SAN ANTONIO – Does your dog or cat really need an antibiotic?
That's a question Consumer Reports urges pet owners to ask their veterinarians amid growing concern about antibiotic resistance in pets.
When Barbara Weir's dog, Holly, was suffering from an odd cough, she just wanted her to feel better.
"It's like your child," she said.
Instead of rushing 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'," Weir said.
She chose to wait, and the cough went away on its own, as many infections do.
The health team at Consumer Reports echoes other medical experts, saying no one should take an antibiotic they don't need -- people or pets.
"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," said Consumer Reports Health Editor Catherine Roberts. "And, the exact same thing can happen with animals, too."
Antibiotics can have side effects in pets, including diarrhea, vomiting, and in some cases, seizures.
Veterinarian Lester Sills said the decision should be on a case-by-case basis.
"I think antibiotics are essential, amazing, and one of the miracles of modern science," he said. "But, like anything else, you don't want to abuse it. And, you need to use discretion when you dispense it."
The best approach may be preventive medicine to help keep pets from getting sick in the first place. That includes keeping up to date on shots, a safe and healthy diet, laundering pet bedding and diligent hand washing.