Pets and antibiotics: What you need to know
People will do anything for their four-legged friends.
So when Barbara Weir’s dog Holly was suffering from an unusual cough, the only thing Weir wanted was to help her feel better.
“It’s like your child,” says Weir.
But rather than instantly prescribe Holly an antibiotic, Weir’s veterinarian instead gave her two choices and let her decide.
“The vet had said to me, you can do the aggressive one by giving her the antibiotics immediately, or you can give it a couple of days,” says Weir.
She made the decision to wait, and the cough went away on its own – as many infections often do.
“When people take antibiotics they don’t need, it can lead to the development of bacteria that actually resist those drugs and are harder to treat with the normal medications we would use. And the exact same thing can happen with animals too,” says Catherine Roberts, Consumer Reports health editor.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) one in every three antibiotic prescriptions aren’t necessary. Experts are now sounding the alarm warning that no one should take an antibiotic they don’t need – people or pets.
“Antibiotics can have side effects in pets, these can include diarrhea, vomiting and even in some cases, seizures,” says Roberts.
Veterinarian Lester Sills says the decision should be on a case-by-case basis.
“I think antibiotics are essential, amazing and one of the miracles of modern science. But like anything else, you don’t want to abuse it. And you need to use discretion when you dispense it,” says Sills.
Once drug-resistant bacteria develop in pets, it can lead to a dangerous outbreak.
The best approach may be preventative medicine to help keep your pet from getting sick in the first place. Keep your pets up to date on their vaccines, wash your hands, and frequently launder pet bedding. Experts also say to be wary of feeding your pet raw food as it could contain harmful bacteria.
Experts also encourage pet owners to speak up. If your dog or cat is sick let your vet know that you don’t want antibiotics for your pet unless they absolutely need it. Don’t forget to ask if there are any non-antibiotic options the vet can try first.
Because as every pet owner knows -- a healthy pet is a happy one.