Two vets apply a bandage to a yellow lab's paw

Veterinarians are beginning to prescribe shorter courses of antibiotics for dogs with urinary tract infections (UTIs), a move that is in line with recent clinical recommendations and an important step in helping reduce antibiotic resistance, says a new University of Guelph-led study conducted in collaboration with VCA.

The analysis found many veterinarians in Canada and the U.S. are using recommended first-line antibiotics more often for UTIs and reducing their treatment course.

UTIs are a frequent reason for antimicrobial prescriptions as they affect one out of every seven dogs at some point in their lifetime.

The findings are encouraging steps toward the global “One Health” effort to increase antimicrobial stewardship – an approach aimed at reducing antibiotic and other antimicrobial use and shortening overall treatment duration, said the study’s lead author, Dr. Scott Weese, professor in the Department of Pathobiology at U of G’s Ontario Veterinary College. Both steps can reduce the potential for antibiotic resistance while optimizing outcomes for patients, he said.

Dr. J. Scott Weese

“Improving antimicrobial stewardship requires a clear understanding of when and how antimicrobials are used in pets,” said Weese.

“This analysis can inform an evidence-based approach to stewardship and the development of antibiotics-prescribing guidelines to further support veterinarians as we look to advance veterinary care in practice.”

Published recently in the Journal of Small Animal Practice, the study was a collaboration with colleagues from VCA Animal Hospitals, which operates more than 1,000 small animal veterinary hospitals in the U.S., Canada and Japan.

The authors investigated more than 7,800 prescriptions written between 2016 and 2018 in the U.S. and Canada for three types of UTI in dogs: bladder infection, recurrent bladder infection and kidney infection.

They found use of first-line therapies increased between 2016 and 2018. On average, 55 per cent of dogs were treated with a recommended first-line drug, rising to 59 per cent in 2018 from 52 per cent in 2016.

The average treatment course length also dropped over the study period from 14 days to 10 days, which was in line with the guidelines recommending a 7- to 10-day course of treatment. In 2019, those guidelines were further updated to recommend an antibiotic course of three to five days, as data suggest a shorter course is equally effective.

The use of shorter-duration treatment options offered several positive outcomes, including reducing the risk of side effects for patients, lessening antimicrobial resistance selection pressure and lowering treatment costs, while also improving pet owners’ adherence to treatment plans.

Despite the prevalence of antibiotic treatment for UTIs, there has been a shortage of high-level research into how, when and for how long to treat companion animals using antimicrobials.

“We know pets make life better for people, so we’re doing everything we can to help people and pets live happier, healthier lives together,” said study co-author and VCA Director of Clinical Studies Dr. Phil Bergman.

“Veterinary services play an essential role in managing animal health risks. Understanding how antibiotics are used in veterinary practice enables us to set and update benchmarks, identify areas for improvement and develop sustainable interventions to address the threat of antimicrobial resistance on animals, humans and the planet. This analysis is a crucial first step.”

The One Health concept acknowledges that the health of humans and animals is interdependent and reliant on the health of their ecosystems.

Antimicrobial resistance is a One Health problem that requires study of humans, animals and the environment, said Weese.

“Antimicrobial use in any of these areas can contribute to resistance, with resistant bacteria moving between animals, humans and the environment we live in.”


Dr. Scott Weese