Horse owners are being urged not to hoard previously prescribed antibiotics “for a rainy day”, with Britain’s lead equine veterinary body describing the use of old antibiotics as irresponsible and potentially dangerous.
The warning by the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) comes on the eve of this year’s Antimicrobial Awareness Week, from November 8 to 24.
BEVA’s Immediate Past President David Rendle, RCVS and European Specialist in Equine Internal Medicine, said giving leftover antibiotics to horses for a suspected infection “could make things worse, as they might not be the right type of antibiotic for that specific infection and could easily contribute to the problem of resistance,” Rendle said.
“People also forget that antibiotics are not without risk and their use can trigger serious – even fatal – intestinal disease.”
The responsible use of antimicrobials (also known as antibiotics) is essential to help prevent widespread resistance and to ensure continued availability of antimicrobials both in terms of effectiveness and legislation.
Multidrug-resistant bacteria are an increasing problem in equine practice. Affected horses have longer recovery times, and their owners are faced with higher costs of treatment.
BEVA President Roger Smith said that if too little of an antibiotic was given, or not enough for the course that is required, the infection is unlikely to be sufficiently treated, and the risk of resistant bacteria increases.
“It is crucial not to throw old medicines away in the rubbish or flush them down the loo, as they can eventually return to the environment, contaminating soil and watercourses and causing damage to wildlife,” Smith said.
“The problems we are seeing with antimicrobial resistance is relevant to all vets and all horse owners, and we must all act to reduce the development of resistance.”
BEVA is asking horse owners to give any leftover antibiotics back to their vet, when they are next visiting.
BEVA has developed the “Protect Me” toolkit to help vets develop practice policies for the responsible use of antibiotics. It includes posters and information sheets to help horse owners understand more about the importance of antimicrobial resistance and why antibiotics are not always required.
The Equine Veterinary Journal has also just released a free virtual issue on antimicrobial resistance, Antibiotic use and AMR in Equine Practice.
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