Fighting Antibiotic Resistance in Pets and People

by Dr. Shelby

November 14-20 is the annual Get Smart About Antibiotics week, endorsed by the Center for Disease Control. During this time, the CDC brings fourth the issue of antimicrobial/antibiotic resistance and ways to help combat the ever-growing problem.

In 1928, Sir Alexander Fleming, a Scottish Biologist, discovered the first antibiotic, penicillin. Since Flemings discovery, antibiotics have been used for the last 70 years to treat patients who have infectious diseases. According the CDC, "these drugs have greatly reduced illness and death from infectious diseases. However, these drugs have been used so widely and for so long that the infectious organisms the antibiotics are designed to kill have adapted to them, making the drugs less effective."

Though this issue is large-scale, antibiotic resistance can also occur on a smaller scale inside our, and our pets', bodies. This is seen when a particular antibiotic that may have worked effectively before becomes ineffective. The certain bacteria can become resistant to antibiotics by adapting their structure or function, preventing them from being killed by the antibiotic.

So what measures can you take to help combat antibiotic resistance?

  • Do not take an antibiotic for an illness caused by a virus. Viruses cannot be treated with an antibiotic and the patient may have side effects from the unnecessary medication.
  • Finish the entire dose of antibiotics that is prescribed, even if your pet seems to be feeling better. Failure to take antibiotics in the proper dosage, or for as long as prescribed, runs the risk that the infection will not be adequately treated, leading to a persistent or recurrent infection.
  • Pet owners should not use antibiotics that were prescribed for someone else or another pet because it may not be the right antibiotic for the infection and there may not be enough medication for a full course. Plus, if the new illness is a viral infection, an antibiotic is not be needed.
  • Keep your pet up-to-date on vaccines. Some vaccines can prevent bacterial illnesses that might otherwise require an antibiotic.

Most importantly: Be sure to have your pet seen by his or her primary veterinarian if an illness arises. It is best to determine if your pet is suffering from a bacterial infection or a virus so that the correct treatment can be administered. Correct treatment will help ensure there is no unnecessary antibiotic usage. Which, in turn, can help combat unfortunate bacteria resistance in your beloved pet.

The following link from the Center for Disease Control's website provides additional useful information about this topic: