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Our little Yorkie, Charley has had a tough summer.  He was diagnosed with a methicillan resistant staph infection in May and was been on heavy antibiotics for almost 3 months. 

I know you are probably wondering how in the world this adorable little dog contracted such a heinous disease.  Well, Charley was rescued from a meth house about two and a half years ago and it likely came from there.  

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Just in case you are unfamiliar with Methicillan Resistant Staph infections, just think MRSA. Charley had the canine version, which is often referred to as MRSP (Methicillan Resistant Staphylococcus Pseudintermedius). 

The first thing people asked me when they found out was, “Do you have to wear gloves to touch him?”  Thankfully, the answer to that is no.  Dogs and cats have a different species of staph on their skin than humans so the likelihood of us contracting it was highly unlikely.  Besides we lived with this dog for a year an a half prior to the diagnosis; if we were going to contract anything it would have happened long ago.

I remember the day my vet called with the diagnosis.  She said that she had an answer but that it wasn’t good.  Then she explained what he had and honestly I was relieved and filled with gratitude.  Charley has had issues with his skin since he was rescued so it was a huge relief to finally have a diagnosis.  I almost did a happy dance! 

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MSRP cannot be treated with just any antibiotic.  A culture based systemic antibiotic as well as medicated baths and topical treatments are customary.  There are only three such antibiotics available at this time.  One of which my veterinarian will not prescribe because it causes kidney failure.  The second antibiotic had equally harmful side effects such as permanent dry eye and the possibility of causing an autoimmune disorder. 

I sat on the phone just thinking, “Oh my gosh what are we going to do?”  The she started telling me about the third option, Chloramphenicol.  She explained that there were no long term side effects for Charley but if handled improperly it had the possibility to shut down my bone marrow and kill me.  Oh joy!

Well, after much discussion with our veterinarian I chose to go with Chloramphenicol.  There were two major reasons for this:

  1. It seemed to be the safest option for Charley with no long term side effects.
  2. If we had gone with Option #2 and he started to develop dry eye then we would have ended up changing medications mid-stream which could have prolonged his recovery.

So, for the last three months I have put on rubber gloves three times a day to give Charley his pills.  It is a small price to pay to get my baby healthy (probably for the first time in his life).

Now that we had a diagnosis and had chosen an antibiotic we were off and running.  He received his medication every eight hours and also took a probiotic once a day.  This helps to counteract the effect of the antibiotic on his digestive system.

The first couple of weeks were probably the toughest for me.  I will admit I was a bit impatient and wanted to see results quickly.  The results I was wanting to see were not happening.  I was scared that we would have to switch antibiotics or even worse that we would not be able to get Charley healed.

We were scheduled to go for our first recheck at 3 weeks.  The progress was slow but there was progress.  Shortly after that first recheck appointment I noticed that Charley was quivering a lot.  Not only that but he seemed to be passing gas… ok let’s be real here – he was farting!  But in his defense they were cute and he seemed to be very shocked since every time it happened he would look toward his tail.

I called the vet and she assured me that this was a side effect of the medication. While we were on the phone I noticed that all of the sores in his ears were completely gone!  Finally, I could see noticeable improvement.

A few more weeks went by and we returned to the vet for another progress check.  This time we had yet another issue.  Charley had developed a yeast infection on his neck. This is actually fairly common when taking strong antibiotics for a long period of time.  The vet prescribed twice weekly medicated baths.  This would not only treat the yeast infection but also help the infection clear.  She also advised that I start spraying the affected areas with Vetericyn.  Charley was deemed 50% healed at this point.  Now we’re talkin’!

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He is not a fan of medicated baths

Another four weeks passed and we were back at the vet.  This time we had two new developments.  Our normally very bouncy little Yorkie was refusing to jump up on the furniture.  This is a dog who will run up the stairs and become airborne halfway between the bedroom door and the bed – essentially flying onto the bed.

After checking his hips and hind legs the only conclusion we could come to was that the gas and bloating pain he was experiencing was making it painful to jump.  It was a pretty far fetched conclusion but it was all we had.  Only time will tell if this is actually the case.  Fennel tea was prescribed.  He hated it so we switched to peppermint tea which he doesn’t like either.  The solution – add the tea to the water bowl so it is highly diluted.  Charley also gets a bit of peppermint essential oil diluted with fractionated coconut oil applied to his belly once a day.

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The next issue we encountered was that he was losing his hair.  This is a rather mild issue and I was assured that it was perfectly normal and part of the healing process. 

The good news was that we were making some serious progress at this point.  He was now 75% – 80% healed.  We scheduled his next appointment for 3 weeks later.  

We returned to the vet on August 2nd where it was determined that Charley was 98% healed.  As long as his skin was completely healed by August 9th he could be off of the meds by August 17th.  Well, unfortunately that didn’t happen.  Charley still had a legions on the side of his face and around one eye.  The vet decided he should stay on the meds until the first of September.

The last week of August we returned once again to the vet. I was concerned because the legions around his eye were not getting better and had spread to the other eye.  A new culture was ordered and we would have to wait another week for the results.  Dr. Pearson was very concerned that the MSRP was mutating.  This scared me and the waiting was excruciating.

I received the phone call from the vet the following Tuesday.  The MRSP was finally gone!  That was the good news.  The legions around his eyes are actually a fungus and after about a month on a medicated ointment those should be all clear.

It has been a very long summer but Charley is finally off of the Chloramphenicol and his tummy troubles should be resolving over the next few weeks.  We have learned some important lessons through this whole process.  The first and probably most important is that when you know there is a problem with your pet don’t stop looking for answers until you get them.  Another lesson we have learned is that Charley’s immune system is still not as strong as we thought and we are going to have to work hard to get him to a point where he can fight off things like the fungus that showed up around his eyes.