Cystic fibrosis (CF) disease is characterized by lifelong infections with pathogens such as Staphylococcus aureus, leading to eventual respiratory failure. Small colony variants (SCVs) of S. aureus have been linked to worse clinical outcomes for people with CF. Current studies of SCV pathology in vivo are limited, and it remains unclear whether SCVs directly impact patient outcomes or are a result of late-stage CF disease. To investigate this, we generated a stable menadione-auxotrophic SCV strain by serially passaging a CF isolate of S. aureus with tobramycin, an aminoglycoside antibiotic commonly administered for coinfecting Pseudomonas aeruginosa. This SCV was tobramycin resistant and showed increased tolerance to the anti-staphylococcal combination therapy sulfamethoxazole-trimethoprim. To better understand the dynamics of SCV infections in vivo, we infected CF rats with this strain compared with its normal colony variant (NCV). Analysis of bacterial burden at 3 days postinfection indicated that NCVs and SCVs persisted equally well in the lungs, but SCV infections ultimately led to increased weight loss and neutrophilic inflammation. Additionally, cellular and histopathological analyses showed that in CF rats, SCV infections yielded a lower macrophage response. Overall, these findings indicate that SCV infections may directly contribute to lung disease progression in people with CF.