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Author – Elaine Pendlebury BA BSc  BVetMed DMS MRCVS  Senior Veterinary Surgeon (Science & Welfare) PDSA

There is a huge range of antibiotics that vets can use, and vets use a whole set of criteria to choose one to prescribe to help a sick pet.  Some of these are:


Accurate diagnosis

This is based on clinical evaluation of the ill pet as well as considering the beneficial effects of the medicine against possible side effects.  For example, tetracyclines are an important bacteriostatic antibiotic – they stop bacteria reproducing.  This antibiotic is effective against many different types of bacteria but has side effects, such as the discolouration of a young pet’s teeth.  They are not routinely prescribed in kittens and puppies, but the vet has to balance the side effects of the antibiotic against the benefits.  No situation is the same and this is part of the vet’s skills – each case has to be considered individually, taking into account all of the different factors.


Product effectiveness

No medicine can be placed on the market until its quality and effectiveness have been shown scientifically.  Some antibiotics have been licensed for use in some species but not others and a vet has to choose medicines using the ‘cascade system’.

This is a law that was passed in 1994 that said that a medicinal product can only be administered to a specific species for a specific condition if it is authorised by way of a product licence or marketing authorisation.

When no authorised veterinary medical product exists for a condition in a particular species, vets exercising their clinical judgement may prescribe in accordance with a sequence, called a ‘cascade’, such as a product licensed for use in another species or for a different use in the same species.


Checking the sensitivity of the infectious agent

This is where lab tests are done to make sure that the bacteria will be attacked by a particular antibiotic.  This isn’t done every time as the clinical signs are usually the most important factor and the pet might need treatment immediately, rather than waiting for the sensitivity results, which can take quite a while.


What area of the body the antibiotic effects

The vet has to be sure that the chosen antibiotic will reach the site of infection.  Sometimes the vet will prescribe an antibiotic cream for skin infections.


Pet’s immune status

If a pet has problem with the immune status then bacteriostatic antibiotics usually won’t be the type prescribed.  This is because these antibiotics stop the bacteria reproducing and the remaining ones are killed by the pet’s immune system cells.


Family Examples of members
(Common medications containing these drugs)
Penicillins Ampicillin (Amfipen®)
(Synulox®, Clavaseptin®, Noroclav®, Betamox®, Clamoxyl®; this is the standard “2-day acting” antibiotic injection many vets use)
Cephalosporins Cephalexin (Ceporex®, Rilexine®)
Cefovecin (Convenia® –
you may know it as an injection lasting 2 weeks)
Sulphonamides Sulphamethoxazole (Tribrissen®)
Tetracyclines Oxytetracycline (Oxycare®, Terramycin®)
Doxycycline (Ronaxan®)
Lincosamides Lincomycin (Lincocin®)
Clindamycin (Antirobe®,
Aminoglycosides Gentamicin (Otomax®, Maxitrol®)
Fluoroquinolones Enrofloxacin (Baytril®)
Marbofloxacin (Marbocyl®)
Ibafloxacin (Ibaflin®)

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