Questions? Call 1-877-357-9661
Doxycycline for Veterinary Use
by Barbara Forney, VMD
Doxycycline is a semi-synthetic tetracycline antibiotic, derived from oxytetracycline. It may be used orally (dogs, cats and horses) or intravenously (dogs and cats). Tetracycline antibiotics are broad-spectrum and bacteriostatic. Their mechanism of action is through the inhibition of protein synthesis, and the alteration of cytoplasmic membrane permeability within the susceptible organism.Doxycycline is more lipid soluble than other tetracycline antibiotics and may reach higher levels in some of the difficult to penetrate areas, such as synovial fluid, central nervous system, prostate and the eyes.
Tetracycline antibiotics, including doxycycline, are effective against a broad spectrum of gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria, and wide variety of other organisms including Rickettsia, Spirochetes, Mycoplasma, Leptospira, Anaplasma, and Chlamydia. In addition to its use as an antibiotic, doxycycline is used in low doses as an anti-inflammatory and adjunct treatment for arthritis and degenerative joint-disease in dogs and horses. This use is based on the inhibition of metallo-matrix proteinases.
Doxycycline is well absorbed after oral administration and its absorption is minimally affected by the presence of food in the stomach. Doxycycline may be used in animals with decreased kidney function because it is eliminated primarily via the GI tract.
Dogs and Cats
Doxycycline is used in dogs to treat susceptible bacterial infections and infections caused by Rickettsia, Canine ehrlichiosis (anaplasmosis), Toxoplasma, Borrelia burgdorferi (Lyme disease), Leptospirosis and Neorickettsia helminthoeca (salmon poisoning).
Doxycycline is used in cats to treat susceptible bacterial infections and infections caused by a number of other organisms including Bartonella, Hemoplasma, Chlamydia felis, Ehrlichia, Anaplasma, and Toxoplasma.
There is some interesting research regarding the use of doxycycline as a “pre-treatment” in animals with circulating microfilaria due to heartworm disease. The research indicates that the pathogenic microfilaria are generally infected with a symbiotic bacteria called Wolbachia, which is sensitive to doxycycline. Pre-treatment with doxycycline is postulated to adverse reactions to microfilarial death.
Doxycycline gel is used topically in the mouth of dogs and cats for periodontal disease. Local application in the sulcus provides higher concentrations of the drug than may be achieved with systemic antibiotics.
Doxycycline is used in horses to treat susceptible bacterial infections and tick-borne diseases such as Ehrlichia, Anaplasma and Borrelia burgdorferi (Lyme disease).
- The most common side effects in dogs and cats are GI upset, including nausea and vomiting.
- Cats may be at increased risk for esophageal strictures after “dry” pilling with doxycycline. In order to minimize this problem, it has been suggested to dose the cat with water after pilling or use a compounded liquid product to minimize esophageal damage.
- Tetracycline antibiotics should be avoided during pregnancy because of risk of skeletal limb abnormalities and discoloration of teeth. Doxycycline may pose less risk than other tetracycline antibiotics; although, its use should be avoided unless the benefits outweigh the potential risks.
- Intravenous doxycycline should not be used in the horse due to risk of fatal cardiac arrhythmia.
- Dosing of oral doxycycline should be separated from any oral antacids, bismuth, kaolin or pectin containing products by 1- 2 hours. Oral iron also interferes with the absorption of doxycycline and should be separated by three hours.
- Doxycycline and other tetracycline antibiotics are generally not used with bactericidal antibiotics such as penicillin, cephalosporin and aminoglycosides.
- Tetracycline antibiotics may change clotting times. Animals receiving warfarin or other anticoagulant may need additional monitoring and dosage adjustment.
- Phenobarbital may reduce the half life of doxycycline.
- In most instances, oral overdose of doxycycline will cause pronounced GI distress. Oral antacids may be helpful to decrease gastrointestinal symptoms.
About the Author
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.
You can purchase books by Dr. Forney at
The information contained on this site is general in nature and is intended for use as an informational aid. It does not cover all possible uses, actions, precautions, side effects, or interactions of the products shown, nor is the information intended as medical advice or diagnosis for individual health problems or for making an evaluation as to the risks and benefits of using a particular product. You should consult your doctor about diagnosis and treatment of any health problems. Information and statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration ("FDA"), nor has the FDA approved the products to diagnose, cure or prevent disease.
Wedgewood Pharmacy's compounded veterinary preparations are not intended for use in food and food-producing animals.