UK Registered Charity 1122246 This website would not be possible without the kind help of Tony Martin of the “AV Martin Charitable Foundation”

Antibiotics are drugs used to treat infections caused by bacteria, which are tiny organisms that can sometimes cause illness to humans and animals.

  • Some bacteria are harmless, and are good for us, such as those in a pet’s intestines helping digest food.
  • Antibiotics target microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi and parasites but are not effective against viruses.

That’s why a vet will not prescribe antibiotics for a viral infection such as canine parvovirus.  However, sometimes the weakened virus-infected pet may succumb to a secondary bacterial infection.

For example, cat flu (Feline Upper Respiratory Disease) is a very infectious disease caused by two viruses.  Initially, the affected cat sneezes a lot, and has runny eyes and nose. The cat may then go off its food, with a fever and general depression. The eyes and nose can become ulcerated.  The affected cat may salivate excessively, cough and lose its voice.  A secondary bacterial infection can result in a very thick nasal and eye discharge.

  • Pets as well as humans have special white blood cells that are triggered by harmful bacteria.
  • These cells eat the bacteria and destroy them, which often means that any infection is fought off. Sometimes these white blood cells get overwhelmed and need some help – that’s where antibiotics come in.
  • There are lots of different antibiotics but they work in two ways.
  • They either kill the bacteria or they stop them from multiplying.
  • They can be broad spectrum where they work against lots of different types of bacteria or narrow spectrum where they are effective against only a few types.
  • If antibiotics are overused or used incorrectly there is a chance that the bacteria will become resistant – the antibiotic becomes less effective against that type of bug.
  • Antibiotics are not completely powerless against resistant bacteria, but patients may need a much higher dose over a longer period or an alternative antibiotic to which the bacteria have less resistance.
Author – Elaine Pendlebury BA BSc  BVetMed DMS MRCVS  Senior Veterinary Surgeon (Science & Welfare) PDSA

Did you know...

A small proportion of the general pet population carry MRSA or similar MDR bacteria, but the carriage rate in sick animals that have visited veterinary practices is higher.

Videos

View more

Corporate Partner

Educational Partners

Media Supporters

Supporters