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Antibiotic Resistance in Cats and Dogs

What Is Antibiotic Resistance?

Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria continue to grow despite attempted treatment with antibiotics. In essence, these bacteria gain the ability to “resist” antibiotics, and can spread among animals, people, and the environment. When referring to infectious agents other than bacteria, such as fungi, a broader term may be used to refer to this resistance, known as antimicrobial resistance.

Antibiotic resistance is a growing public health threat, and as a pet owner, it is something you should familiarize yourself with. This will not only help you properly care for your pet, but also all members of your family and the environment in which you live.

How Does Antibiotic Resistance Occur?

When a person or animal develops a bacterial infection, like a urinary tract infection, a physician or veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics in order to treat and kill the bacteria, thereby eliminating the infection. Unfortunately, bacteria have developed various mechanisms to avoid antibiotics or reduce their effectiveness entirely. Some ways in which bacteria can outsmart antibiotics include developing new mechanisms to avoid the antibiotics or even mechanisms to destroy the antibiotics.

Why You Should Be Concerned?

These resistant bacteria can become difficult to treat and are capable of causing life-threatening infections. In fact, in the United States alone, at least 2.8 million people are infected and 35,000 people die each year as a result of these resistant bacteria. If the problem continues growing at this rate, the WHO predicts that by the year 2050, 10 million people will die each year from resistant infections. Can you imagine a world in which antibiotics no longer work against basic bacterial infections, such as strep throat?

However, antibiotic resistance doesn’t just affect humans. As previously mentioned, resistant bacteria have the ability to spread among people, animals, and the environments in which we live. Historically, much attention has been placed on food animals (cows, pigs, etc.) acting as a source of resistant infections, however, our dogs, cats, and other domestic pets can act as sources as well. Should your pet develop a resistant infection, they could potentially contaminate the environment you both share, even infecting you or a loved one, especially someone who is immunocompromised. Some of the most common resistant infections in pets are those of the skin, urinary tract, and post-operative surgical sites.

What You Can Do

There is much that can be done by both veterinarians and pet owners to help reduce the development of resistant bacteria.

Veterinary Professionals

Pet Owners