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Animals, like people, suffer from disease and require proper care from the veterinarian, the farmer and the pet owner. When disease occurs, diagnosis and treatment under veterinary care should follow. Whenever possible, prevention is always better than cure. Keeping animals healthy and treating them with dignity is one of the main objectives of the animal health industry and applies equally to companion animals, livestock and wild animals.

Addressing misperceptions about antibiotic use in animal health

IFAH-Europe supports the Responsible Use of antibiotics. This means use in the context of biosecurity, good housing and ventilation, good hygiene, appropriate nutrition, regular monitoring of animal health and welfare, animal health planning, use of diagnostics, vaccination, and using and maintaining the pharmacovigilance system when necessary, as well as the use of antibiotics under veterinary prescription.

Responsible Use also means ensuring transparency on how antibiotics are used. By highlighting the facts about the use of antibiotics in animal health we hope to address some general misperceptions. 


Are antibiotics given to animals without diagnosis?

According to EU law, when antibiotics are needed for animals, they can only be prescribed by a veterinary surgeon. A vet will not prescribe an antibiotic if it is not appropriate and it is particularly important that when antibiotics are prescribed, the instructions are followed exactly as directed by the veterinary surgeon. Practically, this means giving the animal the correct dose of antibiotic for the entire duration of treatment.

This ensures that animals receive the optimal dose of antibiotic, for the required amount of time to inhibit or kill the bacteria causing the infection or disease. Reducing the duration of treatment or reducing the dose prescribed can impact on the effectiveness of treatment and allow the survival of resistant bacteria.



Do farm animals really need antibiotics?

No matter the type of farming practice, animals can get sick and we have a moral obligation to keep our animals healthy.

Managing animal health often relies on the use of veterinary medicines, including antibiotics. Farmers, vets and all those involved in the care of animals also have a legal duty to protect the health and welfare of animals under their care and so they should have access to the necessary tools to do so. 


Is AMR a new phenomenon?

Science shows that long before antibiotics were used in medicine, antibiotic-resistant bacteria existed. Strains of bacteria with the ability to inactivate modern antibiotics were discovered in silt deposits dating back 30,000 years, so this phenomenon is neither new, nor is its origin necessarily a product of human activity. Alexander Fleming the pioneer of penicillin rang the warning bell during his Nobel Prize acceptance speech in 1945, saying that, “…the ignorant man may easily underdose himself and by exposing his microbes to non-lethal quantities of the drug make them resistant.”

So, whilst this is not a new phenomenon, it is a growing challenge that requires concerted efforts from all parties involved to use antibiotics responsibly in order to safeguard their future use.


Are antibiotics overused in animal production?

Animals, just like people, suffer from disease and require proper care from the veterinarian, the farmer and the pet owner. Like with all animal medicines, we promote the responsible use of antibiotics when treating bacterial disease in all animals, both pets and farm animals.

This means using the correct amounts, for the correct length of time, when necessary and only under veterinary prescription. Responsible use of medicines in animals is based on a holistic approach of minimising disease through concepts including: biosecurity (for farms), good housing, good hygiene, appropriate nutrition, regular monitoring of health and welfare including vaccination when advised, and herd health planning on farms.
Watch our animation for more info.