Katherine Bryson, RVT
How many of you have “left over” antibiotics sitting around your drug cabinet? I too am guilty..
Annually during the last week of September/first week of October the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association holds animal health week. Veterinarians and veterinary staff across the country celebrate their profession, their patients and their clients. Each year a new theme is selected with the goal of educating the public. This year the slogan is “Our role, our responsibility” to create awareness on appropriate antibiotic use. Since the discovery of penicillin by Sir Alexander Flemming in 1928, antibiotics have saved many lives. We now face a new challenge: antibiotic resistance.
Antibiotics are used to treat infections. Infections are created when bacteria invade the body and overwhelm the immune system. Antibiotics are listed in different classifications, depending on the bacteria they treat and the way in which they do it. This is why your veterinarian may prescribe different antibiotics for your pet depending on their condition, or they may switch medications depending on the response to treatment.
Antibiotic resistance is when bacteria, which would normally have been treated with a particular antibiotic, become immune to the medication. This allows the bacteria and infection to continue to live and thrive inside your pet. These resistant “super bugs” are created when exposed to low levels of antibiotics, giving them just enough medication to develop immunity but not enough to actually kill them. Unfortunately this occurs in both humans and animals, making this topic even more important.
Severe antibiotic resistance is a threat that we may be faced with in the future. Among the veterinary industry there are many examples of pets who have bacteria which are resistant to many different antibiotics. This problem affects the treatment of your pet and their overall progress against fighting an infection.
What are veterinarians and veterinary staff doing to prevent this?
Prescribing antibiotics only when absolutely needed. In the past many healthy pets who received dental cleanings would routinely go home with antibiotics. New research has found that this is not required. By limiting the number of antibiotics used we can decrease the possibility of creating antibiotic resistance.
Prescribing the right antibiotics needed to treat the problem. More and more veterinarians are using a laboratory test called culture and sensitivity. This test sends the bacteria to an outside laboratory to find the best antibiotic to use.
Training. Many veterinarians have taken extra training in the prevention of antibiotic resistance. Dr. Claudia, Dr. David and Katherine took this training in February. Many provinces have created mandatory training to better educate their veterinarians.
Education. By sharing our knowledge we can help prevent further antibiotic resistance.
How can you, the pet owner, help prevent this?
Give antibiotics to your pets only when prescribed by a licensed veterinarian. Advice is always free, call us before starting your pet on any medications (including human medications).
Complete the entire course of treatment. Stopping any medication early can be detrimental to your pets health. Antibiotics are prescribed for a certain period of time (sometimes long) to ensure all bacteria are killed. When treatment is stopped prematurely super bugs can be created.
Give the antibiotics according to the medication label. If the label says to give the medication every 12 hours, it is very important that the medication be given at that time. Certain medications only last a particular period of time in the blood stream. If too much time is taken between doses the drug will not be as effective and bacteria can be improperly exposed.
Ask questions. If you do not understand why your pet is on a certain medication, or what the medication if for ASK. Veterinarians try very hard to cover everything in your pets appointment. Sometimes the veterinarian may not explain things in a way that your understand. An open line of communication is very important no matter what condition your pet has.
If you have any questions about antibiotic resistance do not hesitate to call us at (902) 838-1800.