By Sari Reis
Chances are, if you have a dog or cat, you have used antibiotics at some point in time to treat an ailment your pet has had. But how much do you really know about them?
Antibiotics are a group of medications used to fight bacterial infections in the body. They fall into two basic categories.
There are bacteriostatic drugs, designed to inhibit or prevent the growth of bacteria, and bactericidal drugs, designed to kill the bacteria outright. The bacteria that cause disease — bad bacteria — are called pathogenic. There are also bacteria that are good, called nonpathogenic.
Recently, there’s been considerable debate concerning the misuse and over-use of antibiotics in the treatment of pet illnesses. Most of the worry pertains to an increased risk of acquired antibiotic resistance. In other words, the “bugs” become adept at avoiding the effects of the drugs meant to kill them, and are therefore not responding.
Other reasons why antibiotics don’t work are: insufficient dosage, inappropriate route of administration, and using the wrong drug to treat a particular infection. To avoid this from happening, pet parents should always administer the drugs exactly as directed; only use antibiotics when absolutely necessary; and have a bacterial culture done to determine which antibiotic is appropriate.
Although most people are aware that antibiotics destroy the harmful, pathogenic bacteria, many may not realize that antibiotics also exterminate the nonpathogenic, beneficial bacteria. These useful bacteria that live in our pets’ digestive tracts, are an important part of the immune system. Some of them are also vital in the manufacture of certain vitamins such as K and B vitamins.
Martin Blaser, Chair of the Department of Medicine at N.Y. University Langone, wrote an article in Nature titled “Antibiotic Overuse: Stop the killing of beneficial bacteria.” In this article, his focus was less on bacterial resistance and more on the permanent changes to the protective (beneficial) flora which he believes could have more serious consequences.
After a pet has completed a round of antibiotics, it is important to restore the good bacteria by providing a course of probiotics. This helps the natural flora in the gut get back into balance.
However, not all probiotics are created equal.
According to Dr. Karen Becker, of Healthy Pets on Mercola.com, you should choose a probiotic that meets the following criteria: There should be 10 or more strains of beneficial bacteria to promote optimal health. There should be at least 20 million or more beneficial bacteria per serving. You should check for viability, potency and purity by ensuring the probiotic you select has certification from Good Manufacturing Practices, (GMP) indicating it meets the necessary requirements.
Clearly, antibiotics cannot be avoided and they can absolutely save lives. If your veterinarian recommends antibiotics, use them exactly as directed and start probiotics as soon as the last antibiotic is finished. The goal is to get your furry kid back to optimal health as soon as possible.
—Sari Reis is a certified humane education specialist and the owner of Mission Valley Pet Sitting Services. For more information, you can reach her at 760-644-0289 or missionvalleypetsitting.com.