Consumer Reports: Investigating antibiotics for pets

You've probably heard about antibiotic resistance in humans, but what about pets? Turns out some veterinarians and scientists are very concerned about it. As Consumer Reports found out, they're sounding the alarm in the interest of public, and pet health.

When Barbara Weir's dog, Holly, was suffering from an odd cough, all Barbara wanted was to help her feel better.

"It's like your child," she said.

But rather than rush to prescribe an antibiotic, Barbara's vet gave her two choices, and let her decide.

"The vet had said to me, you can do the aggressive one by giving her the antibiotics immediately, or you can give it a couple of days," Weir said.

Barbara chose to wait and the cough went away on its own, as many infections do.

"When people take antibiotics they don't need, it can lead to the development of bacteria that actually resist those drugs and are harder to treat with the normal medications we would use," Consumer Reports Health Editor Catherine Roberts. "And the exact same thing can happen with animals too."

The health team at Consumer Reports says no one should take an antibiotic they don't need. -- People or pets!

"Antibiotics can have side effects in pets, these can include diarrhea, vomiting and even in some cases, seizures," Roberts said.

Veterinarian Lester Sills says the decision should be on a case by case basis.

"I think antibiotics are essential, amazing and one of the miracles of modern science," Sills said. "But like anything else, you don't want to abuse it. And you need to use discretion when you dispense it."

The best approach may be preventative medicine to help keep your pet from getting sick in the first place.

Keep your pets up to date on their shots and be diligent with hand washing and laundering of pet bedding.

Because as Barbar Weir knows, a healthy pet is a happy one!

Consumer Reports also encourages pet owners to speak up. Which means if your dog or cat is sick, let your vet know that you don't want antibiotics for your pet unless they really need it. And ask whether there are any non-antibiotic options the vet can try first.

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