Updated
February 14th, 2019

Are Dog Vaccinations Good For Your Health?

Multidrug-resistant Campylobacter infections in humans may be caused by antibiotic overtreated dogs

boy with his dog and cat

Pet vaccinations are widely considered a public health success, just as it has been with people. 

Most veterinary groups, such as the American Animal Hospital Association, recommend that dogs receive several vaccines as puppies that protect the dog, and its owners from diseases.

But, when a sick dog is treated with antibiotics, a negative health situation may occur in humans.

Dogs, especially puppies, are a known source of sporadic Campylobacter infections in humans but are uncommonly reported to cause outbreaks. 

Campylobacter are bacteria that can make people and animals sick. 

But, a new study found that over 50 percent of the puppies studied as part of the outbreak investigation were treated with antibiotics, not because they were sick, but to keep them from becoming sick. 

According to this study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this technique, called prophylaxis, is blamed for fueling bacteria antibiotic resistance.

In August 2017, the Florida Department of Health notified the CDC of six Campylobacter jejuni infections linked to company A, a national pet store chain based in Ohio.

The CDC examined whole-genome sequencing (WGS) data and identified 6 isolates from company A puppies in Florida that were highly related to an isolate from a company A customer in Ohio. 

This information prompted a multistate investigation by local and state health and agriculture departments.

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Nationally, 118 persons, including 29 pet store employees, in 18 states were identified with illness onset during January 5, 2016–February 4, 2018.

Outbreak isolates were resistant by antibiotic susceptibility testing to all antibiotics commonly used to treat Campylobacter infections, including macrolides and quinolones. 

Store record reviews revealed that among 149 investigated puppies, 142 (95%) received one or more courses of antibiotics, raising concern that antibiotic use might have led to the development of resistance.

This outbreak demonstrates that puppies can be a source of multidrug-resistant Campylobacter infections in humans, warranting a closer look at antimicrobial use in the commercial dog industry.

Campylobacter causes an estimated 1.3 million diarrheal illnesses in the United States annually.

People with Campylobacter infection usually have diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps. The diarrhea may be accompanied by nausea and vomiting.

These symptoms usually start within 2 to 5 days after exposure and last about a week. 

In some people with weakened immune systems, such as people with the blood disorders thalassemia and hypogammaglobulinemia, AIDS, or people receiving some kinds of chemotherapy, Campylobacter occasionally spreads to the bloodstream and can cause a life-threatening infection.

According to the CDC, antibiotics are only needed for patients who are very ill or at high risk for severe disease, such as people with severely weakened immune systems, people with the blood disorders thalassemia and hypogammaglobulinemia, AIDS, or people receiving chemotherapy.