Our pets get antibiotic-resistant infections too



Antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections in companion animals – dog & cats especially – are rising at an alarming rate across the country, says Dr. Jason Piper of the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine. “If you averaged it out over time, every day in the clinic we’re seeing about one case of methicillin-resistant S. pseudintermedius,” which is found on the skin. He’s also seeing “difficult” Pseudomonas ear infections, as well as antibiotic-resistant E. coli, Enterococcus and Salmonella infections in the gastrointestinal and urinary tracts.

When you’re backed into a corner with a resistant-infection the vet is forced to use last resort or “big gun” antibiotics – those that increase the risk of harmful side-effects. “I’m dealing with one dog that has a liver issue right now from an antibiotic I used because its infection was not responding to other treatments, including antibiotics,” says Piper.

The reason for this rise in resistant-infections has a familiar ring to it: giving antibiotics to animals when they’re not necessary. For example, don’t give an antibiotic just because you do a skin biopsy, cautions Piper. Instead, he says, you want to take the same approach with animals as you do with people:

We have decreased the incidence of methicillin-resistant bacterial infections in people largely by using antibiotics more responsibly. I remember a time when I would always be prescribed antibiotics for the flu. Now, physicians are not prescribing antibiotics for viral infections, which don’t respond to antibiotics.

I feel the veterinary community needs to take a lesson from this and also start practicing the responsible use of antibiotics. If an animal’s skin is inflamed, test the site to determine whether antibiotics are needed. I see way too many cases where such tests are not performed and the doctors give out antibiotics no matter what. This is perpetuating the problem.


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