Why might a cat need antibiotics, and what are they used for?

Why might a cat need antibiotics, and what are they used for?

Health & Safety

Antibiotics are one of the most common and essential medications in the world, but they are also quite widely misunderstood by laypersons too. Many people think of antibiotics as something of a cure-all, or the type of medication to be prescribed for more or less any issue, but in fact, the ways in which antibiotics can be used correctly are quite narrow. Prescribing them needlessly, excessively, or for issues that they’re simply not designed to treat can do more harm than good.

Antibiotics for cats can be a really useful medication, and is one of the more commonly prescribed ones too, just as it is for humans; because they have a lot of useful applications in fighting off or even sometimes pre-emptively preventing infection.

Cats that develop abscesses due to fighting, those that commonly end up with scrapes and cuts, and those that develop different types of bacterial infections for whatever reason may well be prescribed antibiotics, and this is something that will happen to many cats at some point of their lives.

This means that it’s a good idea for cat owners to develop a basic understanding of antibiotics for cats, what they are used for, and how they work, to better understand their applications and limitations too. Read on to learn more.

What are antibiotics?

Antibiotics are a specific class of medicines that kill bacteria. The very first antibiotic and the one that more or less everyone has heard of is penicillin, which was famously grown from mould and which revolutionised healthcare worldwide when it was first discovered!

Antibiotics can, in many presentations, be used to cure bacterial infections. This is their only application; they cannot even cure other types of infections that aren’t bacterial, such as viral infections.

Why might a cat need antibiotics?

If a cat has developed some form of bacterial infection, they might need antibiotics. This could range from a urinary tract infection to an infected wound, but bacterial infections in general can potentially be treated wholly or partly with antibiotics.

Are all antibiotics the same?

No. There are a huge number of different types of antibiotics, and a wide range available for cats alone. They vary in terms of the types of bacteria they can be used to treat, how aggressive they are, how quickly they work, how long they work for, and in many other ways too.

Even the same antibiotic agent might be available in different strengths and forms; and the strongest one and longest acting one might not be the best one for every potential scenario.

Every infection is different, and your vet will need to determine what it is, and what type of antibiotic to use to treat it with; there is no one size fits all answer.

Can I stop giving my cat antibiotics when they are on the mend?

When your vet gives your cat antibiotics, they might do so in the form of a one-off long-lasting injection so that you don’t need to medicate your cat at home. However, if you are given antibiotics to give to your cat at home, however, you must follow the directions given in terms of doses and timings and vitally, finish the whole course, even if your cat seems better.

Failing to finish a course of antibiotics for your cat can result in the infection returning, often worse and even harder to treat that it was before.

If I still have antibiotics from a prior prescription, can I treat my cat with these in future?

No. As mentioned, antibiotic types, doses, actions and applications are different, and even if your cat seems to have the same type of infection they had before, this may not be the case, and a different bacterium may be involved.

Never give your cat antibiotics without going to the vet, even if they were originally prescribed to your cat for a different issue.

Why might your vet not be willing to prescribe antibiotics for a cat?

If your cat does not have a bacterial infection and one that your vet feels there is a strong likelihood of responding to antibiotics, they will not prescribe them. Antibiotics cannot be used to treat non-bacterial infections, and they might not even be the best course of action for all cats and all types of bacterial infections.

Why should antibiotics be used sparingly?

Bacterium become resistant to antibiotics over time; making them harder to treat, and in need of progressively stronger and/or different antibiotics. This is how we ended up with so-called “superbugs” like those commonly associated with hospitals, such as MRSA.

Using antibiotics needlessly results in bacterial resistance, as does using doses that are stronger or longer-lasting than warranted.

Additionally, antibiotics don’t just wipe out the bacteria causing the infection in question, but a lot of other bacteria from your cat’s immune system, much of which may be “good” bacteria, and/or necessary to trigger the cat’s immune response enough to protect it; and so, overuse or inappropriate use of antibiotics can actually make your cat more prone to developing infections.

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