Whether in humans or in cats, antibiotics fight bacteria and fungus that’s made its way into the body. There are two types of bacteria that can be present within the system: pathogenic and non-pathogenic. Pathogenic bacteria are the type that cause the most problems, bringing with them infection and sickness. To treat the sickness caused by the bacteria, antibiotics for cats will be prescribed. These antibiotics are either bacteriostatic, meaning that they inhibit the bacteria from multiplying but don’t actually destroy them. Fungicidal antibiotics on the other hand, kill the microorganisms altogether.
Non-pathogenic bacteria do not make the cat sick and some are even essential for your cat’s well-being. This type of bacteria can be found in the kidneys where it produces the Vitamin K that aids in blood clotting. These types of bacteria are known as flora.
Conditions Requiring Antibiotics
There are a number of conditions and situations that require the use of antibiotics in some cats. The most common include:
- Abscess, most commonly due to bite wounds. With many bite wounds a small pocket of puss can sometimes develop in the tissue. This is considered to be an infection and can cause the cat a great deal of pain.
- Bacterial skin conditions. Like bite wounds, these are infections that occur after the skin has been broken and infection has made its way in. One of the most common reasons for these types of skin infections are from scratches that have either been self-inflicted, or acquired, such as rubbing against sticks and branches when outdoors.
- Infections of the eye. Eye infections can occur for a number of different reasons, but contact with other cats is one of the biggest causes, as these types of infections can easily be passed from one cat to another.
- Bordetella is an infection of the respiratory disease that’s common in cats and is highly contagious.
- Chlamydia is also an infection that settles into the respiratory tract, this time within the upper respiratory system.
- Pyometra is an infection that occurs only in female cats, as it’s an infection of the uterus.
- Giardia, a bacteria found in the intestinal tract.
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Common Antibiotics for Cats
There are several common antibiotics that are given to cats for different infections and illnesses. These include:
- Amoxicillin: This is probably the most common type of antibiotic for cats, and people too for that matter. Amoxicillin is used to treat a number of bladder infections, bone infections, oral infections, blood infections, skin infections, and pneumonia.
- Gentamicin: Also used to treat skin infections, bladder infections, and pneumonia; but it’s also used to treat eye and ear infections.
- Enrofloxacin: Also known as Baytril, this antibiotic can also be useful in treating skin infections, as the two antibiotics above, but Enrofloxacin is also useful in treating urinary tract infections and upper respiratory infections.
- Oxytetracycline: This antibiotic is sold under the name of Terramycin and is used to treat sinus infections, oral infections, eye infections, protozoan infections, and hemobartonellosis.
- Azithromycin: Sold under the name Zithromax, this antibiotic is most commonly used to treat chlamydia, staph infections, strep, Lyme disease, bartonella, and middle ear infections.
Potential Problems With Antibiotics
While antibiotics can be very effective and useful when you’re trying to help your cat feel better, they don’t come without problems. Some of the most common issues seen in cats taking antibiotics are:
- Combining antibiotics with steroids. In some medications, particularly topical creams and lotions, a small amount of steroids will be mixed with the antibiotic to reduce swelling, tenderness, and redness. Not only can steroids lower the immune system in cats, making it more difficult for them to fight infection, they can also give the appearance that the cat is getting better, even when they’re not.
- An excess of antibiotics. Because there are so many antibiotics available on the market, and more coming every day, there is a greater chance for cats to develop allergies and sensitivities to those antibiotics.
- Antibiotics can kill the good bacteria in the system. Those normal flora, such as the kind that produce Vitamin K in the kidneys, can also be killed with antibiotics that are taken to inhibit and destroy the bacteria causing the sickness and infection.
- Effects on unborn fetuses. Pregnant females should rarely take antibiotics as they can have a negative effect on the growth and development of unborn kittens.
- Improper care of wounds. While antibiotics can kill bacteria and prevent them from multiplying, if the wound is dirty, has abscesses that have not been drained, or have foreign objects such as splinters in them, the antibiotics will be ineffective.
- Wrong antibiotic given for a specific condition. There are many different types of antibiotics, but not all kinds treat all infections. For this reason, if a cat is taking one antibiotic that is completely ineffective against the infection or illness they have, the cat will not get better.
- Resistant bacteria. There are some types of bacteria that are simply resistant to antibiotics. These types of sicknesses and infections can be difficult to treat because a round of antibiotics simply won’t work.
- Improper use of antibiotics. Whether the vet has given improper instructions or a cat owner has misread those instructions, there are a number of ways antibiotics can be improperly used. The most common causes of this is when antibiotics aren’t taken during the fully prescribed time, or when the dosage given is simply too low.
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Side Effects of Antibiotics
Of the problems that antibiotics can bring, side effects are some of the biggest. One of the biggest side effects comes from the fact that when antibiotics are given, they kill the bacteria in the system; sometimes that is the good bacteria your cat needs. One of the best ways to combat these side effects is by giving the cat yogurt or probiotics in other forms to replace the good bacteria. This should be done if your cat is showing these most common side effects:
- Allergic reactions in the form of swelling, difficulty breathing, itching, scratching, rashes
- Toxicity causing damage to the liver, kidneys, hearing loss, and damage to the bone marrow
- Secondary infections
- Abnormalities or deformities in unborn kittens
Antibiotics for cats can be very useful when bacteria have caused your cat to become ill or contract an infection. They can be very effective and help your cat feel better in just a matter of days. However, they also come with some of their own problems. If your vet prescribes antibiotics for your cat, be sure to go over everything with them, including the name of the medication, what it will do, how long before your cat starts showing signs of improvement, and how long the medication needs to be taken. It’s also imperative that you talk to your vet about any side effects they may experience, and if they should, when it’s time to bring them in for an exam.