Antibiotics are widely used in veterinary medicine today. Louis Pasteur is generally credited for the discovery of Penicillin from the mold penicillium. The word “anti” means against, and the word “bios” means life, and thus antibiotics are chemicals that are harmful to life. These drugs are however only effective against bacteria and not viruses.

There are two types of antibiotics, those that kill known as “cidal”, and those that inhibit growth are known as “static”. Bactericidal drugs actively destroy the cell wall of the bacteria while bacteriostatic drugs work by limiting an essential ingredient that is required for the normal functioning of a bacteria. The bactericidal group will act more quickly to kill bacteria than the bacteriostatic group; however, they often have more side effects, such as toxicity, than bacteriostatic drugs do. Fortunately, over time, more and more sophisticated antibiotics have been produced that have greatly deminished the concern for side effects.

Bacteria have always had the ability to develop resistance to the bacteriostatic group of antibiotics more readily than the bactericidal group. This has resulted in many frustrating experiences for the veterinarian and the owner. One of the best ways to avoid resistance to an antibiotic is to give the antibiotic at the correct dosage, at the proper interval and for a long enough period of time.

Many years ago I was told that it costs approximately 22 million dollars to bring a new veterinary drug to market in this country due to the stringent requirements of the Food and Drug Association. This may help to explain why drugs cost the public so much. While generic companies can produce the same drug for less money, once the patent has expired, they contribute absolutely nothing towards the research and development of new and better drugs for the future. Thus while it may be tempting to save a few dollars and buy a generic drug today in the long run we will ultimately pay a higher price for progress.

While it is true that there are always bacteria on as well as in our bodies, not all of them are disease producing or pathogenic. If an imbalance of bacteria occurs and disease results, most antibiotics can quickly correct the problem. Thus we have come to rely on these drugs to perform near miracles in our pets as well as ourselves. I am glad we live in a modern age!

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