Uses for metronidazole in dogs

Updated May 03, 2018

Metronidazole, marketed by Pfizer under the brand name Flagyl, is an antibiotic and antibacterial used to treat various conditions in dogs and other animals. Although any drug may have side effects, the toxicity of metronidazole is low and usually occurs only with high dosage or long-term use. Don't administer metronidazole to dogs with liver disease. Although metronidazole is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for human use only, it is common for veterinarians to treat their patients with this medication.


Giardiasis, an infection of the intestines, affects about 10 per cent of dogs at any time, with about 30 per cent of all dogs experiencing it in their lifetimes. The protozoa Giardia lamblia is highly contagious, and transmission is by ingestion through food and water, or possibly sexual contact. Giardiasis causes malabsorption, or the inability of dogs to normally digest their food. Symptoms of giardiasis include weight loss, lethargy, appetite loss and mucus in the faeces. A vet can diagnose the disease by testing a fecal sample. Metronidazole is often prescribed to kill off the protozoa.

Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease is the inflammation of the supporting structure of the teeth, resulting in bone loss. As it is caused by bacteria, metronidazole is one of several medications used to treat periodontal disease in dogs. Even dogs as young as 6 months may be affected with this condition. Toy breeds, with teeth crowded into a small mouth, are especially at risk. Poor nutrition and immune system disorders are also factors in periodontal disease. Diagnosis is done by radiography, as up to 60 per cent of the disease occurs below the gum line.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

The precise cause of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in canines is unknown but may involve genetics, infections, and immune system disorders. Dogs with this condition constantly vomit if the stomach and small intestine are affected, and experience diarrhoea if IBD concentrates in the colon. Dogs strain to defecate but produce only small amounts of fecal matter. Veterinarians must perform a biopsy for a definite IBD diagnosis. Treatment includes food trials, to eliminate allergic components from the dog's diet. Metronidazole is used in conjunction with steroids to ease the inflammation in IBD.

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About the Author

Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.