The subject of dogs and antibiotics is a contentious one. As a canine nutritionist, I have long-since campaigned against the overzealous use of antibiotics to treat our companion animals. It’s taken a while, but science has finally caught up with my thinking on the subject.
Dogs are being overmedicated
Research carried out jointly by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the Royal Veterinary College concluded that within any two year period, 1 in 4 UK dogs will be administered antibiotics. Worse still, 1 in 5 of those will be prescribed a dose greater than the recommended limit!
The conclusion was reached that the “inappropriate antibiotic use in companion animals has been identified as potentially contributing to antimicrobial resistance (AMR)”.
According to the World Health Organization, “Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) threatens the effective prevention and treatment of an ever-increasing range of infections caused by bacteria, parasites, viruses and fungi.
“AMR occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites change over time and no longer respond to medicines making infections harder to treat and increasing the risk of disease spread, severe illness and death. As a result, the medicines become ineffective and infections persist in the body, increasing the risk of spread to others”.
Vets are being trained to medicate
Another of my long-held views as a dog nutritionist is that today’s vets are being trained to medicate. And I apologise to the very many holistic veterinarians out there seeking to reverse this trend, but I believe it remains a fact.
As acknowledged by the previously-mentioned study, time-pressures and other factors contribute towards vets treating symptoms rather diagnosing canine health issues.
There are a number of other contributory factors, and it appears that pet parents themselves may be partly responsible for this unfortunate trend. It appears that pressure on vets to come up with immediate solutions to pets problems may be forcing them to go for quick options. Options that may not necessarily be in the best interest of the pet concerned. Options such as prescribing antibiotics!
The pressure on vets to prescribe antibiotics
So what is it about antibiotics for dogs that makes vets so fond of prescribing them? According to research, there were five identifiable factors that contributed to the epidemic of vets inappropriately prescribing antibiotics for dogs. These were defined as business, diagnostic, fear, habitual practice and pharmaceutical factors.
In short, vets are also business people. They need to maintain successful, viable, profitable businesses that keep clients happy and encourge them to keep coming back. As a result some of the vets surveyed felt pressure to prescribe antibiotics because they give the appearance of achieving a quick fix. (All they’re really doing of course is dealing with the symptom. Masking the problem)!
So very often, vets are responding to consumer demand for fear they will lose their custom. The implication being that if one vet doesn’t achieve an immediate result (however it’s achieved), another vet will.
Another factor is cost. As expensive as they might seem to the client, the cost of antibiotics is considerably cheaper than carrying out diagnostic tests. The inference here being that vets will prescribe antibiotics in the hope that they will effect a cure to the dog’s health problem. (The problem with that is that vets very often don’t know what the problem is. They simply throw mud at the wall (prescribe antibiotics) in the hope that something sticks or in this case, cures the symptoms.
Yet another factor is fear. Fear that if they don’t at least do something, the client’s dog might become sicker, which could negatively impact both the health of the client dog and their own careeers!
Prescribing patterns is another of the quoted factors for nonchalantly prescribing antibiotics. In other words, that’s what we always do when a client’s dog presents with x, y or z. It’s worked in the past, so why shouldn’t it now!
And finally was the influence of Big Brother. The pharmaceutical companies marketing antibiotics as the panacea to cure all ills easily, cheaply and with a minimum of effort.
A canine nutritionist’s perspective
As a canine nutritionist and the proud parent of two wonderful dogs, I am a great believer in the power of good food to cure most dog health problems. The stronger your dog’s immune system, the less likely he or she is to develop health problems.
Some 80% of your dog’s immune system is in its gut. That’s why healthy dog food is so important. But one of the major problems with giving your dog antibiotics is that the drugs kill off all the bacteria in your dog’s gut. All the good stuff your dog’s relies on in order to remain healthy.
Kill off the good bacteria, disarm its main defence system, and your dog becomes prone to all manner of allergies and infections. This aside from the previously mentioned AMR and the risk of your dog developing vaccinocis or other vaccine associated health problems.
If your dog becomes ill, don’t go for the quick fix. Don’t succumb to the temption to rush your pet to the vet at the slightest sign of a tummy bug. Consult a canine nutritionist. See how someone like myself can cure or at least improve most canine problems without compromising your dog’s immune system. Without subjecting it to some of the horrendous potential side-effects of antibiotics.
If your dog does develop a problem, deal with the problem, don’t simply hide the symptoms. Because believe me, like a rabid dog, they’ll generally come back to bite you!