Antibiotics are one of the most commonly prescribed medications for dogs. There are many different types to treat a wide variety of infections. If you’re wondering which are the most effective, we have the lowdown. We explain which are the best for certain conditions, potential side effects, and other need-to-know information.
Just like with humans, antibiotics help treat bacterial infections in dogs. So they won’t work for every kind of infection, for example, those caused by a virus or fungal infections. Antibiotics require a veterinarian’s diagnosis and prescription — infections that require antibiotics are caused by different types of bacteria, and your vet knows which form of antibiotic is best to kill that specific bacteria.
What antibiotics can dogs take? First and foremost, dogs need to take canine-specific antibiotics, typically not those formulated for humans (although a few are useful for both humans and dogs). We’ll get into more detail below about the best dog antibiotics for specific conditions.
Antibiotics Only Work If Taken As Directed
Your vet will prescribe the appropriate antibiotic dosage for your dog and give you detailed instructions on how best to administer them, how often to give them, and for how long. It’s crucial that you follow these instructions and not skip doses or stop giving your dog antibiotics too early simply because he seems to be feeling better.
Dogs get urinary tract infections (UTIs) like us humans do. And in a some cases, dogs need an antibiotic to treat and clear up the UTI. The commonly used antibiotics for an uncomplicated bacterial dog UTI are:
In addition to treating your dog with antibiotics, you should make sure your pup is drinking plenty of water.
How Long Should It Take For Antibiotics To Work For A UTI?
The appropriate antibiotic for a UTI should help your dog feel better within 2-3 days, but keep giving it to your pup for the entire length of time your vet directed. If you think your dog’s UTI antibiotic isn’t working, call your vet. Your dog could need a different antibiotic to clear up the infection. Many different kinds of bacteria can cause UTIs in dogs, so it’s not uncommon for vets to have to switch antibiotics for a UTI.
Bacterial skin infections in dogs, also referred to as pyoderma or bacterial dermatitis, can occur in any breed or age. The most common dog bacterial skin infection is a staph infection. In many cases, veterinarians prescribe an oral antibiotic to treat skin bacterial infections. Your vet may need to do a skin culture and antibiotic sensitivity test to make sure he prescribes the most effective antibiotic. Some common ones include:
In addition to bacterial skin infections, dogs can often develop yeast skin infections, which require different medications.
What’s the best antibiotic for dog ear infections? It depends on the type of bacterial ear infection your dog has. Many dogs also develop bacterial and yeast ear infections simultaneously, so that will factor into the best medication for your pup’s condition.
Topical treatment is often recommended for dog ear infections. These include ointment or ear drops, which may combine an antibiotic, antifungal, and a steroid (to help reduce inflammation). Some of the most common include:
- Otomax is a triple antibiotic ointment for dogs, containing the antibiotic gentamicin, the antifungal clotrimazole, and the steroid betamethasone.
- Mometamax is another triple ointment, containing gentamicin, clotrimazole, and the steroid mometasone.
- Tresaderm is antibiotic ear drop for dogs (and cats), containing the broad-spectrum antibiotic neomycin, the antifungal thiabendazole, and the steroid dexamethasone. Tresaderm is prescribed for both ear and skin infections.
Depending on the type of ear infection your dog has, your veterinarian may recommend one of these oral antibiotics:
Both bacteria and viruses can cause dog eye infections. But the most common cause is a bacterial infection resulting from an injury, like a scratch on the eye, a corneal ulcer, or a foreign body entering the eye, like dust or debris. A few of the most common antibiotics for a dog eye infection include:
- Ciprofloxacin eye drops
- Terramycin ophthalmic ointment
- Neo-Poly-Bac ophthalmic ointment
- Oral amoxicillimn-clavulanate
Although dog diarrhea doesn’t usually require antibiotics, vets occasionally prescribe them in some cases. The two most commonly prescribed antibiotics to treat dog diarrhea and other gastrointestinal issues are:
- Metronidazole (brand names Flagyl, Metizol, Protostat, and Metrogel)
- Tylosin tartrate (brand name Tylan).
They help by treating inflammation in the large intestine that can lead to diarrhea.
The best antibiotic treatment for bacterial pneumonia depends on the culture results (the type of bacteria causing the infection) and the severity of the disease. However, culture results aren’t immediately available, so veterinarians typically begin treatment with a broad-spectrum oral antibiotic, such as amoxicillin or amoxicillin-clavulanate, until results come in. Depending on those results, your veterinarian may change to a more effective antibiotic. In severe cases of pneumonia, dogs are usually hospitalized and started on a course of intravenous antibiotics.
Tip: Bacterial pneumonia in dogs is contagious, so try to keep your dog separated from your other pets and other animals until it has cleared up.
Lyme disease is caused by the bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi, carried by ticks and transferred to the dog through a bite. Antibiotics can be very effective in treating Lyme. The most effective antibiotic for Lyme disease is doxycycline, followed by amoxicillin and azithromycin. Antibiotic treatment lasts for 30 days.
Dogs can have various side effects of antibiotic treatment. And some of them depend on the type of antibiotic (oral vs topical). Some of the most common side effects of antibiotics include:
- Gastrointestinal issues (including upset stomach, diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, etc.)
- Allergic reactions (skin irritation, rashes, hives, etc.)
- Yeast infections and other secondary infections
Many of the side effects of antibiotics can affect the GI tract in dogs and humans alike. Because antibiotics can disrupt the helpful bacteria found in your dog’s gut (and other areas of the body), it can help to give your dog a probiotic to keep good bacteria thriving while he’s taking antibiotics.
We often get questions from our readers about dog antibiotics. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions we see.
Where Can I Buy Antibiotics For Dogs?
If you’re wondering where to buy antibiotics for dogs to get the best savings, you have some options other than at your vet’s office. Chewy and similar sites carry many common dog antibiotics at a discounted rate, so be sure to check there if you’re on a tight budget. However, you still need a prescription from your veterinarian to purchase antibiotics for your dog.
Can Dogs Take Human Antibiotics?
No. Never give your dog human antibiotics. Antibiotics intended for humans will not be the correct dose for your dog. If you give your dog a human antibiotic, it could result in major health issues for your dog and even death.
How Long Should A Dog Be On Antibiotics?
If you’re wondering, how long do antibiotics take to work on a dog? It depends on the type of infection. As we’ve said above, it’s always best to follow your veterinarian’s directions. And if your dog doesn’t seem to be improving after a week or so, you may want to contact your veterinarian to see if there’s a more effective antibiotic available.
Are There Natural Antibiotics For Dogs?
Some all-natural products have antibacterial properties, like oregano oil, manuka honey, olive leaf, and a host of other herbs and plants. However, we encourage you to talk to your vet before giving your dog any supplements and certainly not as a replacement for a proper veterinary diagnosis and treatment plan.
Can I Get Over-The-Counter Antibiotics For Dogs?
If you’re wondering if you can get dog antibiotics without a vet prescription, the answer is no. You need to get a vet’s prescription for dog antibiotics, even for those you can buy online. If you do happen to find an online site that sells OTC antibiotics for dogs, we think you should consider this sketchy. You won’t know what you’re really getting.
There are some antimicrobial sprays and shampoos for dogs, which have antibacterial properties, that you can purchase without a prescription for skin issues. And Neosporin is generally considered safe for dogs. But these shouldn’t replace a vet’s diagnosis and antibiotics if needed.
Are Fish Antibiotics For Dogs Safe?
In recent years, there’s been a trend in which people have been using non-prescription fish antibiotics on themselves and their pets to save a few bucks. But this is not a good idea. Antibiotics for fish aren’t regulated at all and aren’t formulated for people or pets.
If your pup isn’t feeling well, you could be tempted to give him medication from your medicine cabinet, but in many cases, this isn’t safe. Many human drugs can cause dangerous side effects in dogs. However, there are a handful that are generally considered safe for dogs. See our article on which OTC medications are safe for dogs to learn more.