Avoiding Antibiotic Resistance in Equine Medicine

Although antibiotic resistance is not as serious a problem for horses as it is for people, the equine industry should use antibiotics judiciously, so they will continue to work against bacteria that cause disease--not just for the benefit of horses, but for people, too, said Steeve Giguère, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM.

At the 2010 Western Veterinary Conference, held Feb. 14-18 in Las Vegas, Nev., Giguère, professor and Marguerite Thomas Hodgson Research Chair in Equine Studies at the University of Georgia's College of Veterinary Medicine, discussed ways to keep these important drugs working at a seminar sponsored by Pfizer Animal Health, maker of a new formulation of the antibiotic ceftiofur (Excede).

"Only use antibiotics when there is a strong likelihood that you are dealing with a bacterial infection," Giguère recommended. "For instance, if a horse has a high fever and a little bit of a snotty nose that horse is more likely to have a viral infection, and in that case, antibiotics would not be indicated."

Veterinarians also need to select the correct antibiotic for the organisms involved.

"Try to use drugs that are labeled for the species for which you are prescribing it," Giguère said. "If you stick to a labeled drug that means the appropriate efficacy and safety studies have been done in that species."

Try to use antibiotics for as short a duration as possible, but horse owners should finish the course prescribed by the veterinarian--don't save "extras." Make sure that you give the antibiotic as prescribed so enough of the drug gets to the site of the infection. Ask your veterinarian about antibiotics that can be dosed once or twice a day to make sure that you can comply with the schedule.

Giguère also recommended that veterinarians and horse owners avoid using antibiotics that are essential for treating serious infections in people, such as vancomycin and imipenem.

About the Author

Marie Rosenthal, MS

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