In June 2008, a new product was released by Pfizer Animal Health (now owned by Zoetis), called Convenia (cefovecin sodium). Convenia is an injectable antibiotic from the cephalosporin class of drugs that is labeled for the treatment of skin infections in dogs and cats. Most commonly, it is used in dogs with superficial skin infections due to a variety of causes including allergies, hormonal disorders, and injuries and in cats with wounds, for instance abscesses caused by fighting. Convenia can also be prescribed in an off-label manner, in other words for other types of infections such as those that can affect the upper respiratory tract or bladder. However, this should always be done under the supervision of your pet’s veterinarian.
"As with all medications, owners and veterinarians have to weigh the pros and cons of choosing Convenia over another antibiotic."
A veterinarian or technician injects Convenia under the pet’s skin during an appointment, eliminating the need for owners to give antibiotics at home. Owners understandably love the option, particularly for pets that are hard to medicate, but as with every medical decision, the choice to use a repositol form of antibiotic is not without its downsides. Convenia has been on the market in the United States now for five years and an analysis of its pros and cons can now be made.
The Upside of Treating Pets with Convenia
- Administration ease
- The injection is given at the veterinary office, and it works for up to 14 days.
- Owners do not need to take the time or develop the skills necessary for giving an antibiotic at home.
- Safety for owners - Animal bites and scratches put owners at risk for wounds and infections that can lead to pain, treatment costs, missed work, and possibly a disruption of the human-animal bond.
- Product efficacy
- Convenia is fast-acting. It starts working within 6 hours.
- Convenia is long-lasting. It remains at therapeutic levels in the body for up to 14 days.
- No missed doses – The realities of daily life make giving a pet a medication every day (sometimes two or three times a day) for two weeks difficult for many owners. Missing doses can promote bacterial resistance.
- Convenia works. Studies have shown that the antibiotic is over 95% effective in treating bacterial skin infections in dogs and cats.
The Downside of Treating Pets with Convenia
- Cost - This is usually only a factor in dogs that are over 20-30 pounds in weight. A two-week course of oral antibiotics in cats and small dogs costs approximately the same as does a dose of Convenia. In larger dogs, however, the cost can become prohibitive. $125 or more is not an unreasonable charge for giving a very large dog one dose of Convenia. Much cheaper, oral options are readily available, making the added cost of the injectable product only attractive for dogs that are very difficult to medicate at home.
- Adverse effects
- Like all cephalosporin antibiotics, Convenia has been associated with gastrointestinal side effects (e.g., vomiting, diarrhea, decreased appetite). The incidence is low (about 10% or less). Additionally, all cephalosporins can lower a pet’s seizure threshold, making animals that are prone to seizures, more likely to have them. These events are very rare, but can be a significant problem in certain individuals.
- Like all medications, there is a small chance of severe side effects such as anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction), blood cell abnormalities (e.g., hemolytic anemia), and death.
- Once Convenia is given, it remains active in the body for approximately two weeks. This can exacerbate any side effects that do develop since the first thing that veterinarians typically do when faced with an adverse drug reaction is to stop giving the drug.
- Possible increased bacterial resistance
- Since the drug remains in the tissues at subtherapeutic levels for approximately 65 days after injection, there is the possibility that bacteria can develop resistance to this medication.
- Additionally, this drug is a "big gun", meaning that it is a strong antibiotic from a class of drugs (third generation cephalosporins) that is generally reserved for infections that are not amenable to treatment with standard antibiotics. Over time, this may make weaker bacteria more resistant to these more powerful antibiotics.
Alternatives to Convenia
Other antibiotics may be a more appropriate choice for treating many infections in dogs and cats. Commonly used alternatives to Convenia include:
- Cephalexin given orally two or three times a day.
- Cefpodoxime proxetil (Simplicef) given orally once a day.
- Clindamycin (Antirobe) given orally once or twice a day.
- Amoxicillin/clavulanic acid (Clavamox) given orally twice a day
- Trimethoprim/sulfonamide (Tribrissen or Primor) given orally once or twice a day
When pets are resistant to being "pilled" owners can make use of treats designed to make giving oral medications easier (e.g., pill pockets) or a pet piller or even learn how to give injections of non-repositol type antibiotics (e.g., cefazolin or ceftazidime) at home.
As with all medications, owners and veterinarians have to weigh the pros and cons of choosing Convenia over another antibiotic. This risk-benefit analysis will be unique for each animal and owner and depends on the details of each case. Owners need to be informed of all of their options and the possible side effects associated with each before an educated decision about what type of treatment is best for their pets is possible.
Zoetis Drug Insert for Convenia. Distributed by Pfizer Animal Health, Div. of Pfizer Inc, New York, NY 10017. Revised June 2011.
Diagnosing and Treating Canine Bacterial Pyoderma. Atlantic Coast Veterinary Conference, 2010. Paul Bloom, DVM, DACVD, DABVP (Canine and Feline Specialty), Adjunct Assistant Professor, Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, Dept of Dermatology, Michigan State University; Allergy, Skin and Ear Clinic for Pets, Livonia, MI, USA. Accessed on Veterinary Information Network, October 2, 2013.
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