Pets & Antibiotic Resistance

cat facing camera on clinical table

Antibiotics save lives, but anytime they are used, they can lead to antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic resistance is when germs like bacteria and fungi develop the ability to defeat the drugs designed to kill them. It means the germs are not killed and continue to grow.  Antibiotic resistance can affect the health of both people and animals. Resistant germs can spread between people, animals, and the environment. Everyone can help improve antibiotic prescribing and use. This will help keep us healthy now, fight antibiotic resistance, and ensure that these lifesaving antibiotics will be available for future generations.

How pet owners can help use antibiotics responsibly

  • Ask your veterinarian:
    • About preventing common infections with good hygiene, nutrition, vaccinations, and proper pet care.
    • If tests have been done to make sure the right drug is chosen for your pet.
  • Use antibiotics only when needed, and follow your veterinarian’s directions.
  • Store antibiotics safely in your home, so that childrenexternal icon and pets do not accidentally take medicine not meant for them.
  • Dispose of antibiotics properly, do not flush them. Medicine take-back programs are a good way to safely disposeexternal icon of most types of unneeded or expired drugs. Experts are working to better understand antibiotic resistance in the environment (e.g., water, soil) and its possible impact on people.
  • Talk with your veterinarian about using antibiotics responsibly to keep people and pets healthy. 

What to know when your veterinarian diagnoses your pet with an infection, including antibiotic-resistant infections

  • Your veterinarian might need to perform additional tests to be sure the correct drug is chosen to treat your pet.
  • Resistant infections may take longer to treat and can be more expensive.
  • Talk to your veterinarian about preventing germs from spreading to other pets or people in your home.

Regularly wash your hands when handling, caring for, and cleaning up after animals or their supplies (food dishes, toys, beds) to help prevent germs from spreading to you and others.

Additional Resources

Learn more about antibiotic use, antibiotic resistance, and One Health, the connection between the health of people, animals, and the environment: