Antibiotic Resistance May be Harming Your Pets

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April 08, 2006 | 6,611 views

A number of pets in the United States, Canada, and Europe have begun to show resistance to antibiotics. A resistant strain of Staphylococcus aureus has been found in both animals and humans.

Growing Resistance

A strain of S. aureus resistant to penicillin was identified many years ago. However, more recently, some infections have also become resistant to methicillin. The bacteria can cause skin infections, abscesses, joint infections and death.

Cycling Back and Forth

The frequency of disease transfer between humans and pets is likely very low. But when it does happen, it may be cycling back and forth between humans and pets.

The CDC Takes Notice

The problem attracted the attention of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) after 38 cases of common staph infections were reported at Ryan Veterinary Hospital (the world's largest pet hospital, connected with the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia) among dogs, cats, parrots and a rabbit over a three-year period.

With recent reports of exposure to antibiotics nearly tripling an infant's asthma risks, it's not so surprising to learn the other small loved ones in our families -- our pets -- may be harmed by them too, in this case by a somewhat indirect route.  

Humans may be spreading to their pets the antibiotic-resistant diseases they have created through overuse of medical drugs.

But remember that infection spreading is a two-way street -- your pets can pass infections to you. One of the most troubling is toxoplasmosis, which can be transferred from cats.

Pregnant women should avoid changing the kitty litter as this can be passed along to unborn children especially early on in pregnancy.

Pets can also become infected from other pets who have been exposed, and one frequent way seems to be picking it up at a veterinary hospital. That makes me wonder if animals are suffering from some of the same medical errors as humans, which I discuss often in this space.

That's why it's advisable to wash your hands with plain soap and water before and after playing with your pet. Not only can you contract potentially serious infections from them, but they can, apparently, contract infections from you.

But don't use antibacterial soaps -- they're a large part of what creates the antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the first place. You see, your standard non-bacterial household soap separates bacteria from your skin so germs go down the drain or get attached to towels when drying your hands. On the other hand, antibacterial soaps kill germs on the spot. At least, most of them ...

The few that survive, with the help of antibacterial compounds -- synthetic chemicals like triclosan -- create germs resistant to soaps and antibiotics over the long haul.

Studies have shown that people who use antibacterial soaps and cleansers develop cough, runny nose, sore throat, fever, vomiting, diarrhea and other symptoms just as often as people who use products that do not contain antibacterial ingredients. And children who are not exposed to common bacteria, which are eliminated by excessive use of soap, may actually be more prone to allergies and asthma.

At any rate, you should know that while you can decrease your risk of getting coughs and colds by washing your hands with regular soap, you can virtually eliminate your risk by following the Total Health Program. The key is optimizing your immune system, not decreasing your exposure to infectious agents.

And as for your pets, you can help them in a similar way by feeding them a naturally balanced raw meat, bone and vegetable-based diet that provides much higher quality nutrition than any dry or canned dog or cat food. If you have a dog, I highly recommend you read the excellent book, See Spot Live Longer. With philosophies similar to my own regarding the importance of nutrition, See Spot Live Longer presents solid evidence that a good diet is just as important for dogs as it is for us.

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