Antibiotics for Kittens & Their Effectiveness

Small kittens are vulnerable to a host of illnesses requiring antibiotics.
i Martin Poole/Digital Vision/Getty Images

If you have a new kitten, she's likely keeping you laughing with her entertaining antics. If Tabby's slowed down a bit lately, she may have one of the minor conditions that kittens are vulnerable to. Antibiotics, prescribed by your vet, will usually get her back to her frisky self.

Bacteria and Antibiotics

When there are bacteria in the body antibiotics are often prescribed to fight them. Not all bacteria is bad and good bacteria (called flora) are useful for leading a healthy life. For example, in Tabby's case, good bacteria will help her maintain a healthy urinary tract. However, when she's not well because of unhealthy bacteria, antibiotics are typically used to fight the organisms. Bacteriostatic drugs will inhibit the growth of the bad bacteria; bactericidal drugs will destroy them.

Antibiotics are not effective against illness caused by viruses.

Typical Kitten Illnesses

Because kittens' immune systems aren't fully developed, it's fairly normal for them to develop some minor condition. Two of the most common illnesses are conjunctivitis and upper respiratory infections (URI). Both are highly contagious and can be passed from mother to babies or among littermates.

Using Antibiotics on Tabby

If Tabby's eyes are red, watery, swelling or runny, she may have an eye infection or conjunctivitis. In this case the vet will probably prescribe eye drops or ointment containing an antibiotic. Occasionally, an oral antibiotic will be prescribed. If Tabby is sneezing, has a runny nose and/or eyes and seems lethargic with a poor appetite, a URI will be one of the vet's first considerations. URIs tend to be viral, so antibiotics are often ineffective against them. There are bacteria-caused URIs, such as chlamydia, and in such cases antibiotics can be useful in their treatment.

Will Antibiotics Work?

In most cases, the antibiotics will do as intended. However, it's important that you follow the instructions and give Tabby her medicine as directed. It's not uncommon for people to see that their pets look better and discontinue the medication. That's a mistake because their immune systems are still vulnerable and they can suffer a relapse. Other reasons for antibiotics to fail include too low a dosage, choosing an antibiotic that the condition is able to resist and using an antibiotic that doesn't destroy the bacteria.

If you believe Tabby may have an infection that would respond to antibiotics, you should consult your vet for proper diagnosis and medication. Antibiotics should never be given to a kitten as a preventive measure by you -- too many antibiotics can inhibit the development of beneficial flora that will keep your kitten healthy and help her grow.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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