Cleaning procedure prevents therapy dogs from spreading MRSA to children with cancer

SAN FRANCISCO – Therapy dogs help ease stress in young patients with cancer, but can spread methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), putting vulnerable kids at risk for a serious infection. Cleaning the dogs with special antibacterial shampoo and wipes reduces MRSA carriage and helps keep the kids safe, suggests a first-of-its-kind study presented at IDWeek 2018.

The therapy program in the study features specially trained dogs who visit with young patients receiving outpatient cancer treatment at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg Children’s Hospital. The dogs participate in numerous one-on-one and group visits throughout the day, often moving between departments or other hospitals within the same day. The study was the first to analyze a new protocol to reduce the spread of MRSA by ridding the dogs of the bug – called decolonization – which included shampooing them with antibiotic chlorohexidine before the first visit of the day and using chlorohexidine wipes every five to 10 minutes during visits.

“It’s amazing to watch just how excited the children get when they see the dogs for the first time, and they enjoy petting, hugging, kissing and playing fetch with them. The visits are really helpful in easing their anxiety and stress,” said Kathryn Dalton,


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