Just when I thought I had this damn thing figured out... it's ba-ack.
No, I'm not really laughing. I spent Sunday morning at the emergency vet because late last night, Kyrie's drug resistant staph infection (MRSI) got out of control for the first time in months. I brought her most recent skin culture results along with me, and the ER didn't have one single drug in stock that we could use. So they clipped her fur, took some goop for a culture and sent me home with topicals and the advice to call my vet first thing in the morning.
Remind me to go to the other ER next time. At least we're one day ahead on the culture than if I'd waited until tomorrow.
What's particularly upsetting, other than seeing Kyrie suffer, is that in the last few months I'd developed what I thought was a pretty good system for handling her occasional flare-ups. I checked her daily for little red patches anywhere on her body, and if I saw them, I immediately bathed her in tea tree oil shampoo and put Neosporin+pain on the reddened area, as much for its numbing effect as its anti-microbial action, although it works better than the lydocaine spray my vet gave me.
Then I'd treat the spots every few hours with a 5 percent tea tree oil spray. (Tea tree body wash and salve in the same concentrations as the products I'm using have been shown to be more active against human MRSA than even prescription topical drugs.)
I tried using the honey bandages that had been so helpful with her first bout of MRSI for a while, but when you're dealing with a flare-up on a heavily coated breed like a Borzoi, it ends up being extremely messy and almost impossible to keep in good contact with the skin. The first time I used it, she'd been shaved.
As you can see in the photo above, she's been shaved this time, too, so I'm packing the raw areas with honey and hoping my vet can see us early.
But here's the reality: I have a column due at 9 AM, and having spent half my day at the ER already on Sunday, I need to get my work done in the morning before I can take her to the vet. Which reminds me of a question a reader asked me after I emailed her my management routine for Kyrie's condition in response to her request for tips on dealing with her dog's resistant staph problem.
"Don't you ever go on vacation?" she asked me. "What do I do if I'm not there and my dog has a flare-up?"
I found myself about to type words I never, ever thought I could think, let alone say: Put your dog on antibiotics while you're out of town.
And then I stopped. That's the kind of thinking that got us drug-resistant staph in the first place. And yet I didn't know what else to say, because the reality of dealing with a dog who is a carrier of drug-resistant staph is that flare-ups can happen, and they can be unpredictable and unpreventable, and a few hours delay in treating them can be the difference between a dime-sized hot spot and a raw, bloody, painful patch the size of your hand.
Many people reading this might wonder how Kyrie "got" the drug resistant staph in the first place, but that's not really the right question. We all have staph all over us, and so do our dogs; some percentage of those staph bugs have some genes for drug resistance. Every year we have a greater percentage of resistant staph bugs on us, and so do our dogs. And every year they acquire genes for resistance to even more drugs, as the bacteria trade genes with other bacteria they encounter.
Simply having a certain percentage of the normal staph on your body being drug-resistant isn't in and of itself going to cause symptoms in most people and dogs. I doubt anyone reading this doesn't have at least some resistant staph on their skin right now, and yet most of us don't have so much as a rash, let alone look like we've been blowtorched.
No, there's really no question that Kyrie has some underlying condition that's causing the recurrent infections. The problem is, we can't find anything wrong with her other than the fact that her allergies have gone crazy. Thyroid panel: perfect. Kidney and liver function: perfect. Blood work, ultrasound, x-rays: perfect. The vets don't have anything else to test for. We don't know why her allergies have become so bad, and if they're really the whole story of what's causing these infections.
So I check her obsessively and don't go out of town, and hope one day they just go away and don't come back. And when she has an area of red skin, yes, I go nuts on it, and for the last several months, on at least a dozen occasions, that was enough.
Until last night.
And we thought chemistry was supposed to be about better living.