Azithromycin is an anti-bacterial medication used for a huge variety of illnesses. It’s a macrolide antibiotic, meaning it works by stopping bacterial growth. In humans, it’s used to combat illnesses like bronchitis and pneumonia; it treats STDs and infections of the reproductive organs; and it helps with infections of the ears, lungs, sinuses, throat, and skin. It’s also used to prevent lung infections that people with HIV are susceptible to.

In animals, the drug is used much the same way. It’s sold under the brand name Zithromax, and, similarly to how its administered in people, it comes in three different forms for animals, too: tablet, liquid suspension, and injectable IV. For some dogs, the drug can also be delivered in a toothpaste to treat gingival hyperplasia brought on by cyclosporine.

Most veterinarians will prescribe a tablet for your dog to have with its food either once or twice daily, around the same time each day.

The uses in pets are also similar to the medicine’s application in humans. Veterinarians will choose azithromycin to fight infections of the skin, respiratory tract, urinary tract, and middle ear. The medication has also successfully fought off parasites transmitted by ticks.

Azithromycin is a more popular choice for most veterinarians as compared to other antibiotics like erythromycin. The former has a longer half-life, and is absorbed better in both cats and dogs. The drug is especially affective because it gravitates toward the infection site, making the treatment more effective. It’s also helpful to use in combination with other drugs to treat infections that are resistant to many common anti-tubercular medications.

The medication does have side effects that are common in both humans and pets. As with most antibacterial medications, many report feeling abdominal discomfort, vomiting, or having diarrhea. On the more serious side, the medication can also cause your dog to have cardiac arrhythmia, ventricular tachycardia, and issues with renal function. The drug can also cause liver damage, so pet owners should know to watch out for yellowing gums, skin, and eyes of their pet. Some people say their dogs have developed jaundice after taking azithromycin, but veterinarians say its rare. If you notice any medical problem you think could be a result of your pet’s azithromycin prescription, you should stop giving your pet its dosage and call your veterinarian immediately. If the condition for which the drug was prescribed worsens or doesn’t get any better, you should call to address that as well.

Azithromycin has come up in the news recently, as a potential aid in fighting the coronavirus. President Trump has said the FDA is testing a combination of azithromycin with hydroxychloroquine (a drug used for malaria, and to treat rheumatoid arthritis) to either prevent or treat COVID-19. The FDA is now pushing for trials of the medication combination.

You should only use azithromycin for yourself or your pet if a doctor or veterinarian has prescribes it. You should also only take it for the condition for which it was prescribed; meaning if, for any reason, there is medication left over because you stopped treatment previously, you should not try to take or administer the drug to your pet for another condition on your own. You should give your pet the full dose your veterinarian prescribes, even if his or her condition seems to be improving.

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