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Antibiotics Allergies in Dogs

Written By hannah hollinger
Published: 08/18/2016Updated: 09/23/2021
Veterinary reviewed by Michele K.
Antibiotics Allergies in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

What are Antibiotics Allergies?

A variety of different antibiotics are prescribed to treat bacterial infection in dogs. These drugs either kill bacteria outright (bactericidal) or they make it more difficult for the bacteria to grow and reproduce (bacteriostatic). Some antibiotics are broad-spectrum, meaning they are effective for a variety of different diseases, while others are narrow-spectrum since they mainly target one type of bacteria or infection. Antibiotics fall into different classes, based on their chemical structure and the mechanism with which they target bacteria. The most common and well known are the beta-lactam antibiotics, like penicillin, which prevent bacteria from forming a cell wall. Other classes of antibiotics can affect DNA synthesis or the production of necessary proteins in certain bacteria.

Any drug has the potential for side-effects or allergic reaction. Side-effects refer to the negative effects the drug may have on the body, while allergic reaction describes an immune system response that targets the medication as a threat. Allergic reactions can occur based on individual sensitivity to a specific medication. While these reactions are uncommon, antibiotics do tend to cause more allergic responses in dogs than any other group of drugs. Most symptoms are typical of other histamine producing allergies; dogs may develop an itchy rash, and watery eyes or nose. Swelling of the face or even the respiratory tract is possible. In rare cases, dogs can have a severe, life-threatening reaction called anaphylactic shock. This can cause collapse, difficulty breathing and even death.

Most owners won’t be aware of an allergic response until the antibiotic is prescribed to their dog. This is why it is important to watch dogs carefully anytime a new medication is started and get immediate treatment for symptoms that appear unusual or severe. All previous allergic reactions should be communicated to the veterinarian before an antibiotic is prescribed. If your dog has an allergic response to one antibiotic, it’s likely that he will experience a similar problem with other medications in the same class.

Antibiotics help to eliminate harmful bacteria and are some of the most important medications for dogs, however they are also one of the more common causes of allergic drug reaction. Symptoms range from mild rash and watery eyes, to rare, but life-threatening, anaphylaxis.

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Average Cost

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Symptoms of Antibiotics Allergies in Dogs

Look for these symptoms if your dog is taking an antibiotic for the first time.

  • Rash (maculopapular lesions)
  • Redness (erythroderma)
  • Other types of skin lesion (blisters or scaling skin)
  • Itchiness (pruritus)
  • Incessant scratching
  • Watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Swelling and hives (uticaria-angiodema)
  • Purple rash caused by bleeding into the dermal tissue (purpura)
  • Anaphylactic shock which is rare (vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, collapse, death)

Types

Following are some common antibiotic medications that could be prescribed to your dog. Penicillins and sulfonamides have the highest rates of allergic reaction.

  • Beta-lactam antibiotics – group of bactericidal drugs that inhibit the formation of the cell wall including penicillin and cephalosporins
  • Sulfonamides (sulfa drugs) – a group of bacteriostatic drugs, one of the most common antibacterial agents prescribed to dogs because of their low cost and relative effectiveness in treating typical bacterial infections; examples are sulfadiazine, sulfadimethoxine, and succinylsulfathiazole
  • Tetracyclines – broad-spectrum bacteriostatic agents that get their name because of their chemical structure with four rings; Oxytetracycline, Minocycline, and Doxycycline are some examples used in dogs
  • Quinolones and Fluoroquinolones – a group of bactericidal antibiotics that interfere with the bacteria’s ability to make DNA; some examples are ciprofloxacin, danofloxacin and difloxacin
  • Aminoglycosides – this is a group bactericidal antibiotics that stops the production of necessary proteins in the bacteria, Gentamicin and Amikacin are two examples used in dogs
  • Macrolides – bacteriostatic antibiotics that inhibit the production of bacterial protein; Azithromycin is the main example used in dogs

Causes of Antibiotics Allergies in Dogs

These are some causes and risk factors for antibiotics allergies.

  • New antibiotic prescribed to your dog
  • Dog develops a new allergy
  • General tendency toward allergic reactions

Diagnosis of Antibiotics Allergies in Dogs

Antibiotic allergies are typically diagnosed because owners notice an unusual response when their dog begins a new medication. Rarely, dogs could also develop a new allergy to an antibiotic which previously didn’t cause a problem. There isn’t any way to test for an antibiotics allergy without actually giving the drug to your dog. 

You should call the veterinarian if you see abnormal symptoms in your dog, especially when these correspond with the start of a new mediation. The veterinarian will be able to tell you if this is a typical side-effect, part of the original infection, or a more dangerous response. Life-threatening symptoms like collapse or difficulty breathing should be treated as an emergency.

Treatment of Antibiotics Allergies in Dogs

With any drug reaction, the first important treatment is to stop taking the medication. If the reaction was mild, your dog’s symptoms will likely clear up on their own and no further treatment will be necessary. However the veterinarian may still need to prescribe another antibiotic to treat the original infection.

Creams and topical ointments may be necessary for severe rashes and skin infections. This can help them heal and reduce the chances of further infection. Affected areas may need to be clipped of hair and covered with a bandage. Antihistamines or corticosteroids could be given to reduce symptoms and make your dog more comfortable.

Anaphylactic shock will need more aggressive treatment. Immediate epinephrine injection can reduce life-threatening symptoms. Additional oxygen, intravenous fluids, blood transfusions and other emergency measure could also be necessary.

If symptoms continue after the antibiotic is discontinued, this suggests the allergic reaction was likely related to another trigger. You should discuss this with the veterinarian and research other possible causes.

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Recovery of Antibiotics Allergies in Dogs

Most dogs recover from an allergic reactions to antibiotics. Life-threatening symptoms are rare, and even anaphylactic shock can be treated as long as your dog gets emergency care in time. Your dog will likely have the allergy for life, however, so this will need to be managed. Any new veterinarian should be informed of all your dog’s known allergies. Discuss side-effects and the possibility of an allergic reaction anytime a new medication is prescribed, so you know what symptoms to watch for in your dog. If your dog has had an anaphylactic reaction to medications or other triggers, ask the veterinarian about getting a dog Epipen so that you have something on hand to use in case of another crisis.

Antibiotics Allergies Average Cost

From 435 quotes ranging from $200 - $500

Average Cost

$250

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Antibiotics Allergies Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Jack Russell Terrier

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Six Years

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5 found this helpful

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5 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
Trouble Breathing,Trouble Walking , Jumping Up On Things
Rapid breathing at night, sounds congested. Can’t jump up on things and has trouble walking up 3 steps

Feb. 9, 2021

Answered by Dr. Maureen M. DVM

5 Recommendations

Hello, Sorry about that. It could be a respiratory infection or allergies. I extreme cases a heart problem. I would advise a visit to the vet for a thorough check up to know what is causing the above symptoms. Good luck

Feb. 9, 2021

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Jack Russell Terrier

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dog-age-icon

Nine Years

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2 found this helpful

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2 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
Having Hard Time Breathing And Sleep All Day
My dog is taking an antibiotic and is having a hard time breathing

Dec. 31, 2020

Answered by Dr. Sara O. DVM

2 Recommendations

Hello, depending on what antibiotics this is it could be causing him to act this way but there can be something more going on. I would recommend taking him to the ER vet if he is having trouble breathing.

Dec. 31, 2020

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Antibiotics Allergies Average Cost

From 435 quotes ranging from $200 - $500

Average Cost

$250

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