Antibiotic Use in Horses; Big Changes Coming!

The worldwide human and veterinarian use of antibiotics is leading to an increase in antimicrobial resistance (ABR). ABR is becoming increasingly worse through the overuse of antimicrobial medicines and by not using antimicrobial medicines correctly. The result of this is that common infections are becoming more difficult to treat and so called ‘superbugs’ developing. The issue with this is that many antibiotics stop working against these ‘superbugs’ and we end up dying of bacterial infections as before the invention of penicillin in 1928.

ABR is especially a threat to individuals, such as horse owners, who handle and use antibiotics on a regular basis. To deal with this problem and reduce the use of antibiotics and anti-parasite treatments the “One Health” project was set up. The “One Health” concept recognises that the health of people is connected to the health of animals and the health of the environment. This view is implemented and enforced throughout the entire EU. There are some very practical consequences for the use of antibiotics in the equine industry.

Some features of antibiotics are as follows:
Antibiotics are classified in 4 groups.

  • There are only few antibiotics that can be used “as we are used to” and can be handed out by your veterinarians.
  • Most antibiotics are only allowed to be used if a laboratory test shows which antibiotics are effective against the given infection.
  • The requirement of a lab test will lead to extra costs and often delay a treatment.
  • The preventive use of antibiotics is practically forbidden.
  • Control on the use of antibiotics is very closely monitored by the Department of Agriculture. The extensive network of Jocky club and DAFM inspectors have full authority to carry out inspections, fine and charge people for offences by every member of the industry.

There is no doubt that our business, and I am sure our clients, can do without more regulations and added costs. I also think it is essential to focus on the importance of reducing antimicrobial resistance (AMR) for the sake of all our personal and animal’s health.

Please see below (a simplified) schedule explaining the responsible use of several commonly used antibiotics in the equine industry. I believe they’re some very real changes needed in the way we look at using antibiotics, but I am sure we can find newer and better ways to deal with infections and the use of antibiotics in our horses.

Please feel free to contact the office for any questions you might have.

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