Shared Infections: Staying aware of diseases that can pass between dogs and people helps prevent transmission.
W. Jean Dodds, DVM
You might not routinely think about the diseases humans can catch from dogs, or less commonly, dogs might contract from people. Luckily, most healthy individuals are at a low risk of being infected. However, immunocompromised people and animals – including the very young, elderly and ill – have a greater chance of contracting an infectious disease.
Opportunistic infections are caused by pathogenic organisms that don’t usually cause disease in those with healthy immune systems, but a compromised immune system presents an “opportunity” for the pathogen to infect. Zoonotic infections are animal diseases that can be transmitted to humans.
An emerging, serious human opportunistic infection is caused by a drug-resistant form of the common bacterium Staphylococcus aureus. This methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) is now the most common cause of skin and soft-tissue infections among people in emergency facilities. Serious and potentially life-threatening necrosis of lungs and muscles can occur as a result of this infection. MRSA is typically transmitted from the hands of human and veterinary healthcare personnel.
Until recently, this infection was rarely reported in dogs and cats. Today, MRSA is often cultured from canine wounds and abscesses; infections also can involve eyes, ears, urinary tracts and nail beds. Because this infection comes from humans, the rise is not due to an increasing antibiotic resistance in animals.
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