Antibiotic For Cats That Can Cause Nerve Damage

Fluoroquinolone antibiotics for cats can cause nerve damage. This is why there are reports of retina damage in cats who have been given this antibiotic1 (light falling on the retina triggers nerve impulses). Fluoroquinolone antibiotics are a group of antibiotics, the most common of which are nrofloxacin (Baytril®), ciprofloxacin (“cipro”), orbifloxacin (Orbax®), and marbofloxacin (Zeniquin®). But on the website the possible side effects of Baytril don’t refer to nerve damage. Surprised?

baytril antibiotic for cats

Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

This post is a follow up to Ruth’s post about her personal experiences. Ruth says that this class of antibiotics can cause “lameness in puppies”. If the lameness is caused by nerve damage what about the pain? Ruth also refers to “a cat named Shadow…Shadow was blinded after being given Baytril.” This is nerve damage.

Eric Barchas, D.V.M, a San Francisco veterinarian states on his website:

“In very rare instances, cats receiving high doses of Baytril® have developed severe, irreversible vision problems.”

Fluoroquinolone antibiotics are taken by humans and pets. Ciprofloxacin (Cipro) is used on pets and people for instance.

The FDA state this on their website in reference to the drug being used on people:

“the serious side effect of peripheral neuropathy. This serious nerve damage potentially caused by fluoroquinolones (see Table for a list) may occur soon after these drugs are taken and may be permanent.”

“Peripheral neuropathy” means nerve damage to the nerves of the body other than the brain and spinal cord. The end result is all kinds of problems including tingling sensations in the hand or feet, numbness, a lot of pain and weakness because the nerves control the muscles and without nervous impulses the muscles don’t work. This causes the cat or person to be an invalid. An affected leg becomes almost useless.

The addition of a fluoride molecule allows the drug to permeate the blood-brain barrier making it a potential neurotoxin2.

Nerve damage is horrendous. It is extremely painful and extremely debilitating. The sufferer feels tingling and high levels of pain – permanently. It is very hard to cure nerve damage (if ever). The body has to repair itself. Specialist painkillers are required for people. How do I know? I know someone who suffered and continues to suffer from nerve damage to the left leg. The person was in agony for 6 months and even today takes strong drugs to combat pain. If the drugs are stopped the pain restarts immediately.

Although the risk of nerve damage from fluoroquinolone antibiotics is probably very low, the damage is very high and therefore common sense says that they should not be given to your beloved cat. I would ask your vet before accepting a prescription for this class of antibiotics.

An important note is that cats won’t complain about pain. If this class of antiobiotics can cause gradual blindness by damaging the nerves of the eye what sort of pain is the cat going through at the same time? Think on….


  1. AVMA – I was unable to read the entire article because you have to pay for it but it is headed: “Fluoroquinolone-induced retinal degeneration in cats”.
Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.
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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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9 Responses

  1. M E King says:

    I wanted to add something to this thread even though it is quite old.
    Retinal changes are most often seen when the dose reaches greater than 15mg/kg/per day. However the standard dose of no more than 5mg/kg/per day was set because that is where in a test study of 124 cats NO changes were seen at the 5 mg dose for 30 days.
    Peer reviewed articles like you find on Plumb’s Briefs reveal veterinarians consider that 5 mg dose safe but not foolproof and most veterinarians opt for safer drugs in this class like veraflox that has a much higher threshold of safety. Fluoroquinolones are big gun antibiotics. Since 2005 veterinarians have been cautioned to use them judiciously to preserve their effectiveness.
    My bad vet sees enrofloxacin as her top shelf antibiotic. That is per her testimony under oath at the trial.

  2. Ruth (Monty's Mom) says:

    If your friend with the nerve damage has not tried methyl B-12, have him try it. Not just any B-12, it has to be methylated. He can take very high doses of it safely. It really works to heal peripheral neuropathy. It also helped my neighbor Dick regain some memories after he had a stroke. It’s amazing, so if he has not tried it, I would definitely recommend it. Dick’s stroke was four years ago when he tried the methyl B-12 and got some good results from it, so even if the pain is long standing it might still help. Chronic pain can be very tricky though, because it’s almost like the brain gets so used to sending pain signals that even when the damage is fixed you can’t stop it. I would still try the methyl B-12 though.

  3. Ruth (Monty's Mom) says:

    The puppies in the Cipro study went lame from cartilage degeneration. Fluoroquinolones can cause damage to cartilage and connective tissue all over the body. There are a few ways they do this. One is through loss of magnesium– lots of our body tissues, like tendons, are practically made of it. It doesn’t just chelate it from the bloodstream. Anywhere Cipro finds magnesium it can form bonds with it and float it right out of your cells. Secondly, it causes mitochondrial damage. FQ’s are really chemo drugs, just very bad chemo drugs because they destroy all types of cells, not just fast growing cells, as chemo drugs usually will do. It probably is a combination of these two things that damaged the puppies joints. They ended up with severe arthritis. Cipro can age you very quickly. People go from healthy twenty somethings to feeling like they are eighty years old over night, with the accompanying arthritis, pain and mobility problems. Those poor puppies in the study went through that, and yet Cipro is still given to children. Animal experimentation is bad enough, but then to ignore the results and still keep giving the drug to people? I just don’t get it.

  4. Ruth aka Kattaddorra says:

    This is very worrying and thank goodness for the internet where we can research any drug thoroughly rather than just trust a vet or a doctor.
    I don’t think some of them know much about the drugs they are so blithely prescribing!

    • It was a little tricky digging around for this information but as you say the internet does have its uses. I am sure a vet would say that the incidences of nerve damage are extremely rare etc. but I don’t think that is the point. The point is that the drug should be used sparingly but it appears to be prescribed commonly.

  5. Marc says:

    It’s really scary. I won’t ever give my cats any medicine ever without doing my own research first. Simple as that.

    For a cat this must be awful. My reaction to cipro was extremely harsh. I couldn’t walk, couldn’t sleep and had alot of pain and adverse effects which rendered me pretty incapable of anything.

    It should not be used 90% of the times it is. There may be some specific uses for it that others can’t do. But still, it is to be avoided wherever there’s another option I suppose.

    • Agreed. It is too risky except for desperate cases where all else has failed but it is is used commonly, I read. As you say we need to check and ask. It is a bit like anethetics for teeth cleaning. On my calculation there is a one in 400 chance of a cat dying under anesthetic. I guess vets will say differently and I could be incorrect but there is a genuine risk. We have to weigh up pros and cons of treatments.

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