A dog’s staph infections can be difficult to heal, resulting in chronic skin problems. Learn about antibiotic therapy for staph and MRSA symptoms in dogs.

Oral antibiotics are the standard treatment for canine staph infections, which are caused by Staphylococcus Aureus bacteria — a common bacteria typically present on the skin. Staph infections are “opportunistic” in nature, meaning the bacteria don’t usually cause an infection in a healthy animal, but when an opportunity arises, an infection can take hold.

Certain dogs are more prone to staph infections:

  • Pets with a compromised immune system (caused by age, an autoimmune condition, chronic disease/illness, medications like Prednisone or other factors);
  • Dogs with chronic skin problems (caused by allergies, skin parasites, or fungal infections.)

A dog’s staph infections can be difficult to heal. The treatment for these skin infections is typically two-pronged, consisting of oral antibiotics like Clavamox and topical treatments containing benzoyl peroxide and antibiotic properties.

Dog Skin Problems

Dog Skin Problems

Antibiotic Treatment for Staph Infections in Dogs

Since staph bacteria are naturally present on the skin, it can take months of antibiotic therapy before these infections heal. A six-week course of medication is standard, though treatment can last much longer in some cases.

Due to the hard-to-treat nature of staph infections, veterinarians will often prescribe oral antibiotics indefinitely; typically, the dog must be clear of any new staph infection lesions for a period of two weeks before antibiotic therapy is discontinued. In the case of chronic and recurring skin infections or in the case of a dog with a compromised immune system, the veterinarian may opt to continue antibiotics until the pet is free of new lesions for a period of 4 or 6 weeks.

When treating staph infections in a dog, proper dosing is very important. Antibiotic levels must be maintained at a consistent, therapeutic level in order to effectively combat infection. Therefore, a missed or late dose can prolong treatment. If the antibiotic is not maintained at a therapeutic level in the animal’s system, this lapse can allow the infection to gain a foothold, resulting in the formation of new lesions and delayed healing of existing sores.

Antibiotic Treatment for Staph Infections in Dogs

Antibiotic Treatment for Staph Infections in Dogs

Long-Term Antibiotic Therapy in Dogs — Treating Diarrhea, Yeast Infections, Wound Licking

Long-term antibiotic therapy often causes gastrointestinal problems like chronic diarrhea. In addition to killing harmful bacteria, the antibiotic eliminates the beneficial bacteria that are present in the body’s digestive system. To help restore the flora in the digestive system, pet owners can provide the dog with daily probiotic supplements. Adding a bit of yogurt to each meal can also be helpful since yogurt contains live, active cultures.

The dog will also be more prone to developing yeast infections and other fungal infections, as the antibiotic limits the body’s ability to keep the yeast in check. The ears and skin folds (present on breeds like pugs) are common problem areas. Owners should be familiar with yeast infection symptoms, which can include intense itching, redness, patches of dry, scaly skin, discharge and a very distinct odor. Anti-fungal ointments (or ear drops) are typically prescribed to treat yeast infections.

Pet owners should also take measures to ensure that the dog is not licking or biting at the infection site, as this can spread bacteria and prevent healing. For this reason, the dog may need to wear an inflatable protective collar — a smaller, more comfortable and convenient alternative to a “cone” (also known as an “e-collar” or “Elizabethan collar.”)

Long-Term Antibiotic Therapy in Dogs -- Treating Diarrhea, Yeast Infections, Wound Licking

Long-Term Antibiotic Therapy in Dogs — Treating Diarrhea, Yeast Infections, Wound Licking

Why Aren’t My Dog’s Skin Infections Healing? — Diagnosing MRSA Infections in a Pet

Within a few days of starting oral antibiotics, the spread of the infection should slow. Owners may not observe immediate improvement, as staph infections can take weeks or even months to heal. But, generally speaking, the infection should not significantly worsen or spread once the dog has been on antibiotic therapy for a period of several days or longer.

If the infections continue to worsen and spread, it’s important to take the dog to the veterinary clinic for a follow-up examination. It’s possible the dog will require a different antibiotic or a higher dosage.

The vet will likely swab the wound and the bacteria will be cultured in an attempt to identify the precise strain. It’s possible the dog’s infection involves methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, also known as MRSA. Treating MRSA infections in a dog can be especially difficult, as a limited number of antibiotics are effective in killing the bacteria. IV antibiotic therapy may be required in serious cases.

Staph & Your Dog’s Skin Disease