Pet-Store Puppies Linked to Drug-Resistant Infections
Pet-Store Puppies Linked to Drug-Resistant Infections.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The puppies have caused people to become sick in at least 18 states, exposing them to Campylobacter bacteria. The common bacteria can trigger diarrhea, stomach pains and fever.
Disease outbreaks among humans are common. But outbreaks among humans from puppies? Is much rarer, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently explained how this odd outbreak persisted for three years, in a new report, published Sept. 21.
Between 2016 and 2018, 118 people in 18 United State Of America were sickened with the intestinal bacterium Campylobacter jejuni. Some of the people were hospitalized, and the infection was difficult to treat, because the bacteria were resistant to a few of the typical antibiotics typically used.
The CDC tracked the source of the infection, and found that it stemmed from puppies that carried C. jejuni with them from breeders to pet stores and eventually, to people’s homes. But how exactly did this outbreak happen? And is it something all puppy owners should be concerned about?
Humans can get other illnesses from pets
All puppies, no matter where they’re from, can carry campylobacter. But living in a pet-store environment likely increases a young dog’s chance of contracting the infection, says Craig Altier, DVM, PhD, professor of population medicine and diagnostic science at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.. “It’s a perfect storm for infectious disease,” he says: “You have young animals in stressful conditions—like being moved from kennel to pet store—and often they’re being mingled together in close quarters.”
Campylobacter isn’t the only bacteria that can be passed from dogs to humans, although “there’s only a small list of organisms that are,” says Dr. Altier. Salmonellais another pathogen that can live in an animal’s gut and can be transmitted through contact with fecal material. Fortunately, these cases are also fairly uncommon.
Dogs can also catch the flu, although they get different strains of the virus than humans do. Infectious disease experts worry that canine flu could one day mutate and become contagious for humans—the way bird flu and swine flu have in the past. But this hasn’t happened yet.
As for the other way around, experts say it’s extremely rare for humans to pass illnesses to dogs. So even though it’s a good idea to avoid close contact with other people when you come down with a cold or flu, experts say it’s still safe to snuggle with your canine companion.
Campylobacter Infections Are Unpleasant For People
Most people who become ill with campylobacteriosis get diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain, and fever within two to five days of being exposed to the bacteria, according to the CDC. (Some lucky people don’t have any symptoms at all.) Nausea and vomiting can also occur, and the illness usually lasts about a week.
Most cases of camplyobateriosis aren’t life-threatening—but they can be very serious for people with compromised immune systems, children under 5, adults 65 and older, and pregnant women. Rarely the disease can lead to Guillain-Barre syndrome, a neurological disorder that can cause paralysis.
The bacteria can behave similarly in dogs as they do in farm animals, which is to say, they don’t cause harm to the animals. Some of the puppies in the recent outbreak probably got sick because they ate poop from other dogs at the pet store, Jay-Russell said, or, yes, licked another dog’s rear end and ingested droppings. And because the pups were young and likely stressed in their new situation, it’s possible that they hadn’t built up immunity to the bacteria like other dogs might.
But the fact that 29 of the people who got sick were pet store employees was a “red flag” that sanitation guidelines were skipped, Jay-Russell said. “There were protocols that obviously weren’t in place,” she said.
If dog owners don’t skimp on cleanliness procedures, they likely won’t get sick from any bacteria on their pups. Washing hands after playing with dogs, picking up poop and keeping food bowls clean can go a long way, Jay-Russell said. And while the raw food diet for dogs might be trendy, she added, feeding dogs raw chicken runs the risk of feeding them C. jejuni.
Jay-Russell also advises against taking puppies to the vet unless they’re obviously unwell. Diarrhea, for example, can be a symptom of the bacteria. But even then, loose poops don’t mean the puppy is fighting off the bug. A veterinarian can sample the waste and determine what the cause might be. If it’s bacterial and they prescribe antibiotics, use them as directed, Jay-Russell said. If your dog is better before the dosage runs out, don’t hold onto the pills until the next time your dog has the runs. Unprescribed use of antibiotics is why bacteria, like the kind that infected these 118 people, builds up drug resistance. Instead, throw them away or return the pills to the vet, Jay-Russell said.