MRSA: Could your family pet be a carrier?

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(WVLT) You know how serious the drug-resistant bacteria MRSA can be, but did you realize your family pet could be carrying it?

Volunteer TV's Kim Bedford explains how your dog or cat contract get the deadly infection.

Many of you consider your furry friends much more than just a pet, for most they're family.

Dr. Karen Tobias, UT School of Veterinary Medicine says, "all of us love our pets and so we pet them and we kiss them and we hug them, and so things are going to go back and forth and usually it's not a big deal."

But it is a big deal when you're talking about a deadly infection like MRSA.

UT veterinarian Karen Tobias says your dogs, cats and even bunnies can carry it.

"Probably somewhere between five to 30% of people are carrying it and when you look at animals that are actually infected with MRSA, it's very, very rare."

But Dr. Tobias says the chance is still there, so how?

"When we see cases where a person has a persistent infection with MRSA and the animal also has MRSA, a lot of times what happened is that the animal has gotten it from the people."

Dr. Tobias says your pet is more likely to contract the infection from you than you are from it.

MRSA is passed through contact.

"We sleep with them, they sit on our laps when we read and things like that, so we are close to them."

So you'll want to watch them closely for any physical changes.

"Either open wounds on the animals that aren't healing or small little infections, little plestulols along them, maybe a little bit of hair loss, maybe the animal has inflammation or scratching a lot."

Because MRSA is resistant to common antibiotics, animals typically undergo a topical treatment.

"It can be very serious if not treated."

Dr. Tobias says owners need to practice good hygiene to be on the safe side.

"When it is a problem is when people have a poor immune system and where they have open wounds."

Doctor Tobias says if you are having trouble clearing up your infection, it's best to have your pet checked out to see if they could be carrying it, as well.

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