Stories of Antibiotic Use and Resistance
Associate Professor, Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, University of Minnesota
Cats and dogs get bacterial infections, such as urinary tract infections, just as humans do, so antibiotic prescribing is a common part of the work I do as a small animal internal medicine specialist.
In small animal medicine, most pets lack health insurance, so I try to do my best with often limited resources. This sometimes means that I can't do the work-up I would like to. Prescribing (or not prescribing) in the face of diagnostic uncertainty is challenging.
I see antibiotic-resistant infections very commonly now. When I first started veterinary practice, antibiotic-resistant infections were a rarity. In our hospital, we develop yearly antibiograms, and I have seen bacterial susceptibility to commonly used antibiotics decrease over time.
When pets are infected with an antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection, it can be challenging to find a therapy that can optimally treat the infection. Often I am left with choosing an antibiotic that may have an increased risk of side effects or is more costly for pet owners. I am sometimes confronted with the ethical dilemma of whether or not to use an antibiotic that is important for treating antibiotic-resistant infections in humans. There are few guidelines for veterinarians confronted with these situations.
Like everyone, I fear my loved ones and my patients will develop infections that cannot be treated.
In small animal medicine in the United States, we have very little information about overall antibiotic use. I am working with colleagues to change that and am anxious to see what we find. Additionally, there are still lots of unknowns regarding optimal antibiotic selection and duration of treatment for common infections in pets.