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Your Pets . . . with Dr. Jeanne Haggerty-Arcay: Doctors and veterinarians are battling to prevent antibiotic resistance

Published in the April 26 – May 9, 2017 issue of Morgan Hill Life

By Dr. Jeanne Haggerty-Arcay

Dr. Jeanne Haggerty-Arcay

Antibiotic resistance has become a huge issue in both human and veterinary medicine in recent years. With the emergence of highly resistant strains of Staphylococcus aureus in humans and other resistant Staphylococcus strains in animals, humans doctors and veterinarian alike have been reevaluating how we treat our patients.

In past years, every cough, scrape, surgery patient, etc., was given antibiotics. We have found this created a population of “superbugs” that have developed resistance to many, and in some cases all, of the antibiotics we have at hand.

Many seminars are held worldwide to address these concerns and how to prevent further resistance from developing in bacteria. Experts worry that at some point we will have bacteria that we will have no way to treat … and we are starting to see that already.

Currently, in veterinary medicine there are guidelines used to help determine when antibiotics are indicated and appropriate.

In addition, we try to use “first line” antibiotics and preserve the so called “big gun” antibiotics for critical patients or patients where the infection has been confirmed with a culture and determined to be susceptible to only that antibiotic.

In livestock, antibiotics are strictly regulated. There are very rigid guidelines regarding the use of antibiotics in livestock, including which medications can be used, how they can be administered, what dosage can be used and how long it can be given prior to the harvesting of milk and/or meat.

So how does this involve you? When you go to your veterinarian with your coughing dog, sneezing cat or bad skin you may not receive antibiotics. This is not because your veterinarian doesn’t like you, doesn’t like your pet or is trying to be difficult. We are just trying to use antibiotics properly.

Here’s what you can do to help:

• Follow antibiotic instructions precisely.

Not completing the prescribed dose, giving the antibiotics at a lower dose than prescribed or at a lower frequency can all allow bacteria to form resistance.

• Do not insist on antibiotics if they are not indicated.

In many cases, antibiotics may not be indicated, such as for viral infections. You may be asked to wait to see if an animal’s immune system can fight off the infection on its own, which is sometimes the case with kennel cough. Many people would like antibiotics but if they are not indicated for the problem, they are not only contributing to potential resistance but also putting your pet at risk for potential side effects.

• Follow other recommended treatments for skin issues.

There are often multiple factors contributing to the issue.
Atopy (pollen allergies) and fleas are very commonly involved in skin infections and are a crucial part of treating many of these infections. Without addressing the underlying causes of skin infections, the infections will persist or recur and these dogs are the most likely to develop resistant skin infections.

Resistant skin infections are very common in dogs with skin issues and they can be very difficult to treat once they develop resistance. Many of these animal develop resistance to so many antibiotics that our only option ends up being daily shampooing, bleach treatments and other topical treatments which can be somewhat labor intensive.

• Antibiotic resistance is a major worldwide health concern across species.

Medical and veterinary professionals are already seeing patients that we have no antibiotics to treat. Everyone needs to do their part to help reduce the development of more resistant strains and the spread of antibiotic resistance.

Dr. Jeanne Haggerty-Arcay received her undergraduate degrees in biology, biochemistry and Spanish from the College of Notre Dame, Belmont. She graduated from U.C. Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. She enjoys spending time with her husband and three young children.