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Myths about antibiotics

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Like us, our pets can get sick. They can catch a virus or pick up bacteria and even parasites. And like us, they may need a treatment prescribed by a veterinarian to help them defend themselves against germs. Even though antibiotics are among the most often prescribed drugs, some myths surrounding their use persist. Here are a few:

Antibiotics treat all infections.
There are several types of antibiotics that are often used to treat both humans and animals. We sometimes mistakenly think that antibiotics are the solution to every infection. But this is not the case! In fact, when we (or our pets) get sick, it is important to keep in mind that taking antibiotics will not necessarily help in every situation. Antibiotics use complex mechanisms that are only effective against bacteria.
Antibiotics therefore do not work against viruses and parasites. For example, the flu (caused by the influenza virus) cannot be treated with an antibiotic because the drug will have no effect on the virus. There are antiviral medications. However, these are not widely used in pets. Your veterinarian is the only person who can determine if your pet is suffering from an infection caused by bacteria or a virus.

I can stop the antibiotic treatment if my pet is feeling better.
Can I stop the antibiotic treatment as soon as my pet is feeling better? I have some medication left over from a previous prescription. Can I give it to my pet if it shows the same symptoms again, or can I give it to my other pet? The answer to both questions is “No.”
Your veterinarian has selected a specific antibiotic at a dose that is suited to your pet and for a period that was determined for a reason. It is very important that you carefully follow his or her instructions.
Give the correct dose
It is important to give pets their medication until the final dose. Some illnesses need longer antibiotic treatment than others to really kill all the bacteria, even after clinical signs disappear (a deep skin infection may require a few weeks of antibiotics), while other treatments are shorter (minor bladder infection).
Avoid missing doses
Missing a dose could impact the effectiveness of the treatment. If you forget to give your animal a dose, contact your veterinarian for instructions on how to proceed.
Remember that prescriptions are patient specific
You must not give a pet an antibiotic prescribed to another pet. Firstly, before prescribing an antibiotic, a veterinarian must confirm a bacterial infection diagnosis. Secondly, the dose is often different from one pet to the next. With an incorrect dose, there is a greater risk of the medication causing side effects. Finally, your pet may have a contra-indication to a medication you already have on hand.

Antibiotics will lower my pet’s immune system.
A leading myth regarding antibiotics is that they will weaker your pet’s immune system. In reality, antibiotics strengthen the immune system! When your pet is sick, its immune system works very hard to eliminate harmful bacteria. Sometimes it needs a little help, so your veterinarian may decide to prescribe an antibiotic.
The purpose of vaccination is to prevent diseases by preparing the immune system for a possible attack. Unfortunately, there are few vaccines to counter the bacteria that can affect our pets.

Thanks to antibiotics, all bacterial infections can be easily treated.
Antibiotics have been used for years and are very effective. In recent years, following excessive or improper use, a phenomenon called antibiotic resistance emerged. It means that bacteria (tiny living micro-organisms) have started to find ways to defend themselves against the antibiotics we use, making them no longer effective. In fact, when a pet has a bacterial infection, several antibiotics may not be effective, and the pet may be sick for longer. This phenomenon is becoming increasingly widespread and is also observed in humans.

To slow this resistance, doctors and veterinarians have started limiting the use of antibiotics to situations that absolutely require them. In this respect, the analysis of a sample prior to prescribing medication becomes more justified and sometimes even essential. For example, if your pet has a urinary tract infection, your veterinarian may recommend taking a urine sample and sending it for a culture and an antibiogram (to grow the bacteria and expose it to antibiotics to determine which one is the most effective). This allows the veterinarian to choose the best antibiotic to target the bacteria to avoid changing antibiotics several times and needlessly prolonging the treatment.

If you have any concerns about your pet’s health, or for more information about antibiotics, your veterinarian is the best professional to consult.

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