A reader’s question to InsideToronto.com highlights numerous issues with antibiotic misuse is pets (and people). Here’s the situation, with my comments.

The reader has a cocker spaniel that’s had a urinary tract infection for a year. She took it to her vet and a urine culture was recommended but she declined it. Antibiotics were prescribed but she stopped giving them after 48 hours because the dog looked better. She has not mentioned it to the vet since then.

  • This dog has had a treatable, painful infection for a year. I have major ethical problems with this. Instead of turning to InsideToronto.com, she needs to see her vet. Fortunately, she got some good advice from the columnist and hopefully was convinced to take her dog to a vet.
  • Simple urinary tract infections that go untreated can lead to other, sometimes serious or life-threatening problems. Infection can ascend from the bladder to the kidneys. More commonly, bladder stones can develop. One type of bladder stone is associated with urinary tract infections and it’s quite possible that, in addition to a severe (and potentially difficult-to-treat by now) urinary tract infection, the dog also has bladder stones that will need a prescription diet or surgery to eliminate.
  • She stopped treating an infection before the recommended treatment course was finished. That’s too common and a recipe for treatment failure and antibiotic resistance.

When signs of the infection returned, she gave the dog "a few antibiotics" and stopped again when the dog looked better.

  • See above. Perfect recipe for treatment failure and resistance.

When she ran out of the originally prescribed drugs, she used a different antibiotic from an "open prescription" from her MD that she had for her own medical problems.

  • Where do I start? Many drugs used in dogs are used in people, but not all. Some human drugs can be harmful in dogs. Dosing may be different. This is completely irresponsible (but unfortunately, probably not uncommon).
  • I wonder who paid for the drugs? If her insurance company paid for it, that’s insurance fraud.
  • This is also a good reason why "open prescriptions" from MDs are a problem. Who knows how often these drugs are used by the patient for the wrong reason or given to other people or pets?

Antibiotic misuse is a huge problem. It goes on in human medicine and veterinary medicine. We need to clean up what we do from both sides to address the critical problem of antibiotic resistance. Cases like this highlight the need for better controls and better education.