Pet Antibiotics: Are They Safe?

Pet antibiotics - are they safe?

Pet dogs, as well as strays, can get infected by bacteria as they are highly exposed to unsafe surroundings while scavenging for food, rolling in the dirt, eating off the ground etc. As a dog lover, it helps to have an idea about basic medications such as antibiotics to safeguard your pet’s health or help out a stray in need.

Through this blog post, you will understand more about pet antibiotics that can help your dog fight and recover from bacterial infections, how to administer them, and if these antibiotics have any side effects.

Antibiotics: What are they used for in dogs?

Most veterinary doctors use antibiotics for treating infections caused by bacteria. They aren’t effective against regular viral infections unless accompanied by a secondary bacterial infection.

Antibiotics are perfect for treating:

  • Skin infections
  • Wound infections
  • Ear infections
  • Gastrointestinal upsets
  • Soft tissue injuries
  • Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
  • Bone or dental infections

These medicines for dogs can be administered in different forms like capsules, tablets, eye drops, injections, IV etc.

Common antibiotics for dogs: A quick glance

In veterinary science, there’s a wide range of antibiotics that are prescribed to the dogs for quick recovery. Some of the popular ones include:

  • Amoxicillin
  • Clindamycin
  • Doxycycline
  • Chloramphenicol
  • Cephalexin
  • Gentamicin


It’s a commonly used antibiotic for dog wounds that can also help treat infections related to the ear, urinary tract, bladder, and dental infections. In most cases, it can be given orally in the form of a tablet, capsule, or via liquid suspension, with or without food.

As it caters to a wide range of bacterial infections, it’s a popular antibiotic also known as  ‘penicillin for dogs’. However, you must consult with your veterinary doctor to ensure these are safe for your dog and also to learn about the appropriate dosages as they differ with the size of the dog.

When used, amoxicillin prevents bacteria from forming a cell wall allowing the dog’s immune system to attack the area. However, if your pet suffers from a blood infection or is pregnant, better avoid giving it to them. Its side effects include – lack of appetite, vomiting, diarrhoea, skin rashes, fever, and breathing issues.


Clindamycin is your go-to antibiotic for dogs with skin infection as it’s both an antibiotic and antiprotozoal (meds used in the treatment of protozoan infection). Vets mostly recommend this to pets suffering from bone, mouth, skin, and respiratory tract infections.

The right dose of clindamycin prevents further bacterial growth, but can also kill it in most cases. The antibiotic can be given as an oral liquid, capsule, or tablet. Always give the dose with a little liquid to avoid the formation of ulcers. Its most common side effects include – vomiting or occasionally bloody diarrhoea in which case you must consult your vet immediately.


A popular tetracycline antibiotic that treats a broad range of infections in pets including anaplasma (a tick disease), leptospirosis, teeth and gum diseases, and more. Its intake shuts down the bacteria’s protein synthesis and stops the cell from dividing.

You can give this antibiotic in the form of a tablet, capsule, or liquid, but take note of the measurement before administering the dose. In a tablet form, the pill should be followed by at least 6ml of water or food. Avoid giving it food containing dairy/iron as they block the pill’s impact.

 Its common side effects include – diarrhoea, vomiting, lack of appetite, and make your pet’s skin more sensitive to sunlight. The effects usually last 24 hours but can prolong in pets with liver/kidney disease. In severe cases, the side effects include – liver failure (yellowing of the skin), seizures, bleeding, and more. Contact your vet doctor if you notice any side effects.


Another dog antibiotic for wounds, Chloramphenicol can also be used for treating skin infections, cases of pneumonia, bone infections, and central nervous system infections, alongside others. They can be administered in the form of tablets, capsules, as a liquid suspension, and also in an injectable form. While the first three forms can be given along with the food, the injectable form must be administered by an experienced vet.

Apart from diarrhoea, vomiting, and a decrease in appetite, its other side effects include – impact on bone marrow function (in prolonged use).  Your pet can also experience weakness and lack of muscle coordination and face discomfort while walking.


It’s similar to amoxicillin when it comes to popularity and is quite effective in treating deep skin infections. Additionally, it can also treat urinary tract, soft tissue, and respiratory infections. You can administer cephalexin dose in dogs in the form of a capsule, a chewable tablet, and as an oral suspension with or without food.

The side effects of cephalexin antibiotics include – diarrhoea and vomiting, while, severe complications include – fever, rashes, and breathing issues indicating an allergic reaction to the drug. It’s advisable to consult the vet immediately in severe reactions.


Gentamicin is often the recommended antibiotic for dogs with ear infection and is effective in treating pneumonia, respiratory infections, and open wounds. It’s available in different forms but is mostly administered in form of an ointment directly to the ear canal of your pet.

If its application triggers redness or increased inflammation in your pets, you must consult your veterinary doctor immediately and discontinue the medication.

Antibiotics for dogs: Do they have any side effects?

Most antibiotics are curative, but like other medications, they have some negative side effects too. The impact varies from drug-to-drug, but some common after-effects include:

  • Rashes and hives
  • Lethargy and losing interest in food
  • Yeast infection
  • Coughing
  • Nausea or swelling

Most of these symptoms occur in the first 24 hours, hence monitor your pets carefully. If the symptoms persist for too long, take your pet to the vet immediately.

Administration of antibiotics: How to inject a dog with antibiotics?

If you’re a pet parent or a dog lover, you may have wondered on how to inject a dog with antibiotics in case a vet is not accessible or available. In the case of such emergencies, the best place to inject a dog with an antibiotic is in the subcutaneous tissue (under the skin) as it’s soft.

To inject a dog with antibiotics, pinch out some loose skin from the back of the neck between your thumb and middle finger, and hold the syringe steady like a pencil. Ensure that there are no air bubbles in the syringe and only the appropriate dosage is filled into the tube. Insert the needle carefully into the skin fold, and push the plunger to quickly administer the contents. Once done, withdraw the needle and gently massage the area. The dog may be a bit irritable after the medicine is administered, make sure that they are adequately fed and have a place to rest and recuperate.

Read here to understand how to give an injection in an emergency situation.

The information contained in VOSD Vet Advice™ is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical action which is provided by your vet. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information. For any emergency situation related to a dog’s health, please visit the nearest veterinary clinic.

Have tips as a pet parent on how to help your pet recover faster? Share with us by writing to