using the same that you used for a prior situation
since you need your horse for an upcoming show and can’t
be without him.
A final situation you have likely encountered as a horse
own is a puncture wound. You will likely clean and flush
the wound yourself since you have either dealt with them
before or have seen your vet do it many times. Then you
consider running down to the feed store to get some
antibiotics to give the horse. You assume a little bit
of antibiotics will take care of the problem and you
won’t have to go to the veterinarian to take care of
As a horse owner you have likely been involved in some
variation of these situations. However, you may be
surprised to learn that all of these situations have
inappropriate use of antibiotics in them and are a
contributing factor to a problem that veterinary
medicine is facing today. That is the major problem of
it is not really correct to single out veterinary
medicine for this problem since resistant bacteria is
also becoming a rampant problem in human medicine as
well. Likely you have read about the flesh-eating
bacteria that most drugs can’t stop or about the
antibiotic-resistant staph and strep infections that
make a common cold and skin abrasion very deadly.
There is a long history of over using antibiotics in
human medicine. Antibiotics used to be given to any
child with a minor ear infection. Everywhere you can
find and use drugs like topical Neosporin or other skin
antibiotics. You can even find antibiotic cream built
right in to adhesive bandages. Any potential infection
suggests the use of antibiotics as a result of how well
they work and often people receive a dose.
However, the bacterium has adapted. After bacteria have
been exposed to antibiotics over countless generations
they are no longer sensitive and have altered
themselves. Newer and more powerful antibiotics have
been developed by researchers but they bacteria are
starting to adapt faster than production can face the
problem. This is helping to make antibiotic resistance
come to the forefront.
In an effort to make some recommendations and some
restrictions the Food and Drug Administration is
starting to look closely at all the uses of antibiotics.
Areas of concern do exist is the veterinary community
despite the fact that it has done a pretty good job of
using antibiotics wisely. For example, a very effective
drug in horses is penicillin which has almost completely
disappeared in human medicine. One of the areas of
concern is the use of antibiotics in food products for
animals and sub-therapeutic dosing practices.
Antibiotics are found in many types of animal feed to
help reduce the problems found in animals that eat them.
However, the FDA is questing the necessity of this
antibiotic feeding and whether or not it is actually
benefiting animals along with the thought that it may be
leading to antibiotic resistance.
Antibiotics that are given at a dose below the required
amount to correctly treat a condition is known as
sub-therapeutic dosing. This typically happens if a
non-veterinarian inaccurately calculates the dose,
frequency or tries to reduce treatment in an effort to
The link between veterinary antibiotic use and the
development of resistance has very little research as
many veterinarians will point out. Veterinarians will
urge caution in the face of sweeping and restrictive
changes even though they generally agree that
improvement should be made and often believe that the
FDA does not have all the information that it needs.
The American Veterinary Medical Association has recently
called for veterinarians to protect the effectiveness of
antibiotics that are currently on the market since the
FDA approval of new products is likely to be slow until
the issue of resistance can be dealt with.
A position statement has been produced by the AVMA that
states, “When the decision is reached to use
antimicrobials for therapy, veterinarians should strive
to optimize therapeutic efficiency and to minimize
resistance to antimicrobials to protect public and
The AVMA has also stated that the therapy of the animal
patients is affected by antimicrobial resistance and
that they are both concerned and cognizant of this
effect and will make efforts to reduce the resistance as
much as possible.
Some objectives have been produced by the AVMA with
these goals in mind. These objectives are important for
horse owners who occasionally use antibiotics. A call
for more scientific research is included in the
objectives to help decide the proper use of therapeutic
antibiotics. They have also called for educational
efforts to inform veterinarians, owners, trainers and
those who care for animals regarding the proper use of
The AVMA is urging veterinarians to review preventive
strategies with horse owners to achieve this. Among
these strategies are the appropriate feeding and
husbandry concerns such as hygiene, routine health
monitoring and immunization.
Before using antibiotics other options should be
considered including the use of herbal and holistic
medicines, physical therapy and immune stimulants. The
appropriate drug for the condition should be chosen if
antibiotics need to be used. A narrow-spectrum drug
should be used by veterinarians rather than drugs that
are broad-spectrum and to use the simplest product
possible to help the problem.
The worry of veterinarians is that horses and animals in
general will have more wound infections, sinus colds and
other maladies once the restrictions of antibiotics is
started. For both veterinarians and owners clinical
cases without antibiotics will be very different since
antibiotics have become a big part of treatment.
However, the potential consequences of overuse and
resistance are so serious that it is important to form
new habits. The ability to treat and cure in the coming
millennium may depend on it entirely.