A broad-spectrum antibiotic of the tetracycline class, doxycycline for dogs is used to treat certain bacterial infections, and certain parasitic infections. It is bacteriostatic, either slowing or killing bacteria by inhibiting their protein production. It is more effective against gram-negative bacteria such as E Coli and others, as some gram-positive bacteria have developed resistance to it. Any gram-positive bacterial infection should have a culture and sensitivity test to see if the bacteria are susceptible to doxycycline before use.
This medicine is given once every 24 hours. You can give tablets, a paste, or an intravenous injection. This medicine may be problematic in animals with kidney failure.
What Is Doxycycline Used For In Dogs?
Doxycycline is used to treat toxoplasma (a parasite), leptospirosis, and intracellular parasitic bacteria often transmitted by ticks such as Borrelia (Lyme), Rickettsia, Bartonella, Mycoplasma, and Ehrlichia (Anaplasmosis). It may be prescribed for chronic dental disease, or chronic gastrointestinal disease.
In addition to its antibiotic effect, doxycycline has significant anti-inflammatory properties.
It suppresses TNF-α, IL-β, and IL-6. It also inhibits IgE-mediated degranulation and histamine-induced vascular permeability. It is a significantly effective anti-inflammatory, and if the condition being treated has significant inflammation, this can be an indicator to use it instead of other antibiotics. In some diseases, it is hard to know if it is the antibiotic, the anti-inflammatory properties, or their combination that causes a positive response to treatment.
Used In Conventional Heartworm Treatment
Doxycycline can also be effective as part of conventional heartworm disease treatment in dogs
It kills a bacteria (Wolbachia) – related to Rickettsial bacteria – that the microfilariae heartworms require to survive. It’s often recommended that Doxycycline be incorporated into adulticidal heartworm treatment to reduce inflammation in the dog’s lungs and body, and to reduce the worm mass, thereby reducing the risk of pulmonary thromboembolism. It can prevent the development of heartworm disease in infected dogs if used early enough in the disease process.
Doxycycline Side Effects For Dogs
Doxycycline is generally regarded as safe by the veterinary profession. However, as with all prescription medications, a small proportion of dogs may experience mild side effects for doxycycline for dogs, and a smaller number may have severe side effects.
Mild side effects may include:
- Lack of appetite
The above side effects can usually be avoided by giving the medicine with food.
The medication may also cause …
- Increases in liver enzymes
- Increase in skin sensitivity to sunlight, leading to sunburn, especially in hairless areas
More serious side effects include:
- Liver failure, causing jaundice (yellowing of the skin) if severe
- Behavior changes
- Trouble swallowing
- Ongoing gastric upset (longer term – not just after the medication has been given)
In action to these recognized side effects, as is the case with all antibiotics, doxycycline causes harm to your dog’s microbiome … her gut flora. This disruption may be mild, or in some cases, severe. Your dog’s gut flora is a complex population of many kinds of bacteria, many beneficial, some harmful.
Antibiotics of any kind, including doxycycline, indiscriminately kill gut bacteria, and this can lead to the overgrowth of more harmful bacteria, resulting in dysbiosis (an ongoing imbalance in your dog’s gut bacteria). This can result in a wide range of ongoing digestive disturbances, including diarrhea, cramping, constipation, and indigestion. Dysbiosis may also lead to inflammation of the bowels, which can cause “leaky gut.”
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Is Doxycycline Safe For Dogs?
As a holistic vet, I always want to do a risk/benefit analysis when it comes to considering any kind of medication or intervention to treat my own dogs. I support the dog owners who bring their beloved furry family members to me in making a good, informed decision. This kind of solid choice that you know you can be confident and happy with requires an understanding of the risks, the benefits, and of course alternative treatments (such as herbal medicine for infections like Lyme, etc).
I have dispensed doxycycline quite a lot over my veterinary career, and though I’ve seen one or two animals experience mild side effects, I’ve not yet seen any animals experience severe side effects. It’s important to know that severe side effects are rare – but on the other hand, if your dog is the unlucky one right at the sensitive end of the bell curve, and doxycycline makes her awfully ill, that won’t make you feel any happier about the situation!
Assessing Risk/Benefit Is Critically Important
Before using any antibiotic, always ask your holistic vet about alternative options that might help you avoid using the drugs. Because of increasing antibiotic resistant bugs, it’s always best to save antibiotics for when you really need them, and use other alternatives if you can.
If you decide that the risk/benefit equation stacks up and you do decide to give your dog doxycycline, be sure to treat her with a good probiotic (soil-based probiotics or S boulardii are the most effective probiotics to use alongside antibiotics) throughout and after the time of medication. That supports the microbiome and reduces the chances of ongoing microbiome imbalances.
Also, watch your animal closely. If she shows the slightest signs of any adverse reactions to the medication, it may be wise to stop giving it! Flower essences, herbal medicines, homeopathy, energy healing, acupuncture, and a host of other complementary medicines and treatments may be all that is required – and if they are not enough, using them alongside antibiotics helps support your dog, and minimizes the risk of adverse reactions and side effects.
Like so many things in veterinary medicine, doxycycline is generally safe and can be of tremendous benefit if used intelligently, but at the same time can cause mild harm, and in rare cases, severe harm. It’s the classic rock and hard place situation we all meet when it comes to health care for our pets, especially when it comes to more acute, dangerous diseases, where antibiotics may be genuinely necessary to save your dog’s life, or to get on top of an infection.
The question you need to keep in mind is this:
Do The Benefits Of Doxycycline For Dogs Outweigh The Potential Risks?
As always, if you keep your dog vital and strong with a fresh, whole foods diet, minimal vaccinations, minimizing exposure to toxins (especially tick, flea and parasite preventions), a stress-free life, and LOTS of love, she’ll be far less likely to develop any acute infection and tend to have a much milder infection if she does. And a healthy, vital pet will be more resilient and better able to deal with the impact of antibiotics if and when they are truly necessary.