WARNING: Use any drug with caution and realize that a small percentage of dogs can be allergic to any one of the following antibiotics. Do NOT give antibiotics to a very young dog without consulting a veterinarian, as some drugs (like tetracycline) can harm puppy teeth.
At some point most dogs are going to need a dose of antibiotics, either as a preventative measure or to cure an infection of some type. Antibiotics are pretty simple and safe to use, provided you follow three simple rules:
- Use the right drugs;
- Give the right dose;
- Keep the dog on the medicine long enough.
The goal with antibiotics is to hammer down the infection and not give it a chance to develop resistance before it is wiped out.
This means that keeping the dog on the antibiotics long enough is critical. If a dogs starts to look better after a few days, do NOT take it off the drugs!
An antibiotic regime should last at least 7 days, and 12 days is better in most cases. The general rule of thumb is give the dog antibiotics for at least three days longer than it looks like there is a problem. If you skimp on the length of the dosage, you may really regret it later on, as the drugs you were using may no longer do the trick.
When to use antibiotics?
If your dog is bitten by a raccoon, fox or another dog, always wash out the wound well and start antibiotics immediately. If it’s a groundhog bite, wash the wound out well, put some beta-iodine on it, and the dog will probably be all right in about a week or so. If it’s a pretty big rip, treat it with clavamox, cephalexin or amoxicillin as a preventative.
What if antibiotics don’t seem to help?
If an antibiotic doesn’t start to clear up an infection after 4 days, switch to a stronger antibiotic and start the regime again from the top.
Where Can You Get Antibiotics?
Almost all human antibiotics can be used on dogs and almost everyone either has old antibiotics in their medicine cabinet or knows people that do. Look around, and you will probably find what you need. Drugs past the expiration date are going to be fine as long as they are no older than a year or so past the expiration date (even then they may be fine).
If you prefer to order your medications outright, you can order cephelaxin (Fish-Flex) from most dog catalogues and it will cure 99% of your flesh wounds as well as most urinary tract and ear infections. Cephalexin or cefalexin is sold as a fish antibiotic in dog catalogues with full-knowledge it is being used for off-label treatment in dogs. It should cost about $30 for 100 250 mg. capsules, which is a perfect dose for a terrier.
What drugs should you use and at what dose?
Cephalexin: This is one of the best drugs for skin and wound infections and I use it for almost everything. It is easy to come by without prescription, and inexpensive. Two common brand names are Keflex and Celaxin, and it is often prescribed for acne. Cephalexin only comes in oral form, and the dose is 10-15 mg per pound of body weight, given every 8 to 12 hours depending on the severity of the problem. If you are using a maintenance dose, give it every 12 hours. If the dog has an infection already, use it every 8 hrs. Either Cephalexin or Clavamox (see below) are “must have” drug for your vet kit. The fish-version of cephalexin is called cefalexin (Fish-Flex) and can be ordered in 250 mg capsules without a prescription. The 250 mg capsule is a perfect dose for a 15 pound dog.
Penicillin: If it’s the capsule form, forget it unless it’s the only antibiotic you have. A lot of infections are immune to penicillin, and it generally won’t help a staph infection at all. If this is the only antibiotic you have and you are on a desert island, use it, but otherwise look for something stronger. Indictable penicillin is not worth the trouble when we have so many other readily available options, such as cephelaxin (Fish-Flex).
Amoxicillin: This is a general “all purpose” antibiotic that is cheap and easy to come by, but it does not knock down staph infections. The oral dosage for amoxicillin is 10 mg per pound of dog, given every 8 to 12 hours, depending on the severity of the problem. The fish-version of amoxicillin (Fish-Mox) can be ordered in 250 mg capsules without a prescription from Revival Animal Health, CalVetSupply or any other online pet store. You probably have some old amoxicillin around the house from the last time you got sick. This is fine to use even if “expired” more than a year ago. Expiration dates on non-liquid antibiotics are a marketing tool (i.e. they encourage people to throw good drugs down the drain) and have no scientific basis — a fact demonstrated by the U.S. military.
Clavamox: This is very similar to amoxicillin but is a bit stronger and this one will knock down a staph infection — an important difference between the two drugs. Clavamox will also treat respiratory infections and ear infections, so it’s a good all-rounder, as is cephalexin. Clavamox is only given orally. The oral dose is 6.25 mg per pound, and it comes pre-packaged in foil strips in 3 sizes. There are 62.5 mg for 10-pound puppies, 125 mg for 20 pound dogs, and 250 mg for 40-pound dogs. The most common human version of Clavamox, is called Augmentin and most parents have some old tablets around the house. Although both Clavamox and Augmentin are expensive, they are worth it because they work for a lot of different kinds of problems. Your dog may throw up on Clavamox or Augmentin – this is not terribly unusual if your dog has a weak stomach. Clavamox can be ordered from lambriarvetsupply.com but you will need to fax them a prescription from your vet. Again, check around the house; you may have Clavamox in your medicine cabinet.
Baytril: This is a pretty powerful antibiotic, and should only be given when other antibiotics have failed or if the dog already has a serious infection. Baytril works very well for skin, ear, wound, urinary, and mammary infections. In tablet form the dose for Baytril is 5.7 mg per 5 pounds of weight given orally twice a day (every 12 hours). For a 20 pound dog you would give one of the 22.7 mg tablets every 12 hours, or two of the 22.7 mg tablets once a day. Baytril can be ordered from lambriarvetsupply.com but you will need to fax them a prescription from your vet. It is fairly expensive — about 62 cents a pill.
If I had to have only one antibiotic in my kit, it would be Cephalexin, because it is good, available, and cheap, and the fish form (Fish-Flex or Cefalexin) can be ordered without a prescription. Cephalexin can get the job done on a bite or laceration about 99% of the time. The only advantage of Clavamox is that it works a bit better on ear infections.
If I had to chose only 2 antibiotics to have in my kit, I would chose Clavamox and Baytril. These 2 drugs are very effective, they’re easy to come by, and between them they can handle almost any infection.