This is National US Antibiotics Awareness Week (Nov 12-18) and unless you are a practicing medical professional it will probably go unnoticed by the vast amount of the population. That’s something they should worry about, right? Except antibiotic use should concern you because pet resistance to antibiotics affects humans and pets:
In September 2018, this story was reported on The Verge about the spread of an infection from the handling of puppies at a pet store –
Puppies spread antibiotic-resistant bacteria in recent diarrhea outbreak
The CDC was first clued into the outbreak in August 2017, when the Florida Department of Health reported that six people had been infected with a type of bacteria that causes fevers, vomiting, and bloody diarrhea. By February 2018, the CDC discovered that more than 118 people in 18 states had been infected with the same thing: a bacteria called Campylobacter that’s usually linked to eating raw chicken or food contaminated by chicken juices.
This time, the source was decidedly hairier: puppies and their poop. Almost all of the people infected in the outbreak had some sort of contact with a puppy, and 29 of them were pet store employees. Most of the cases were linked to a pet store chain called Petland, according to earlier reports. But by the end of the investigation, five other unnamed companies were also apparently tied to the outbreak, according to the CDC’s latest findings, which were published today in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
The most alarming detail in the CDC’s report was that the particular Campylobacter bacteria spread by the infected puppies were resistant to commonly used antibiotics. That’s dangerous because while Campylobacter infections typically clear up without antibiotics, people with weak immune systems need those drugs to work.
To find out where these puppies caught the bug in the first place, the CDC checked the dogs’ food. But the Campylobacter wasn’t coming from there. Investigators also used the puppies’ microchips to track down their origins with 25 different breeders and eight distributors. That means these infections are more widespread than just one single contaminated breeder.
By digging through roughly 150 puppies’ medical records, investigators discovered that these pups had been treated with antibiotics at least once, and over half of them had been treated preventively when they weren’t even sick. That’s worrying because overzealous antibiotic use can push bacteria toward becoming resistant to those antibiotics — our only effective weapons against them.
That might be what happened here. Broadly speaking, this outbreak indicates that antibiotic use in the pet industry needs to be monitored more closely. But in the short term, people can protect themselves by washing their hands after touching dogs, their poop, or anything else that comes out of their adorable little bodies.
So How Does That Happen?
Antibiotic resistance happens when germs like bacteria and fungi develop the ability to defeat the drugs designed to kill them. That means the germs are not killed and continue to grow.
Infections caused by antibiotic-resistant germs are difficult, and sometimes impossible, to treat. In most cases, antibiotic-resistant infections require extended hospital stays, additional follow-up doctor visits, and costly and toxic alternatives.
Antibiotic resistance does not mean the body is becoming resistant to antibiotics; it is that bacteria have become resistant to the antibiotics designed to kill them.
(On CDC’s website, antibiotic resistance is also referred to as antimicrobial resistance or drug resistance.)
Antibiotic Resistance Threatens Everyone
Antibiotic resistance has the potential to affect people at any stage of life, as well as the healthcare, veterinary, and agriculture industries, making it one of the world’s most urgent public health problems.
Each year in the U.S., at least 2 million people are infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and at least 23,000 people die as a result.
No one can completely avoid the risk of resistant infections, but some people are at greater risk than others (for example, people with chronic illnesses). If antibiotics lose their effectiveness, then we lose the ability to treat infections and control public health threats.
Many medical advances are dependent on the ability to fight infections using antibiotics, including joint replacements, organ transplants, cancer therapy, and treatment of chronic diseases like diabetes, asthma, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Pet Resistance To Antibiotics
Antimicrobial/antibiotic resistance can affect the health of people and animals. Antibiotics are an important tool to treat some diseases caused by bacteria, but using antibiotics inappropriately can lead to the development of germs that are resistant to the drugs commonly used to treat them. These antibiotic-resistant germs can spread between people, animals, food, and the environment. The more antibiotic-resistant germs there are, the harder it is to treat serious infections in people and animals.
Antibiotics should be used responsibly in people and animals, including pets, to help prevent more antibiotic-resistant germs from developing. Use antibiotics only when needed, and follow the instructions given by your healthcare provider or veterinary professional. Talk with your healthcare provider and veterinarian about responsible antibiotic use to keep people and pets healthy.
Using our antibiotics appropriately means we preserve them for future use to fight diseases.
Protecting Yourself and Your Family
An infection occurs when germs enter our body, increase in number, and cause a reaction. Infections caused by antibiotic-resistant germs are difficult, and sometimes impossible, to treat.
No one can completely avoid getting an infection, including antibiotic-resistant infections, but some people are at greater risk than others. When possible, take action to avoid getting an infection in the first place to help protect you and your family from harmful germs.
Know Your Risk and Take Care
Talk to your healthcare provider about your risk for certain infections, especially if you do not have vaccinations or have a weakened immune system. Everyone should keep scrapes and wounds clean, and take good care of chronic conditions.
Use Antibiotics the Right Way
Antibiotics save lives, but any time antibiotics are used in people or animals, they can lead to antibiotic resistance. Learn more about using antibiotics, including when they are needed and when they are not.
Remember Pets Share Germs
Sometimes animals, including pets, carry germs that can make people sick. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after:
- Touching animals or anywhere animals live
- Handling pet food
- Cleaning up after pets or livestock
FCVC Vets hope you found this article eye-opening. We are concerned about the misuse of antibiotics and antibiotic resistant germs. We use antibiotics responsibly in our practice. If you are concerned that your pet may have an illness that could be passed on, please call for an appointment so we can make a clear diagnosis of the problem.