You may not have heard about metronidazole, but this antibiotic has been used for decades to treat bacterial infections in humans and animals. This medication is available both over-the-counter and with your veterinarian’s prescription. Metronidazole is most commonly used to treat bacterial infections of the gastrointestinal system, genitourinary system, and bloodstream.

Metronidazole can be purchased over the counter in several different forms: as a suspension, gel, or tablet. While human versions of metronidazole are only approved for use in adults and older children, veterinarians can legally prescribe any version of this medication for animals.

Let’s take a look at when you might need to purchase metronidazole OTC vs getting it from your vet.

What is metronidazole?

Metronidazole, a synthetic drug, is used primarily as an antibiotic. It is a beta-lactam, meaning that it works by disrupting the bacterial cell wall. Due to its mechanism of action, metronidazole is particularly useful against anaerobic bacteria, which are those that grow in the absence of oxygen. Anaerobic bacteria are most often associated with the gastrointestinal, genitourinary, and pulmonary tracts.

Metronidazole has a wide range of indications and can be used to treat infections of the gastrointestinal tract, genitourinary tract, central nervous system, and respiratory tract. It is commonly used to treat parasites, including giardia and amoebae.

When should you buy metronidazole over the counter?

Metronidazole is only indicated for the treatment of specific infections. Your veterinarian will be able to tell if metronidazole is right for your pet based on a physical examination and a diagnostic test.

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A sample of your pet’s urine or feces can be sent to a laboratory to determine if there are any bacteria present. If your pet is experiencing gastrointestinal or urinary tract pain, they may benefit from metronidazole without knowing the specific bacteria or parasites that are causing the problem.

Some of the conditions that metronidazole OTC can treat include: Anal fur mites Cystitis Giardia Intestinal parasites Urinary bladder crystals Urinary tract infections

  • Anal fur mites: This is a common condition in rabbits that can also affect some rodents and ferrets. This may require a prescription medication to treat.
  • Cystitis: This condition is associated with painful urination.

Metronidazole OTC is effective for most cases, but if the infection is severe enough to cause blood in the urine, this requires a prescription medication.

  • Giardia: This protozoan is a common cause of gastrointestinal upset.
  • Intestinal parasites: These can be effectively treated with oral medications.
  • Urinary bladder crystals: These cause irritation and pain in dogs and cats.

When should you seek a veterinarian’s prescription for metronidazole?

When your pet has bacterial infections in their bloodstream or central nervous system, they will almost always require a veterinarian’s prescription for metronidazole. If your pet is experiencing gastrointestinal or urinary tract pain, but no bacterial growth is found in a diagnostic test, your veterinarian may recommend a prescription.

Some of the conditions that require a veterinarian’s prescription for metronidazole include:

Bacterial infections of the bloodstream Bacterial infections of the central nervous system Giardia infections in kittens that are younger than 6 weeks Giardia infections in pregnant or nursing animals Toxoplasmosis infections

  • Bacterial infections of the bloodstream: If bacteria has migrated into your pet’s bloodstream, it can be fatal.
  • Bacterial infections of the central nervous system: If bacteria has migrated into your pet’s spinal fluid, it can be fatal.
  • Giardia infections in kittens that are younger than 6 weeks: Kittens have immature immune systems, and giardia infections in them can be more severe.
  • Giardia infections in pregnant or nursing animals: Infections in these animals can be more severe.
  • Toxoplasmosis infections: This is a serious infection that can be fatal.
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How to buy metronidazole OTC?


If your veterinarian recommends metronidazole and there is no bacterial evidence in a diagnostic test, they will likely prescribe a lower dosage than they would for an infection. This can be confusing when deciding which OTC product to buy.

All of the following products contain low doses of metronidazole. Dilantin 10mg/mL suspension, Exelfin 10mg/mL suspension, Flagyl 10mg/mL suspension, VetRx 10mg/mL suspension, and PAR 10mg/mL suspension.

If your veterinarian recommends metronidazole and there is bacterial evidence in a diagnostic test, they will likely prescribe a higher dosage than they would for an infection without evidence.

A sample of your pet’s urine or feces can be sent to a laboratory to determine which bacteria are present. This can help inform your veterinarian’s decision. If your veterinarian prescribes metronidazole, they will likely prescribe a specific product and dosage.

Final Thoughts

Metronidazole is an antibiotic that can be purchased over the counter. All of the following products contain low doses of metronidazole.

When your veterinarian recommends metronidazole and there is bacterial evidence in a diagnostic test, they will likely prescribe a higher dosage than they would for an infection without evidence.

A sample of your pet’s urine or feces can be sent to a laboratory to determine which bacteria are present. This can help inform your veterinarian’s decision.


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The wealthformyhealth.com team is composed of doctors and few students in their final year of medicine who have decided to popularize and share their knowledge.