Pets and antibiotics: a warning from vets

Antibiotic resistance has become a major threat to human and animal health. World health authorities agree that unless drastic action is taken, mankind will increasingly lose the war against disease.

What causes antibiotic resistance?

The overuse and inappropriate use of antimicrobial drugs in humans, animals and crops have dramatically accelerated the emergence of what is known as antimicrobial resistance. This includes:

  • overprescribing by medical practitioners
  • over-the-counter use of antibiotics worldwide
  • the use of antibiotics in the feed and water of food-producing animals

These behaviours lead to the release of antibiotics into the ecosystems that provide the numerous routes through which resistant bacteria can spread; genes that code for resistance can spread; resistance genes can be exchanges; and bacteria can be exposed to antibiotics, thereby driving the emergence of resistance.

Resistance to antibiotics develops the more an antibiotic is used and when it is used over longer periods of time.  The basic principle of antibiotic use as endorsed by the World Veterinary Association is that antibiotics should be used for as long as needed but for the shortest duration necessary and at the appropriate dose and dosage intervals.

What can I do as a pet owner?

  1. Always use antibiotics under veterinary supervision only.
  2. Use only when really needed.
  3. Never use expired antibiotics.
  4. Never give your pet antibiotics meant for another pet or for humans.
  5. Stick to the recommended dose. Never over dose or stop before the prescribed dosage is complete.
  6. Keep your pets healthy by keeping their vaccinations up to date and feeding the most nutritious food you can afford. Keep kennels and bedding clean, ensure their play area is hygienic and keep parasites under control.

Poor sanitation and hygiene is a a major contributor globally to the emergence of antimicrobial resistance because it requires the use of more antibiotics and significantly increases the numbers of resistant bacterial organisms.