Spoiler Alert: They are if only used appropriately, which pretty much means life-threatening situations only.
However, it is highly likely that your trip to the vet, regardless of what the symptoms are, will result in antibiotics. Just like medicine for humans, antibiotics for dogs is absolutely overprescribed.
First, it is important to understand what they are actually made of. Your standard antibiotic, aka penicillin is made by a "fungus, along with streptomycin, chloramphenicol, and tetracycline, which are produced by soil bacteria" (Read more on that here).
"According to an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, as much as 50% of antibiotic use is unnecessary" (Read more here). The same is true for our dogs. Further, it is not just about the money you spend at the vet, it is the possible long-term side-effects that your dog can suffer from.
When a dog, or any organism for that matter consumes antibiotics too many times, the antibiotics become less and less effective as the germs and bacteria that caused the illness mutate and develop the ability to defeat the drugs designed to kill them. Even the CDC says that resistance infections can be difficult, and sometimes "impossible to treat."
Unfortunately, antibiotic resistance is quite common, especially if your dog has been to the vet a bunch of times for typical ailments, like an ear infection or runny nose. Common antibiotics include Amoxicillin, Clavamox, Penicillin etc and consuming too much of it results in s a super-charged bug, like staph infections, that becomes even harder for the immune system to fight off.
Additionally, antibiotics kill bacteria, both good and bad. Good bacteria is crucial to a high-functioning immune system and digestive system, which essentially keeps your dog healthy and happy. When took many antibiotics are given, their gut microbiomes become compromised and less able to fight off infections.
Lastly, excessive antibiotic use will cause nutrient deficiencies including depletion of vitamins "B1, B2, B6, B12, C, E, K, Inositol and Magnesium" and has been linked to a host of health problems including:
- Behavioral changes
- Poor wound healing
- Weakened immune health
- Oxidative stress
- Nerve degeneration
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Leaky gut
(Source: Dogs Naturally)
Even more alarming, this meta-analysis documented in the National Library of Medicine titled, Prevalence of antibiotic-resistance bacteria amongst dogs in Africa: A meta-analysis review" examined dogs in Africa and concluded that "multiple bacteria were resistant to various commonly used antibiotics including enrofloxacin, ciprofloxacin, gentamicin, amoxicillin, clavulanic acid, cotrimoxazole, streptomycin, tetracycline and chloramphenicol."
According to the same meta-analysis, this is particularly important because antibiotic resistance is "a global public health threat for both human and veterinary medicine. Increasing evidence suggests that animals are important sources of AMR (antimicrobial resistance aka antibiotic resistance) to humans."
Other thoughts on this, which may be a bit controversial, go back to what the antibiotics are made of, which include fungus and other microorganisms from the soil. It is no secret that the earth has become more and more polluted and the soil used to grow food has become more and more depleted of essential nutrients for optimal health. Since antibiotics have been used for 50+ years, the soil has become more and more depleted over the last 50 years, is it possible that the fungus used to make antibiotics cause sickness itself? We think it is absolutely possible that antibiotics are bioaccumulating in dogs as well. Meaning the more antibiotics are taken, the more and more they become entrenched into cells, organs and organ systems potentially causing hormone disruption and a compromised gut microbiome.