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Antibiotic Resistant Bacterial Infections in Dogs

By Rania Gollakner, BS DVM

Infectious Diseases, Medical Conditions, Pet Services

What are antibiotic resistant bacterial infections?

antibiotic_resistant_bacteriaAntibiotic resistant bacterial infections are bacterial infections that are minimally or no longer responsive to commonly used antibiotics. In other words, these bacteria are resistant to antibiotics - they cannot be killed and their growth cannot be stopped. These types of infections are difficult and costly to treat, and sometimes require the use of toxic and dangerous alternatives. These infections may also be passed to other pets or to humans. Antibiotic resistant bacterial infections most commonly affect the skin, the gastrointestinal tract, the urinary tract, or the respiratory tract.

What causes antibiotic resistant bacterial infections?

Antibiotic resistant bacterial infections occur naturally, but the frequent and/or inappropriate use of antibiotics accelerates the process. As a survival mechanism, bacterial organisms can develop ways to resist antibiotics that they are frequently exposed to over time. Those organisms that develop resistance are able to survive and pass their resistant genes to their offspring.

“Bacterial organisms can develop ways to resist antibiotics that they are frequently exposed to over time.”

Dogs that have certain medical conditions and are prescribed antibiotics frequently are at a higher risk for antibiotic resistant bacterial infections. Some conditions that predispose a patient to bacterial infections include atopic dermatitis (skin allergies), diabetes mellitus, and Cushing’s disease.

What are the clinical signs of antibiotic resistant bacterial infections?

An infection that does not respond appropriately to an antibiotic is suggestive of an antibiotic resistant bacterial infection. A fever of unknown origin may also be present.

How are antibiotic resistant bacterial infections diagnosed?

Antibiotic resistant bacterial infections are diagnosed with a culture and sensitivity test. This is the gold standard and the only definitive test to diagnose a resistant infection.

How are antibiotic resistant bacterial infections treated?

Antibiotic resistant bacterial infections are treated based on the culture and sensitivity results and the location and severity of infection. If the infection is life threatening, alternative and risky antibiotic treatments may be considered. In some cases, supportive care and treating the underlying condition that triggered the infection will resolve the infection without the use of riskier antibiotics. When antibiotics are prescribed, they must be taken on time and to completion exactly as prescribed.

“When antibiotics are prescribed, they must be taken on time and to completion exactly as prescribed.”

Probiotics are a supplement that may be recommended. Although some studies have shown promising results regarding the use of probiotics in treating and preventing antibiotic resistant bacterial infections, there has not been conclusive evidence. But, because using probiotics poses no risk to the dog, they may be added to the treatment plan.

What care will my dog require after treatment?

Dogs that have had a resistant bacterial infection may be more susceptible to infection again in the future if they have a predisposing condition. In these cases, taking precautions to prevent general infections is recommended. Infection prevention means avoiding another course of antibiotics that could potentially create a resistant infection.

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