Every year the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association promotes an animal health week at the end of September. This August 28 – October 4 focused on Antimicrobial use and preventing resistance in response to a recent World Health Organization report on global antimicrobial resistance and Health Canada reviewing policy changes to reduce antibiotic resistance.
In the World Health Organization report they highlighted that a post-antimicrobial era is very likely, where common bacterial infections become fatal again just as they were before the discovery of antibiotics. This is because in most countries there is a growing number of antibiotics that are becoming useless because over half of the common infectious bacteria are resistant. To help prevent further antimicrobial resistance, all health organizations are focusing on prudent use rather than over-prescription. Thankfully, at the moment veterinarians are still able to use many antibiotics that human medicine often can’t due to resistance in bacteria but we are starting to see resistance developing as well. If we aren’t careful, we will follow the path of human medicine.
One of the best ways to prevent antibiotic resistance is through preventative medicine. By vaccinating pets to prevent illness, you reduce the number of times antibiotics are required. Healthy animals can also fight off infections better because their immune system is stronger. Therefore, the healthier we can keep our animals, the less they get sick. Of course, there will be accidents and times where they get sick but prompt treatment is another way to reduce the amount of antibiotics needed. Often things such as ear infections in dogs can be treated without antibiotics if caught early. Left too long however, not only do we need to treat with topical antimicrobials but often we need to add on oral antibiotics for the inner ear infection. Not only does this increase the risk of bacteria developing antimicrobial resistance but the cost of treatment increases as well. With chronic disease that is not treated promptly, often the pathology of the disease causes treatment failure and gives the more resistant bacteria a chance to survive and spread their method of resistance.
Other ways to reduce the prevalence of antimicrobial resistance is to follow your veterinarian’s instructions and finish the prescription if antimicrobials are required. To ensure that antibmicrobials are only used when required, your veterinarian needs to examine the pet and further diagnostics may be required.
Pet owners can do their part to keep these life saving drugs available in the future by working with their veterinarian to keep their pets healthy, promptly having illnesses examined and performing diagnostics rather than simply asking for antibiotics over the phone.
Dr. Ryan Ridgway, Dr. Lynn Smart