A prescription for trouble

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By Tracie Korol

It’s accepted practice anymore that whenever you leave any medical office, human or veterinary, you leave with a prescription for antibiotics in hand.  Hip replacement, hot spot or head cold and the treatment is usually some form of antibiotic.

According to an article by James Hughes of Emory University, in Atlanta, Georgia, which was published in February by the Journal of the American Medical Association, as much as 50% of antibiotic use is unnecessary or inappropriate. We have just come to expect it.

In 1942 the total amount of antibiotic available in the entire world amounted to about 32 liters of penicillin. Today, some 20 million pounds of antibiotics are used annually in this country alone. (Rates were highest in the Southeast…with 936 prescriptions written per 1000 people). Consider that perhaps 150 to 200 million dogs, cats, and other pets are ingesting antibiotics each year – each of these with the potential to cause resistant strains of bacteria. Horticulturists and farmers use antibiotics to wage war on plant bacteria.

Then there’s the recent movement to hyper-hygiene, an attempt to remove any and all “bugs” from the household environment by coating every surface with “protective” antibiotics. There are very real problems associated with antibiotics that every pet owner should be aware of before consenting to
their use.

Drug resistance arises when drugs knock out susceptible infections, leaving hardier, resilient strains behind. The survivors then multiply, and over time can become unstoppable superbugs, such as MRSA. “In the past, most people haven’t worried because we’ve always had new antibiotics to turn to,” said Alan Johnson, consultant clinical scientist at the Health Protection Agency. “What has changed is that the development pipeline is running dry. We don’t have new antibiotics that we can rely on in the immediate future or in the longer term.”  The overuse of antibiotics is creating a worldwide threat of infection that could have catastrophic results. Antibiotics Kill Bacteria–a good thing, right? The problem with antibiotics is that they’re indiscriminate killers. Good bacteria, bad bacteria, any bacteria that aren’t resistant to the antibiotic will be killed.

The majority of the immune system resides in the gut and is reliant on beneficial bacteria that produce vitamins, help in hormone production and out-compete harmful bacteria. Antibiotics will kill these friendly bacteria and lead to the growth of yeast in the body, most commonly, Candida. The short term benefit of antibiotics has the potential to do real damage to the immune system, leaving dogs more vulnerable to other diseases, as well as the chronic skin and bowel issues caused by
yeast overgrowth.

One of the jobs of beneficial bacteria is to help manufacture nutrients that are critical to cellular health. Antibiotics will deplete vitamins B1, B2, B6, B12 C, E, K inositol and magnesium. This can lead to a plethora of health problems including anemia, diarrhea, behavioral changes, wound healing and immune health, oxidative stress, nerve degeneration and more.  In today’s world of processed pet foods enriched with synthetic vitamins and minerals, it’s critical to keep vitamin stores intact because they’re unlikely to be replaced by kibble.

The next time you’re faced with a condition that your vet wants to prescribe antibiotics understand that there are both benefits and risks. Better yet, the next time he suggests antibiotics, it might be time to trade your rusty old conventional vet in for a shiny new holistic practitioner who may have some great alternatives to antibiotics.