The discovery of antibiotics has greatly extended the lifespan of people and their pets. Without antibiotic therapy, a simple infection could overwhelm the immune system and cause death. Despite this remarkable medical achievement, bacteria adapt continually to develop resistance to medications, and new generations of antibiotics must be discovered to fight resistant infections. Indiscriminant use of antibiotics accelerates these mutations by allowing bacteria to survive exposure to the drugs. It is critical that we use antibiotics properly in order to prevent the evolution of “super-bugs” for which we would have no cure.

Antibiotics kill bacteria by different mechanisms. It is important that infected tissues become saturated with a therapeutic level of the medication in order to be effective. Not all drugs will reach the same tissue concentration when an equal amount is given by the same route of administration. Therefore, not only is it important to give an antibiotic that will treat a particular bacterial infection, it is equally important that the correct amount be given in order to reach the targeted tissue at a therapeutic level. Because of the way that they are metabolized, some antibiotics do not enter certain body tissues effectively. Bacteria would survive exposure to the low concentration of the drug, allowing them to develop resistance quickly. For the same reason, when an antibiotic is prescribed, it should be continued until the infection is completely resolved. A lapse in dosing can contribute to bacterial resistance.

Antibiotics have no effect on viruses; therefore, they are not prescribed to fight viral infections specifically. In certain cases, they may be prescribed to prevent or treat secondary bacterial infections. The medication should be given as directed and until gone.

There may be special instructions included on the label of a specific oral antibiotic. Some drugs should be given with food to improve absorption, and some others may bind with ingredients in food and should be given on an empty stomach. This is true for all oral medications. Antacids will inhibit absorption of oral antibiotics and should not be given within one hour of dosing. Check with a veterinarian about drug interactions between antibiotics and other drugs. Be sure your vet knows about all the medication your pet takes.

It has been stated before but cannot be stressed enough; always finish an antibiotic that has been prescribed. If symptoms are not completely resolved, the doctor may send another course of medication. If you suspect an adverse reaction to an antibiotic, such as vomiting or diarrhea, notify the veterinarian immediately.

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