Antibiotic use in dogs
Without Scottish microbiologist Sir Alexander Fleming’s petri-dish mistake, our advanced antibiotic options may have been left in the Dark Ages. Since Fleming’s penicillin discovery, we have made tremendous strides in the research and development of novel, safer, and more effective antibiotics that are used to treat a variety of infections. So, the next time your pup suffers from an ear infection, urinary issue, or stinky skin problem, be sure to thank Sir Alexander Fleming for his discovery.
What are antibiotics used for in dogs?
In a nutshell, antibiotics are used to treat infections caused by bacteria. Antibiotics are not effective against viral infections, although they may be prescribed if your veterinarian believes your pet’s viral infection is complicated by a secondary bacterial infection. Antibiotics are available to treat many types of bacterial infections in your dog, such as:
Antibiotics are available in a variety of forms for use in pets, including:
- Injectable solutions
- Creams and ointments
- Eye drops
To help treat your dog’s infection, your veterinarian will choose the appropriate antibiotic to destroy the offending organism. Different antibiotic classes work in various ways to kill bacteria, or inhibit their growth and replication, allowing your pet’s immune system to clear the infection. Some antibiotics attack the bacterial cell wall, while others interfere with bacterial metabolism, protein synthesis, or DNA replication.
How are antibiotics chosen for treatment?
According to the University of Washington School of Pharmacy the proper course of antibiotic therapy is determined by identifying the bacteria causing your dog’s infection, as each antibiotic is only effective against specific bacterial species. Sometimes, your veterinarian may choose an appropriate antibiotic based on knowledge about bacterial species that commonly cause infections similar to your pet’s. In other situations, your veterinarian may perform bacterial culture and sensitivity testing to identify the exact bacterial species causing your pet’s infection, as well as which antibiotics the bacteria is sensitive to. Culture and sensitivity testing is performed by a veterinary laboratory, and results take several days. In the meantime, your veterinarian will likely begin treatment with the antibiotic they think is most appropriate, but may need to change the antibiotic once test results are final.
With antibiotic therapy, knowing how the antibiotic is absorbed and metabolized by a pet’s body is key. For example, some antibiotics do not cross the blood-brain barrier well, making them an ineffective choice for a bacterial brain infection. Although culture and sensitivity testing may determine the most effective antibiotic for treating the bacteria isolated, your veterinarian must consider how the drug is absorbed and metabolized for your pet’s illness to be fully eradicated.
What are the side effects of antibiotic therapy in dogs?
Although antibiotics can be curative, they also have their fair share of negative side effects that may be dose-dependent, or based on your pet’s sensitivity to a certain medication. If your pooch needs an antibiotic course, keep an eye out for the following side effects:
- Decreased appetite
- Secondary infections, such as yeast infections
Most side effects develop in the first few days of treatment, although they may occur at any point during an antibiotic course. Contact your veterinarian at the first side-effect sign during antibiotic administration. While most pets handle antibiotic therapy with no issues, some dogs may vomit, have diarrhea, or refuse their food.
Can you use your antibiotics for your dog?
You may be tempted to use your leftover amoxicillin from your own infection to treat your dog’s urinary or ear infection, but dogs require different doses than people, and your medicine cabinet’s contents may not be appropriate for your pet. Leave diagnosing and prescribing to veterinary professionals to ensure your furry pal doesn’t suffer from serious side effects.
Can antibiotic resistance affect dogs?
You may have heard about people and pets developing infections with bacteria that are resistant to commonly used antibiotics. According to the CDC, bacteria become antibiotic resistant when they develop the ability to live and reproduce in the presence of an antibiotic. When this happens, subsequent bacterial populations that originate from the bacteria also carry the genes for resistance. Antibiotic resistance occurs when antibiotics are used improperly, and unfortunately, pet owners often contribute to this growing problem. To avoid contributing to antibiotic resistance, follow all of your veterinarian’s instructions regarding your pet’s antibiotic use, and follow these simple rules:
- Administer the full course of antibiotics, even if your pet’s infection seems to have resolved
- Consistently administer your pet’s antibiotics at the prescribed time each day
- Never give your pet’s antibiotics to another pet or a human
- Never give antibiotics prescribed for another pet, or human, to your pet
Veterinarians help prevent antibiotic resistance by only prescribing antibiotics to pets with bacterial (i.e., not viral) infections, choosing antibiotics based on culture and sensitivity results, and prescribing antibiotics at the appropriate dose and for an appropriate length of time to fully eliminate the infection.
Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics for the Veterinary Technician by Robert L. Bill