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If your pet has a urinary tract infection, skin infection or respiratory infection, prompt treatment can be crucial. Bacterial infections that are left untreated can spread and cause significant health problems, but prescription antibiotics like enrofloxacin often can help. Enrofloxacin for cats and dogs is formulated to kill the bacteria infecting your pet and put them back on a path to wellness.

In most cases, enrofloxacin is effective and safe. Read on to learn more about this antibiotic, when to use it and how to spot adverse side effects.

What is enrofloxacin?

This drug often goes by the trade name Baytril. It’s a fluoroquinolone antibiotic, which means it’s considered broad-spectrum and effective against various infections. Developed specifically for veterinary use, the FDA has approved the use of enrofloxacin for dogs and cats. Its use in birds, reptiles and small mammals is extra-label, meaning that while not specifically approved, it may be prescribed based on professional data supporting its use.

What bacteria does enrofloxacin treat?

This antibiotic can be used against many gram-positive and gram-negative types of bacteria. Specifically, enrofloxacin is effective against bacterial strains including Escherichia coli, Bordetella bronchiseptica, Proteus mirabilis, Clostridium perfringens, Staphylococcus spp. and Brucella canis.

Your veterinarian may recommend this drug if your pet develops a skin infection from an open wound, has a confirmed bladder infection or has a gastrointestinal infection. Enrofloxacin can’t treat viral infections.

How fast does enrofloxacin work?

After you give your pet enrofloxacin, it begins working quickly. The drug functions by stopping the targeted bacteria from creating new DNA, eventually killing the infection. While the drug may start to work within a few hours, you may not notice the results for a day or two.

As with any antibiotic, you should complete the entire course of medication, even if your pet starts appearing better. You’ll want to make sure all of the bacteria in your pet’s system has been eliminated before stopping the administration of the drug. As long as your pet is not experiencing any negative side effects, it is better to take all the prescribed medication than stop early because you think your dog or cat has already healed.

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Enrofloxacin dosage guidelines

Your veterinarian will determine the appropriate enrofloxacin dose for your particular pet, and you should stick to it. Dosing levels can vary based on age, breed, body weight, area and type of infection.

How to administer enrofloxacin to pets

Not all species of pets take this drug the same way. Enrofloxacin for dogs and cats is often administered orally—typically as a tablet—or as an emulsion for ear infections. You can hide the pill in a treat if it makes your pet more amenable to the treatment. It can be given with food if it upsets your pet’s stomach, and there is also an injectable that is approved for dogs.

Enrofloxacin for birds can also be taken orally, or you can give it via subcutaneous injection. Rabbits can be administered the drug orally, via subcutaneous injection or intramuscular injection. The correct method for your pet depends on the type and severity of infection, and it will also depend on how tolerant they are to taking medications orally.

If you miss a dosage of enrofloxacin for your pet, don’t double up at the following scheduled administration—this could lead to an overdose. Instead, consider how much time has passed since the missed dosage. If it’s only been a few hours, go ahead and administer a dosage late. If you’re approaching the next dosage time, start at that next scheduled time and reach out to your veterinarian for any other actions you should take.

What are possible enrofloxacin side effects?

Most pets can take this antibiotic without issue, but some may experience side effects. It’s also worth noting that the drug is approved for dogs and cats, so it is used extra-label for small pets with your vet’s approval. This means it is being used for purposes other than its original design because it has been shown effective. Even though it’s often used for pets other than dogs and cats, use the drug for the prescribed pet only. It may not be suitable for all pets.

When it comes to enrofloxacin for dogs, side effects may include vomiting, reduced appetite and loose stools. If your pet vomits or has diarrhea when taking this drug, make sure they have access to water so they can stay hydrated. Other pets taking the antibiotic could experience similar results. Rarely, cats who take this drug may experience problems with their eyesight. If your pet has any side effects, call your veterinarian. They will advise you if you can continue or should discontinue using the medication.

Contraindications for enrofloxacin

Contraindications are situations where a medication or other treatment can be harmful to a pet. For enrofloxacin, contraindications include kidney disease, liver disease, age under 1 year and pregnancy. You should be particularly careful about providing this medicine to cats who have kidney disease.

There are also some potential drug interactions of which pet parents should be aware. Enrofloxacin may not be the right antibiotic for your pet if they are already taking penicillin, antacids like sucralfate, cyclosporine or cephalosporin antibiotics. These drugs may negatively interact with enrofloxacin. Even some vitamins and supplements may interact negatively with antibiotics. Let your vet know if your pet is taking a regimen that includes iron or zinc.

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Reviewed by Dr. Whitney Miller, DVM, MBA, DACVPM

As Petco’s Chief Veterinarian, Dr. Miller is the lead veterinary subject matter expert, overseeing the company’s standards of excellence in animal care and welfare, growth in pet services and much more. Dr. Miller leads Petco’s medical team, supporting over 200 full-service hospitals and mobile vaccination clinics operating in over 1,000 Petco Pet Care Centers nationwide