If your cat or dog has come down with a viral infection like an upper respiratory virus or kennel cough, you may wonder why the veterinarian is suggesting antibiotics. Although human doctors rarely give patients antibiotics for viral infections, there's a good reason for pets to receive them. Read on to learn why vets do this and why you should follow their directions.
Antibiotics Don't Treat Viruses
First and foremost, you may or may not know that antibiotics have no effect on viral infections. This is why most doctors don't give human patients antibiotics when they're under the weather with a virus.
Typically, like humans, pets recover from viral infections on their own through the abilities of their own immune system. Although antiviral medications exist, they don't treat all viral infections, and most veterinarians don't prescribe them unless your pet's infection is very severe. For example, if your pet has a dangerously high fever, your veterinarian may prescribe an antiviral to help the body directly combat the virus.
Antibiotics Prevent Secondary Infections
Although antibiotics can't help beat a virus, vets tend to prescribe them anyway to help prevent your pet from coming down with another infection. Pets can have two illnesses simultaneously; for example, an infection in a wound along with a respiratory virus.
While your pet's immune system is fighting off the virus, it leaves your pet more susceptible to secondary infections. Considering that cats and dogs often go outside, get into fights, or get simple cuts and bruises from physical activity, your pet's body is probably constantly working to protect them from bacterial intruders while they're healthy. While the immune system is occupied fighting the virus, your pet may be more susceptible to bacterial infections.
Unless your pet already has a bacterial infection alongside their virus, chances are your vet is prescribing the antibiotic to help prevent additional infections or stop new infections in their tracks.
Speeding Up the Healing Process
If your pet's immune system is able to focus entirely on the viral infection in their body, the healing process will be faster than if they have two infections to deal with. Antibiotics kill off bacteria without the aid of the immune system, so your pet's body can just beat the virus on its own.
Giving your pet antibiotics while they're under the weather with a viral infection will speed their recovery and decrease the work their immune system has to do. If your veterinarian prescribes antibiotics for a viral infection, make sure to follow their instructions. For more information, contact a company like Metzger Animal Hospital.