Understanding Antibiotics

Sometimes, these medications aren’t the best choice

An antimicrobial is an agent that kills microorganisms. Within the category of antimicrobials are antibiotics, antibacterials, and antifungals. All three medications can be life savers if used correctly. There are some caveats, however, which veterinarians use to make medication decisions.

Antibiotics are only effective for things like bacteria. They are pretty much totally ineffective when it comes to viral ailments. Pushing your veterinarian for a medication like an antibiotic when your pet has a viral illness doesn’t make sense, healthwise or economically.

Sometimes your veterinarian’s empirical (or best guess) choice of antibiotic for a certain type of problem is ideal. Your cat gets the medication, and the problem is solved. However, if there is no response to the drug, more diagnostics steps need to be taken to determine the next choice of medication.

This may begin with your veterinarian taking a swab sample of the discharge to examine to find out what class of bacteria might be infecting your pet. By learning if the bacteria are rods or cocci and gram negative or gram positive, your veterinarian can narrow down antibiotic choices.

A “culture and sensitivity” is frequently requested by veterinarians. In these cases, the lab will grow out and identify the offending bacteria and do testing to determine which antibiotics are most likely to be effective, which helps your veterinarian choose the best drug. Since the test is done in a lab setting, results will not always carry over to a live pet, but they are an excellent place to start.

As a cat owner, it pays for you to understand that antibiotics only work as well as your compliance. You must give the medication as directed at the recommended correct frequency and using the entire prescription. You cannot share the medication between pets. If a second cat becomes ill, he needs his own prescription. You also need to follow guidelines like giving with or without food. Following the directions will not only help your pet but will aid in preventing the development of antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains.