Animal owners and antibiotic resistant infections

Animal owners have a part to play in the prevention of antibiotic resistant infections.

Antibiotic resistant infections occur when bacteria become resistant to antibiotics, meaning some infections may be impossible to treat.

Antibiotic resistant infections will increase if antibiotics are used inappropriately so if your animals are prescribed antibiotics, follow the directions, finish the prescription, and don’t use on other animals.

Very few new antibiotics are being developed, so all users of antibiotics have an important role to play in reducing the risks.

You and your animals may catch antibiotic resistant bacteria from each other, meaning antibiotics may not work the next time you get sick.

Follow your vet’s advice on the best treatment for your animals — antibiotics aren’t always the answer and using them properly can mean additional testing costs.

What can I do?

You can minimise reliance on antibiotics by several means, including:

  • maintaining the general health of your animals
  • ensuring housing, feed and bedding is clean
  • vaccinating against preventable diseases
  • practicing good hygiene and biosecurity
  • engaging expertise to develop herd/flock health plans.

You should isolate sick animals and consult your vet early. They will be able to assess any need for treatment with antibiotics.

Remember, antibiotics don't work against viral infections like flu.

You can discuss with your vet about undertaking further laboratory testing (culture and sensitivity) to ensure that antibiotic treatments provided will give the most effective and fastest outcome. There will be a cost for this process but it has the potential to provide a better outcome.

Follow the advice of your vet, including when they do not recommend antibiotics. They may suggest a careful monitor and wait approach to treating your animals.

You should not use or source antibiotics from persons other than your vet. Be aware that there is an increasing problem globally with drug fraud, whereby illicit suppliers are supplying ineffective, or lower dose, alternatives to the drugs that are advertised.

Become an Antibiotic Guardian

Agriculture Victoria has partnered with Australian bodies representing the human and animal health professions and livestock industries, and the UK-based Public Health England, to encourage people to commit to good antibiotic use practices.

You are encouraged to make a pledge to follow these principles by signing up to become an Antibiotic Guardian.

To become and Antibiotic Guardian, visit the Antibiotic Guardian website.

What is being done to tackle the problem?

National Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy

The Australian Government has released Australia’s National Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy - 2020 and Beyond (the 2020 Strategy). Building on Australia’s First National AMR Strategy 2015-2019, the 2020 Strategy sets a 20-year vision to protect the health of humans, animals and the environment through minimising the development and spread of AMR while continuing to have effective antimicrobials available.

The 2020 Strategy focuses on achieving seven objectives:

  1. Clear governance for antimicrobial resistance initiatives
  2. Prevention and control of infections and the spread of resistance
  3. Greater engagement in the combat against resistance
  4. Appropriate usage and stewardship practices
  5. Integrated surveillance and response to resistance and usage
  6. A strong collaborative research agenda across all sectors
  7. Strengthen global collaboration and partnerships.

Livestock industry sectors

Animal Health Australia have published an overview of Antimicrobial Stewardship in Australian Livestock Industries that addresses actions that are underway or planned in the pork, poultry, red meat and dairy sectors. The document outlines the policy towards and use of antimicrobials in these sectors.

World Antibiotic Awareness Week

In November each year, the World Health Organisation promotes World Antibiotic Awareness Week, including providing educational materials to pet owners.

The week is also promoted in Australia by the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care.

Visit these websites for more information and for details of activities happening in your area, to download resources and for suggestions to follow on social media for regular updates.

The Working together towards responsible antimicrobial use video contains more information about the causes and effects of antibiotic resistant infections in humans, which are applicable to animals too

What is happening globally to tackle the problem?

Antibiotic resistant infections are an international challenge. No country can address this serious threat alone.

The World Health Organisation, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations have formed a tripartite alliance to tackle the problem of antibiotic resistant infections amongst human, animal and plant health sectors.

Globally, industry and vets are increasingly aware of the importance of tackling antibiotic resistance and the FAO has videos that show case studies from around the globe, for example:

Further information

Page last updated: 10 Jul 2020