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Healthy and Happy Pets - Where do Antibiotics Fit in?

20 November 2015

NEW ZEALAND - When your pet is sick you’ll want the best, fastest treatment there is, but are antibiotics always the answer?

It’s Antibiotic Awareness Week and vets are encouraging pet owners to work with them to protect their pet’s health and wellbeing, including by using antibiotics responsibly.

Antibiotics have helped people and animals to live longer and healthier lives, but these essential medicines are at risk with fewer antibiotics able to now treat common infectious diseases and mounting concerns about antibiotic resistance.

“Vets and pet owners need to work closely together to look after pets’ health and to use antibiotics responsibly,” says Brendon Bullen the President of the New Zealand Veterinary Association’s Companion Animal Society Branch. “It’s a joint responsibility and partnership, and we really believe good communication between vets and clients is the key to achieving this.”

He says that most people consider their pet an extended member of the family and will do everything they can to keep them healthy.

“One of the best things about being a vet is seeing how much people love and care for their animals. There’s a strong focus on preventing pets from becoming unwell and clients are keen to learn what they can do to help their pet have a longer and better quality life.”

Top of Dr Bullen’s list are regular health checks, good nutrition, enough exercise, and up-to-date vaccinations.

Dr Bullen says that when a pet is unwell a vet will look at the best course of treatment, which may or may not involve antibiotics.

“When we visit our doctor, antibiotics are not always the answer. Not all infections are caused by bacteria – some are viral and don’t respond to antibiotics. Or antibiotics may not be the first choice of treatment and alternatives explored first. It’s the same for pets.”

The decision to use antibiotics should never be taken lightly. They should not be prescribed unless absolutely necessary.

“Vets will of course prescribe antibiotics if they are the most effective treatment. Not all antibiotics work the same though, and every pet is an individual case, so your vet will choose the antibiotic best suited to your pet’s situation.”

Dr Bullen says that pet owners can both assist their pet’s recovery and help to lower antibiotic resistance.
“It’s really important to listen to your vet’s advice and to follow all instructions about antibiotic use, including finishing the prescribed dose, even if you think your pet has fully recovered.”

He says this will ensure your pet’s infection is cleared and that they will not need to take another full course of antibiotics because the first course wasn’t completed. He says misuse of antibiotics can also mean bacteria survive, and are then less susceptible to treatment. Antibiotic resistant infections in pets can potentially be a risk to the health of owners and their families, so understanding and following your vet’s advice is critical to everyone’s wellbeing.

“If you have any concerns about giving antibiotics to your pet, especially if you’ll be giving the medication yourself, have a chat to your vet so you feel more confident about doing this.”

“You may think that what you do as an individual is small and inconsequential but if we all take responsibility it will mean we can make real progress in being able to fight antibiotic resistance for the benefit of animals and human health.

“We can all help to ensure that antibiotics continue to work and that we don’t lose the benefits of modern medicine.”

ThePetSite News Desk

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