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Tetracycline for Dogs and Cats

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General Drug Information and Indications

Tetracycline is a broad spectrum antibiotic that is used to treat a wide variety of infections caused by bacteria and other types of organisms. Other antibiotics in this family include oxytetracycline, doxycycline, and minocycline. All of the tetracycline antibiotics have a similar mechanism of action and reach high concentrations in many tissues in the body. They are excreted by the kidneys and the gastrointestinal tract.

Tetracycline also has some calming effects on the immune system and may be used with corticosteroids and niacinamide to treat an autoimmune disease called cutaneous discoid lupus erythematosus in dogs. When tetracycline is used to treat autoimmune diseaes, it may take one to two months before any appreciable improvement is seen.

Tetracycline ophthalmic ointment is used to treat conjunctivitis in the cat, including infections caused by Chlamydia and Mycoplasma. In the case of Chlamydia infection, it may be necessary to also put the cat on oral doxycycline to fully eliminate the organism.

Like many other drugs in veterinary medicine, this drug is not FDA approved for use in animals and is not available from a veterinary pharmaceutical manufacturer. Instead, it is compounded by a specialty pharmacy (What is compounding?).

How to Give this Medication

Give this medication to your pet exactly as your veterinarian prescribes. If you miss giving your pet a dose of tetracycline, give the next dose as soon as you remember or, if it close to the next scheduled dose, return to the regular schedule. Do not double dose to catch up.

Tetracycline is well absorbed after oral administration but its absorption is affected by the presence of food and especially dairy products in the stomach. You and your veterinarian may want to discuss how to feed your pet to decrease the likelihood of stomach upset.

Wash your hands after giving your pet this medication.

Side Effects

Be sure to discuss any side effects with your veterinarian immediately.

The most common side effects after oral administration are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or loss of appetite. Cats may not tolerate oral tetracycline as well as dogs.


Keep this and all drugs out of reach of children. This drug should only be given to the animal for which it was prescribed. Do not give this medication to a person. Federal law restricts this drug to use by or on the order of a licensed veterinarian.

Tetracycline is generally avoided during pregnancy because of the risk of bone abnormalities and discoloration of teeth in the developing fetuses. Some of the other tetracycline antibiotics are less likely to cause these problems. You and your veterinarian will need to make a decision based on your pet's medical needs.

Animals that are receiving oral tetracycline should be protected from the sun. Drugs in the tetracycline family have been associated with increased photosensitivity.

Tetracyline should be used with caution in animals with decreased kidney or liver function. Your veterinarian may choose to use a lower dose in these animals.

Drug Interactions

Be sure to review with your veterinarian any medications or supplements your pet may be receiving.

The following drugs may interfere with your pet's ability to absorb oral tetracycline: oral antacids such as "Tums", bismuth products such as "Pepto Bismol", products containing kaolin or pectin such as "Kaopectate", and oral iron. If your pet is being given any of these products while receiving oral tetracycline, the doses should be separated by 1-2 hours.

Oral tetracycline is usually not given with certain other antibiotics such as penicillin, cephalosporin, and aminoglycosides.

Oral tetracycline may change blood clotting activity. Pets receiving anticoagulants, such as warfarin may need additional monitoring and dose adjustment.

Oral tetracycline may affect digoxin levels. Additional monitoring of digoxin levels may be necessary.


If you suspect your pet or another animal was accidentally overdosed or has eaten this medication inadvertently, contact your veterinarian or the A.S.P.C.A.'s Animal Poison Control Center at 888.426.4435. Always bring the prescription container with you when you take your pet for treatment.

If you or someone else has accidentally ingested this medication call the National Capital Poison Center at 800.222.1222.


Different strengths or dosage forms of tetracycline may have different storage requirements. Read the labeling or ask your pharmacist for the storage requirements of the prescription you receive.

Who is Wedgewood Pharmacy and what is compounding?

Wedgewood Pharmacy, located in Swedesboro, New Jersey, is one of the nation's largest compounding pharmacies. We fill prescriptions for compounded medications for veterinary and human-health patients. All medications dispensed from Wedgewood Pharmacy require a prescription from a licensed prescriber. We ship throughout the United States.

Why might your physician or veterinarian prescribe a compounded medication for you or your pet? Compounded medications are prescribed when the practitioner determines that the appropriate treatment is not otherwise available from a pharmaceutical manufacturer or is not available in the strength, dosage form, flavor, or package size the practitioner thinks is necessary for treatment. When your physician or veterinarian calls a prescription into a compounding pharmacy, a pharmacist prepares a medication that meets the individual needs of you or your pet. To learn more about compounding, and when compounded medications might be prescribed, please visit Patients and Professionals for Customized Care

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About the Author

Dr. Barbara Forney

Dr. Barbara Forney is a veterinary practitioner in Chester County, Pennsylvania. She has a master's degree in animal science from the University of Delaware and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in 1982.

She began to develop her interest in client education and medical writing in 1997. Recent publications include portions of The Pill Book Guide to Medication for Your Dog and Cat, and most recently Understanding Equine Medications published by the Bloodhorse.

Dr. Forney is an FEI veterinarian and an active member of the AAEP, AVMA, and AMWA.