Scrutiny is growing around the use of antibiotics in companion animals, especially horses and dogs, the Australian Veterinary Association said in announcing its support of Australian Antibiotic Awareness Week.
The association is promoting the important role of veterinarians in responsible use of antibiotics as part of the awareness week, which began yesterday and runs until Sunday.
The chairman of the association’s Therapeutics Advisory Committee, Dr Stephen Page, said that while veterinary use of antibiotics in food animals remained at the forefront of the debate on this issue, there was increasing interest in the use of antibiotics in companion animal species, particularly dogs and horses.
“Resistant ‘superbugs’ are a concern for both human and animal health,” Page said.
“But we are fortunate that Australia has one of the most stringent systems in the world for approving antibiotics for use in food animals which means the likelihood of selecting superbugs is minimised.
“Many of the critically important antibiotics for humans are simply not available for use in food animals here,” Page said.
“Hygienic food preparation and proper cooking will remove the risk of transfer of susceptible and resistance bacteria from food to people and is an important human health measure.
“Antibiotic-resistant infections in humans can also occur following close physical contact with animals and their environment.
“Farm workers and owners of pets being treated with antibiotics need to pay particular attention to hygiene during and after handling treated animals.
“Our pets and other animals can also acquire resistant bugs from us humans, which is another excellent reason to implement hygienic measures, especially hand washing, around all animals.
“The association has been actively involved in fighting resistance for more than 30 years with the development of guidelines, codes of practice and policies on appropriate use of antibiotics in animals. But the profession recognises that it cannot be complacent and must continuously review its practices and improve them wherever needed,” he said.
Antimicrobial resistance was the theme of this year’s World Veterinary Day and the association will be joining other human health disciplines to support the first Australian Antibiotic Awareness Week, he said.
Antibiotic Awareness Week is a global initiative encouraging health professionals and the wider community to learn more about antibiotic resistance and the importance of taking medicines appropriately.