Antibiotics for Cats & Dogs

by Nicholas DeMarino, Demand Media
    Antibiotics can help make your sick cat or dog get well, but they also have their own risks.

    Antibiotics can help make your sick cat or dog get well, but they also have their own risks.

    When your cat or dog is sick, you want the best treatment available, right? Sometimes antibiotics are just what the doctor -- er, veterinarian -- ordered. They're not a panacea, though, and carry serious health risks, even when they work. Consult a veterinarian about your antibiotics and your pet.

    Many Uses

    Antibiotics can clear up everything from your cat or dog's sniffles to life-threatening illnesses. Some of them directly attack the germs that are making your furry companion sick, while others stop them from growing. Each antibiotic targets a specific bacteria, so it's impossible for one magic pill to cure every thing, à la a panacea.
    You can buy antibiotics online, but it's best to talk to your vet to make sure you know what's really wrong with your pet first. Even though you've given your cat or dog antibiotics for the same set of symptoms before, that's not a guarantee the same bacteria or fungus is responsible.

    Many Risks

    Antibiotics can help, but they also can hurt. Each one carries its own list of side effect. Amoxicillin, one common veterinary antibiotic, may cause (take a big breath before reading this aloud because it's a long list) kidney and liver damage as well as vomiting, diarrhea, rashes, itchiness, patchy hair loss, lethargy, sleepiness, gastric ulcers and, in severe cases, seizures, as well as secondary infections.
    If your cat or dog is pregnant or nursing young, tell your vet before giving the pet antibiotics. Some varieties -- tetracycline and griseofulvin are two classic examples -- can hurt unborn puppies and kittens, as well as nursing offspring.

    Other Considerations

    Don't freak out if your veterinarian prescribes steroids with your cat or dog's antibiotics. First, it's normal. Second, your cat isn't going to turn into a muscle-bound freak or run in the next Californian gubernatorial race.
    Some steroids have anti-inflammatory effects -- that is, they relieve your pet's symptoms, particularly for eyes, ears and skin. Don't stop antibiotic and steroidal treatment when your pet looks better. The steroids help your pet feel better, but the antibiotics need more time to fight whatever is making the animal sick. Also, keep in mind that steroids weaken your furry friend's immune system, so there's a chance he or she might get a cold during treatment.
    Some pets are sensitive or allergic to medicine. If antibiotics or steroids treatments make your cat appear more ill or sneezy, call a veterinarian.

    A Broader Conversation

    Some people think antibiotics are bad for cats, dogs and all other animals, people included. They argue this accelerates the evolution of bacteria, ultimately leading to antibiotic-resistant strains, or the so-called super viruses.
    Other people think veterinary antibiotics can cause sickness, disease or even blindness. Yes, some such cases are on record, but many veterinarians agree that these cases are statistical anomalies -- the equivalent of winning the lottery or getting struck by lightning. Others say the payoffs of antibiotics are worth the risk.
    Talk to you veterinarian about antibiotics and do more research to make the right choice for you pet.

    About the Author

    Nicholas DeMarino is a journalist and former newspaper associate editor and reporter. His work has appeared in "The Arizona Republic," "The Billings Gazette," "San Antonio Current" and in other publications. He holds a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Oregon.

    Photo Credits

    • John Foxx/Stockbyte/Getty Images