and animals. A MRSA skin infection usually starts as a small red bump or boil which can develop into a deep painful abscess. Common locations in the body where an infection occurs are the skin, ears, and at wound sites, especially after surgery.

Initially, MRSA can look like any other infection, but it doesn't respond to antibiotics. The infection can progress to necrotizing fasciitis. It can also move to the lungs as necrotizing pneumonia, which means pneumonia that slowly kills off lung tissue. About one-third of MRSA infections in the lungs cause death. A septic infection of the entire body can also develop.

Because MRSA is so difficult to treat, it can progress from a mild skin rash to a life-threatening infection that invades your pet's bones, joints, and major organs, as well as the bloodstream. About half of MRSA infections in the bloodstream are fatal.

Why MRSA Has Become a Problem for Pets

We are overusing antibiotics in human and animal medicine. We're also exposed to antibiotics when we eat factory-farmed animals and animal products.

The decision to use antibiotics should never be taken lightly. They should not be prescribed unless absolutely necessary. Aside from the ability of bacteria to mutate and develop resistance to antibiotics, these drugs also have side effects.

Many of the health problems for which antibiotics are routinely overprescribed respond just as well and often better to safer alternatives like herbs, common sense approaches like disinfecting wounds, as well as nutritional supplements.

Unless your pet has a life-threatening illness or injury that can only be treated with antibiotics, let your veterinarian know that you prefer to try and treat, if possible, without antibiotics.

Avoiding Overuse of Antibiotics

Culturing an infection will identify whether it's bacterial in nature, and only bacterial infections are responsive to antibiotics. Viral and fungal infections do not respond to antibiotics. If the culture is positive for bacteria, it will also identify the specific type of bacteria, allowing the most appropriate antibiotic to be used. Not every antibiotic works equally well on every infection.

Without a culture and sensitivity test, your vet is essentially guessing as to what antibiotic is most appropriate, and potentially fostering antibiotic resistance by choosing incorrectly. Once the culture has identified what type of bacteria is growing, then your vet will be able to identify what antibiotic is best used to treat the infection.

Making sure your vet is making the best choices is the very first step in successful treatment. Giving the proper dose at the proper intervals and using the entire prescription is important, even if your pet seems to be fully recovered before the medication has run out.

This will ensure the infection is totally resolved and prevent your pet from having to take another full course of antibiotics because the first course wasn't fully administered, and the infection wasn't cleared.

I see this most commonly in my practice with skin infections. The skin appears to be getting better, so clients stop the antibiotics before the really deep life-threatening skin infection is thoroughly treated. This not only increases the risk of developing antibiotic resistance, but also leaves the pet not fully treated. Recurrence is inevitable.

All-Natural Help for MRSA Infections

Make sure to give your pet a high quality pet probiotic during antibiotic therapy. Antibiotics kill off the good bugs right along with the bad ones. Giving a probiotic will reseed your pet's gut with the appropriate healthy bacteria that is needed for a strong and balanced immune system.

In my practice, I use other things to help reduce bacterial growth, including oregano oil, propolis, and olive leaf extract. I also use essential oils, colloidal silver, Manuka honey, and Pavia cream to naturally treat MRSA.

Dr. Karen Becker is a proactive and integrative wellness veterinarian. You can visit her site at: MercolaHealthyPets.com.

Her goal is to help you create wellness in order to prevent illness in the lives of your pets. This proactive approach seeks to save you and your pet from unnecessary stress and suffering by identifying and removing health obstacles even before disease occurs. Unfortunately, most veterinarians in the United States are trained to be reactive. They wait for symptoms to occur, and often treat those symptoms without addressing the root cause.

By reading Dr. Becker's information, you'll learn how to make impactful, consistent lifestyle choices to improve your pet's quality of life.

For more by Dr. Karen Becker, click here.

For more on pet health, click here.

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