Antibiotic use is a topic which is gaining more attention in the media, due to antibiotic resistant bugs becoming more widespread.
People are aware of their impact in human health, but what about the impact on our furry friends? And can overuse of antibiotics in companion animals affect human health?
When bacteria become resistant to an antibiotic this is often known as antimicrobial resistance or AMR. AMR is becoming a bigger problem because of the overuse of antibiotics for conditions which do not require them, like viral infections, and antibiotics not being given correctly- either the full course not being completed of the correct dose not being given each time. This means it is important to follow instructions carefully and always finish a course of antibiotics.
Problems can arise if your pet picks up a bacteria which is resistant to one or more antibiotics and this can lead to the infection being more difficult to treat. We often prescribe antibiotics known as ‘broad spectrum’ as these kill or inhibit a wide range of bacteria, however use of these leads to a higher likelihood of resistance occurring. For this reason we try to use as narrow spectrum an antibiotic as possible to affect less of the naturally occurring ‘good’ bacteria in our patients, and only use antibiotics when it is necessary, by sending samples for culture when possible.
Human health can be affected as well if our pet’s pick up a resistant bacterial infection. We love our cuddly companions and therefore share a lot of our home with them and interact with them closely. Some bacteria can pass between animals and humans, and if these are antibiotic resistant they can be a problem for us too.
We use an approach know as ‘One Health’ to work together with our human colleagues to reduce antibiotic resistance in us and our pets so we can make sure antibiotics are still available to us in the years to come.
So please, if your pet is unlucky enough to need antibiotics make sure you follow the instructions carefully and finish the course. We try to only prescribe antibiotics when it is necessary so if your pet isn’t prescribed them then feel grateful that your pet is healthy enough not to require these life saving drugs.