Consumer Reports sounds the alarm about overuse of antibiotics with pets

Just like in humans, antibiotic resistance can harm our dogs, cats

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Consumer Reports is sounding the alarm for pet owners. You've probably heard about antibiotic resistance and the push to only prescribe antibiotics to kids when other options won't work. Some veterinarians and scientists have the same concern when it comes to your pets.

When Barbara Weir’s dog Holly was suffering from an odd cough, all Barbara wanted was to help her feel better. 

“It’s like your child,” said Weir. 

But rather than rush to prescribe an antibiotic, Weir’s vet gave her two choices and let her decide.

“The vet had said to me, you can do the aggressive one by giving her the antibiotics immediately, or you can give it a couple of days,” she said. 

Weir chose to wait and the cough went away on its own, as many infections do. 

“When people take antibiotics they don't need, it can lead to the development of bacteria that actually resist those drugs and are harder to treat with the normal medications we would use. And the exact same thing can happen with animals too,” explained Consumer Reports Health Editor Catherine Roberts.

The health team at Consumer Reports says no one should take an antibiotic they don’t need -- that goes for people or pets!

“Antibiotics can have side effects in pets, these can include diarrhea, vomiting and even in some cases, seizures,” Roberts said.  

Veterinarian Lester Sills says the decision should be on a case by case basis. 

“I think antibiotics are essential, amazing and one of the miracles of modern science. But like anything else, you don’t want to abuse it. And you need to use discretion when you dispense it,” Sills said. 

Consumer Reports also encourages pet owners to speak up. Which means if your dog or cat is sick, let your vet know that you don’t want antibiotics for your pet unless they really need it. And ask whether there are any non-antibiotic options the vet can try first. 

The best approach may be preventative medicine -- to help keep your pet from getting sick in the first place.

  • Keep your pets up to date on their shots
  • Be diligent with hand washing
  • Launder pets' bedding weekly

Consumer Reports says it’s also important to feed pets a safe diet. Raw pet food can be contaminated with bacteria such as salmonella, which can sicken pets as well as humans who handle the food. In fact, the CDC recommends against raw diets for pets. Watch this video about raw pet food from Consumer Reports.

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