Drug-Resistant Infections From Pet Store Puppies Spread to More States

Unless the puppies they sell are from a local animal shelter or rescue organization, it’s generally a terrible idea to buy them from pet stores. For one thing, they were probably obtained from puppy mills — large, overcrowded breeding facilities where dogs are often kept in miserable conditions without enough food, water or veterinary care.

For another thing, it’s not only the puppies that are sick. Nearly 100 people that bought them have become ill with infections that are resistant to common antibiotics.

As I wrote in October, the likely source of the outbreak, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), were puppy mill dogs sold by the Petland store chain. At the time, 55 people in 12 states had tested positive for a Campylobacter bacterial infection (aka campylobacteriosis). Thirteen of them had to be hospitalized. The vast majority of them (90 percent) had either visited a Petland store or had been in physical contact with a puppy from the store.

Two months later, the number of confirmed cases has risen to 97, and they’ve now spread to 17 U.S. states, according to a Dec. 13 outbreak advisory from the CDC. Twenty-two people have been hospitalized.

Petland was determined to be the probable ground zero for the outbreak when stool samples from store puppies tested by the CDC contained Campylobacter that was closely related to that in samples from the sickened people.

The CDC along with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) and several states are currently investigating the outbreak.

Touching just a tiny amount of poop on the puppy’s fur or food bowl and then touching your mouth before thoroughly washing your hands with soap and water can lead to a Campylobacter infection. So can allowing a puppy to lick around your mouth or an open wound.

The symptoms include diarrhea that’s often bloody, nausea and vomiting, stomach and muscle pain, and fever. The symptoms usually begin a couple days after exposure and last about a week. Some people with the infection have no symptoms.

While it’s easy to become infected with Campylobacter, it can be difficult to treat because this strain is resistant to most common antibiotics, including azithromycin, ciprofloxacin, clindamycin, erythromycin, nalidixic acid, telithromycin and tetracycline. “Antibiotic resistance may be associated with increased risk of hospitalization, development of a bloodstream infection or treatment failure in patients,” the CDC noted.

Fortunately, most people are able to recover from a Campylobacter infection without antibiotics, with the exception of young children and adults over 65, and people with weakened immune systems.

The CDC estimates that about 1.3 million people are affected by Campylobacter infections each year – they’re one of the most common causes of diarrheal illness in the U.S. However, most cases are not part of a recognized outbreak like this one.

The bacteria is common in puppies and dogs, but such a large number of people being infected is unusual, Mark Laughlin, a CDC veterinarian, told the Washington Post in October.

Petland – which has previously been sued by the Humane Society of the United States as well as the Animal Legal Defense Fund for knowingly selling sick puppies with fraudulent health guarantees – maintains its innocence in the outbreak. In an October statement, it said it was working with the CDC to help in their traceback investigation.

“Cases have been found in humans in Utah, Wyoming, New Hampshire, Maryland and now Oklahoma,” Petland stated. “These are states where Petland has no store locations.”

This seems like a pretty weak defense, since residents could have been infected while visiting other states, or Petland customers may have traveled with their puppies to these states.

By supporting unscrupulous puppy mills, Petland is making puppies and people sick. Please join over 110,000 Care2 members who have signed this petition telling the pet store chain to stop selling puppies from puppy mills.

Photo credit: PublicDomainPictures


Patty L
Patty L6 months ago


Marie W
Marie W10 months ago

Thank you for sharing!

Paulo R
Paulo Rabout a year ago


Paulo R
Paulo Rabout a year ago


Ann B
Ann Babout a year ago

all drugs for humans and animals might have started out helping and now they have gone to far

Peggy B
Peggy Babout a year ago


Colin C
Colin Cabout a year ago

Very worrying

Carole R
Carole Rabout a year ago

Not good!

Ellie M
Ellie Mabout a year ago


Janis K
Janis Kabout a year ago

Thanks for sharing.