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Antibiotics For Dogs: Top Prescriptions For Our Four-Legged Friends

Antibiotics for dogs are a necessary form of treatment when it comes to fighting off nasty bacterial infections. Like humans, and all other animals, antibiotics can not only destroy bacterial infections, but they can save your dog’s life!

A veterinarian can prescribe common antibiotics, such as Amoxicillin, Tetracycline, or cephalexin for dogs to overcome almost anything from skin infections to pneumonia. There are antibiotics for dogs’ ears, antibiotics to fight against crystals in dog urine, antibiotics to combat gastrointestinal bacteria, and so much more. 

Antibiotics may be prescribed to save your dog’s life, but there can be unfortunate side effects. Let’s explore the most common antibiotics for dogs and what those potential side effects can be. 

Antibiotics for dogs: what are they used for? 

Antibiotics are a common form of medicine designed to combat and defeat infection-causing bacteria. The first widespread antibiotic was penicillin, but today, there are many more varieties, each with its own specific target or function. 

Importantly, antibiotics only work against bacteria. They kill or immobilize the bacterial growth but don’t affect other bodily cells. They are not a treatment for viral infections, however, or any issues other than bacteria. 

Antibiotics for dogs are classed as either Bacteriostatic or Bactericidal:

  • Bacteriostatic antibiotics: prevent bacteria from reproducing and spreading.
  • Bactericidal antibiotics: kill and eliminate bacteria. 

Your dog’s body naturally attempts to fight off bacterial infections independently; however, the body’s immune system isn’t always up to the task. 

Bacteriostatic antibiotics can be prescribed to slow an infection process down - essentially buying time for your dog to destroy the bacteria itself. 

For more severe infections, vets prescribe Bactericidal antibodies to eliminate the infection and stop it from spreading from one dog to another. 

As with humans, antibiotics for dogs are prescribed in different forms. The most common forms are tablets or liquids, but they may also be dispensed as an injection. It’s important that dog owners follow their vet’s advice and ensure their pets finish an entire course of antibiotics. Not doing so leads to antibiotic resistance, which is a danger for everyone. 

The most common infections that require antibiotics for dogs include the following:

  • Urinary tract infections
  • Ear infections
  • Skin infections
  • Wounds
  • Dental infections
  • Gastrointestinal infections
  • Respiratory infections and pneumonia 

There is much more that can be treated with antibiotics, too. There are antibiotics for Lyme disease in dogs, and other specific illnesses and conditions, for instance. So, if you suspect your dog may have a bacterial infection, then take them to the vets before the infection begins to spread. 

Antibiotics for dogs: the most commonly prescribed antibiotics 

Not all natural antibiotics for dogs are effective against the same infections and conditions. Your vet can prescribe the most appropriate antibiotics for dogs, which will depend on the infection, the severity and extent of the infection, and any other underlying medical conditions. Your vet may prescribe one antibiotic or a mixture of antibiotics. 

Vets do use human antibiotics for dogs; however, they will likely not be the same strength!

The most commonly prescribed antibiotics for dogs include the following:

  • Amoxicillin/Clavulanate 
  • Gentamicin
  • Chloramphenicol 
  • Sulfamethoxazole 
  • Tetracycline 


The Amoxicillin-Clavulanate combination is a powerful antibiotic that’s commonly used to treat infections in dogs. 

This is a versatile antibiotic, and Amoxicillin for dogs can treat everything from skin infections to gastrointestinal infections. 

Amoxicillin is bactericidal, and it’s very effective at killing bacterial infections outright. 


Gentamicin is often prescribed as an anti-inflammatory and an antibiotic, so it can help to soothe many conditions and work to fight off bacteria. 

Gentamicin is commonly prescribed as eye antibiotics for dogs and antibiotics for ear infection in dogs, bone or tissue infections, and respiratory and gastrointestinal infections. 


Chloramphenicol is primarily known for treating eye infections (we take this, too, to combat eye infections such as conjunctivitis.) It’s also used for a wide variety of other infections, particularly ones occurring within the body itself.

Chloramphenicol passes easily through the body, which makes it an excellent choice for gastrointestinal infections. 


This antibiotic is primarily prescribed to fight off urinary tract infections. Still, while it’s very effective at this, it’s also known to have many unwanted side effects (including vomiting and diarrhea.) 

While not pleasant, Sulfamethoxazole is the best way to remove bacteria that are affecting the urinary tract. 


Tetracycline is a bacteriostatic antibiotic that works to stop bacteria from reproducing and preventing infections from spreading.

Tetracycline doesn’t outright kill bacteria, but it’s very effective at halting the spread of disease and infection.

For this reason, it’s primarily used when other antibiotics have failed to kill bacteria or are not going to be effective. It can be prescribed for an extensive range of infections, including respiratory and gastrointestinal infections. 

Are antibiotics safe for dogs: potential side effects 

Unfortunately, not all antibiotics are going to agree with every dog. Just like people, all dogs are different and all medicines will affect them differently. As we noted already, some antibiotics (like Sulfamethoxazole) are much more likely to cause adverse side effects. 

Other antibiotics can also cause side effects; it depends on your dog, which doctors cannot predict. Your dog may be allergic to specific antibiotics, or they just don’t agree with their bodies!

Common symptoms to look out for are usually gastrointestinal in nature. Antibiotics can cause:

  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea 
  • Lethargy
  • Apathy
  • Lack of appetite 

Until the infection is defeated, your dog is unlikely to be themselves. 

If your dog is suffering adverse side effects, then make sure they are comfortable at home. Set up a bed ramp for dogs to make it easier for them to get up on the couch or into your bed, and keep a regular watch over them for developing or worsening symptoms. 

Antibiotics and your dog 

Antibiotics are an effective treatment against bacterial infections, and while there will always be the potential for side effects, pet owners shouldn’t ignore their ability to save lives. 

Your vet will know the best course of antibiotics to prescribe for a bacterial infection, and owners need to make sure that their dog sees the course through to the end. 

Be the best furry friend owner you can be by keeping a watchful eye on your pup throughout their antibiotics course and reporting severe side effects to your vet.

Bookmark this article as a reference and peace of mind if your doggo gets prescribed antibiotics!

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