Dear Dr. Forsythe: I’m writing because I was going through my vet receipts the other day, and I counted at least 20 prescriptions for Cephalexin over the last two years. My little Maltipoo, “Muffin,” suffers from bad allergies, but I realize that she has gotten so many antibiotics over the last two years that I’m sure it has done some harm to her system. Do you agree that all these antibiotics we put in our pets could be doing more harm than good?
Dear Muffin Mom: Your letter reminds me of the commercial where the scrawny cartoon chickens are trying to pass for the plump, tender and robust “name brand” birds that are always fresh, never packed with hormones or additives.
Yes, twenty prescriptions of the antibiotic cephalexin over the last two years amounts to living on the medication. Pets who get that much antibiotic often develop secondary problems such as yeast infections that colonize the “sterile” skin environments. Not only that, but if a pet is constantly being given antibiotics without the benefit of probiotics, the “good bacteria” in their GI track can be wiped out, and a pet such as Muffin can develop terrible stomach problems on top of the allergy problems she already has.
I agree with you that veterinarians have been throwing large amounts of antibiotics and cheap steroids such as prednisone down the mouths of itchy, scratchy pets for a long time in order to just alleviate “whatever is going on.” Therein lies the problem. If the doctor doesn’t want to diagnose the real underlying problem, that is what happens. Most often, however, it is the client that is the driving force: when they see the cost of doing a proper workup to find out why the pet is itching many clients decide to give pills and potions rather than shell out the money for a skin scraping, skin culture, blood allergy test or the like.
And its no wonder: these tests can become costly when compared to a small bottle of pills that often make the itching go away quickly -- which to a client makes them think the problem is solved (so not true!) But if the client doesn’t want move forward with diagnostics, this “take the pill and run” approach is usually the answer.
There are excellent tests now to find out just why pets are itchy. Usually no two pets itch for the same reasons. Although diagnosing the problem through blood tests can be costly, when you compare it with 20 useless prescriptions of medication that never helped and consider the two years Muffin endured without any true relief, I think the more thorough workup is the better value.
I see so many people in Sonoma Market barking at the poor kids behind the fish counter: “is it farmed or fresh?” Silently I chuckle to myself, wondering if they would insist on the same quality control for the medicine they seek for their pet. If clients demanded the same high quality care for their sweet little “Muffin” that they do for their salmon dinner, there would be much less hormones and antibiotics in the puppies and kittens cavorting around Sonoma these days. This is just some food for thought -- organic food for thought.