Antibiotic resistance and pets

To mark World Antibiotics Awareness Week (18-24 November), PDSA vets are highlighting antibiotics resistance in pets.

Antibiotics are essential medications used to treat or prevent bacterial infection. However, there is growing concern over resistance to antibiotics in bacteria found in both humans and other animals, which can affect treatments provided to both humans and animals.

World Antimicrobial Awareness Week aims to increase awareness of global resistance and encourage best practice.

PDSA Vet, Lynne James, said: “If antibiotics are used inappropriately, there is a higher chance that bacteria will become resistant to them, meaning they’ll no longer work when we need them most. Without effective antibiotic, even simple bacterial infections would become impossible to treat, meaning many procedures and operations will become riskier for both humans and pets. It’s so important that antibiotics are used responsibly to ensure their continued effectiveness for ourselves and future generations.”

Lynn has put together top tips for pet owners that can help prevent antibiotic resistance:

Antibiotics are not always the answer – not every illness needs antibiotics – for example, they don’t kill viruses, so your vet won’t prescribe antibiotics if your pet has a viral infection. To make sure antibiotics stay effective now and in the future, they should only be used when they are really necessary. Your vet can speak with you in more detail if you’re unsure.

Follow the instructions and always finish the course – give your pet the medicine exactly as it is prescribed by your vet, following the directions on the label and finish the full course of antibiotics. Make sure you know any special instructions on how the medication should be stored to maintain its effectiveness. If your pet seems better soon after starting the course, you should still continue the treatment as directed by your vet. If you stop the course short it might give bacteria the chance to fight back, and potentially build resistance to antibiotics in the future.

Don’t give medicine to your animal that your vet hasn’t prescribed – only use medications prescribed for the specific pet. Don’t share medications between animals or re-use something prescribed on a previous occasion. At best, these medications might not work for your pet, and at worst they could seriously harm your pet and promote antibiotic resistance. You should also never give human medicines to your pet, as this can be incredibly dangerous.

Wash your hands after petting your animal – the most common way germs are spread among humans is on our hands. Washing your hands properly with soap and water is the single most important thing you can do to reduce the spread of infection – prevention being better than cure.

Keep your pet healthy – healthy pets are more likely to be able to fight off infections without the need for antibiotics. Feeding your pet a good quality, nutritionally balanced diet for their age and lifestyle helps them to stay healthy. Keep your pet at the correct weight and make sure they stay fit with regular exercise. Preventative care, such as vaccinations is incredibly important to help them avoid many serious diseases in the first place. Neutering can help calm some wandering ways and prevent animal to animal contact which leads to the transfer of diseases. If your animal becomes unwell, go to your vet straight away.

Talk to your vet – if you have any questions about antibiotics or any medication your pet is taking, talk to your vet. They are best placed to advise you about your pet’s treatment.