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Ask the Veterinarian/Chloramphenicol risks



My vet just diagnosed my 12 year old rottweiler with drug resistant staph and prescribed chloramphenicol, 1 gram per day for 6 weeks. I am very concerned about the potential side effects that this drug may cause in humans, particularly because my husband and I are trying to have a baby and I don't want to expose the fetus to this drug.

The vet prescribed my dog medrol, nizoral, and clindamycin last week while he waited for the culture results to come back. It seems that this combination has been working, as my dog has stopped chewing on himself and his hair has begun to grow back. I'm wondering whether it is worth the risk to administer the chloramphenicol, particularly because it seems that my dog is doing better on the treatment he is on now. Also, aside from the risks to my family's health from the chloramphenicol, I'm concerned that the drug might be too strong for an elderly dog. Do you have any thoughts on the side effects of chloramphenicol?

Thanks so much for your help.

Chloramphenicol is of no risk to your dog!!!  There are some people that are highly sensitive to chloramphenicol in that it can cause severe bone marrow problems leading to an irreversible anemia.  When I prescribe it, I always dispense gloves to my clients to wear when they give it.

You did not indicate if the bacteria was sensitive to the clindamycin or any other antibiotic.  If there is another choice, then I would steer clear of chloramphenicol.

When I get a resistant skin bug, I always recommend a very strict regimen of antimicrobial shampoos containing either chlorhexidine or benzoyl peroxide.  In addition, I use a dilute bleach solution as a rinse.  Often that keeps the resistant bacteria under control without having to resort to antibiotic therapy.

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Dr. Louis N. Gotthelf


Dermatology and ear diseases of dogs and cats


I am the author of "Small Animal Ear Diseases; An Illustrated Guide" published by W.B. Saunders. I have over 25 years of clinical experience with a special interest in dermatologic conditions and ear diseases.

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