Treating a Staph Infection in Dogs

By Jane Meggitt

If your dog is suffering from a skin infection, odds are it's a staph infection. Staphylococcus bacteria normally dwell on canine skin, where it doesn't generally cause issues if your dog is healthy. If your dog starts chewing on himself, develops a wound or the skin otherwise opens, that's when these opportunistic bacteria cause trouble. Take your dog to the vet for examination and treatment.

Infection Symptoms

If your dog has a staph infection, you'll probably see one of two types of lesions, although others exist. The first consists of what appears to be a pimple in the middle of reddened skin. That's pyoderma, a lesion filled with pus. The second forms a crusty red circle, with no hair within it. Other symptoms might include intense, incessant itching and abscess formation.

Staph Infection Treatment

Your vet will perform a culture of the infected skin to diagnose a staph infection, along with blood tests and urinalysis. Once diagnosed, she'll prescribe a broad-spectrum antibiotic to combat the staph infection. Commonly prescribed antibiotics include cephalexin tablets, or injectable cefovecin. The latter is usually prescribed only if there's a problem with giving the dog a daily or twice-daily pill. Amoxicillin and clavulanate, marketed under the brand name Clavamox, might be used if the culture indicates its suitability. Your vet also might recommend other treatments to aid your dog, including bathing several times a week with an antibacterial shampoo, or daily chlorhexidine sprays. If your dog is scratching the area, your vet will prescribe medication to stop the itching.

Staph Allergies

Your vet likely prescribed an antibiotic regimen lasting three weeks or more. If the regimen doesn't work after the allotted time, or it clears up but quickly returns, it's possible your dog is allergic to staph. The symptoms of staph allergy and staph infection are quite similar. If testing reveals an allergic reaction, you must start again with the staph treatment, with one important addition. Your vet will give your dog regular shots containing Staphylococcal bacterin for immunotherapy purposes. Injections start on a daily basis, then progress to subcutaneous shots every few days for a prescribed period. You can learn to give the subcutaneous shots yourself.

Methicillin Resistance Staph Infections

You've probably heard of methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus in humans. Also known as MRSA, this bacteria has developed resistance to common antibiotics. A similar condition exists in canines, known as "methicillin resistant Staphylococcus Pseudintermedius" or MRSP. If your dog's staph infection doesn't respond to conventional antibiotic treatment, it's possible he has MRSP. Risk factors include chronic skin problems, frequent courses of antibiotics, a compromised immune system and regular visits to a veterinary hospital, where the dog picks up various pathogens. Your vet can culture the lesion to confirm MRSP. If positive, treatments include topical antiseptics, such as shampoos, and systemic antibiotics based on the results of the culture.