In order to minimize the use of antimicrobials, there is a need for awareness campaigns on the risks of antimicrobial resistance due to their excessive and improper use and the consequences of the resistance for human beings and society in general. Continuing training events for professionals on diagnosis, treatment and prevention of infectious diseases and the appropriate use of antimicrobials are also necessary.

In addition to preventing the presence of residues in food, the proper use of antimicrobials, especially in livestock, is fundamental to ensure the effectiveness of therapies and to limit the occurrence of antibiotic resistant germs that could subsequently contaminate food of animal origin.

Even the pet sector plays an important role in reducing and preventing the spread of resistance.

Pamphlet Correct use of antimicrobials in pets provides pet keepers and attending veterinarians with useful information on this subject.  

The role of the attending veterinarian

The attending veterinarian should educate animal owners about the correct management of the animals themselves or the pertinent farming system in order to prevent common diseases.

Moreover, they should ensure that antimicrobials and other medicines are only used as recommended (dosage and duration), limit their administration only to sick animals or animals at real risk of disease and, possibly, only after the establishment of a firm diagnosis even through appropriate lab investigations.

Independent veterinarians are responsible for the correct management of the stock of medicines and the record of therapies in the register of treatments for livestock.

It is essential that all independent veterinarians have full mastery of the basic concepts relating to the responsible use of antimicrobials, which are briefly resumed in the points below:

  • The use of antimicrobials should be avoided where a replacement therapy is available;
  • antimicrobials that are not used in human medicine should always be the first choice than molecules of the same class used in human medicine;
  • the antimicrobial should be chosen in line with the sensitivity of the target bacterial species and administered at doses as recommended in the package leaflet, conforming with the marketing authorization; 
  • the choice of the medicine and the route of administration should be based on the lab data and the instructions provided in the package leaflet, and supported by any other information available and updated on both pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics;
  • registered products for the treatment of the specific disease should always be used;
  • antimicrobial metaphylaxis should be prescribed only when there is a real need for treatment. It should be limited to cases where there is evidence that the animal is at real risk of infection and that this use can actually reduce mortality or morbidity in the group;
  • the use of antimicrobials should always be based on the results of the susceptibility testing or, if this is not possible, the therapy should be based on local epidemiological data (obtained at regional level or from a single company) concerning the sensitivity of the target bacteria; 
  • critical antibiotics for human health, such as 3rd- and 4th-generation cephalosporins and fluoroquinolones should only be used based on the results of the susceptibility testing and only in cases where other antimicrobials had no effect or they are believed to have no effect. As for the possible impact on the development of resistance in pathogens relevant to public health, the exceptional use of cephalosporins in livestock should be avoided;
  • in order to minimize the exposure of non-target bacterial populations to the antibiotics, the more narrow-spectrum antibiotics with the highest in vitro efficacy against the specific bacterial species should always be used;
  • the in vitro susceptibility and the therapeutic response should be monitored periodically, particularly for the routine therapy;
  • the local use of the antimicrobial should generally be preferred to the systemic use, except for products with this particular indication; 
  • the treatment of chronic cases should be avoided, if little chance of success is expected; 
  • antimicrobials with specific efficacy against MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus) should not be used in the veterinary sector. Moreover, since no MRL have been established for these substances, any possible use in the productive livestock is excluded. Surgical protocols should emphasize the use of strict aseptic techniques instead of medical prophylaxis based on the use of antimicrobials; 
  • antimicrobials should be used in accordance with the indications and dosages approved;
  • the empirical combination of different medicines and in particular the “antimicrobial cocktails” should be avoided;
  • the unnecessary use of antimicrobials should be avoided (viral infections, self-limiting infections);
  • the possible lack of clinical response to a therapeutic treatment should be immediately reported to the Competent Authority, as prescribed by law.

Requirements for animal owners and farmers

Even pet or livestock owners should be aware that often a few simple precautions to improve environmental, nutritional, hygienic and health conditions of the animals assisted are sufficient to ensure the physical conditions and welfare necessary to develop a solid immunity protecting them from pathogens coming from the external environment. This will reduce as much as possible the use of antimicrobials and medicinal products in general. Even if the use of antimicrobials is necessary, it is essential that those in charge of the animals are properly informed on the correct management of the therapy prescribed by the veterinarian.       

The concepts listed above can be resumed in the following general practices:

  1. Preventing common diseases thanks to appropriate farming systems aimed at ensuring:
    • suitable hygiene and health conditions;
    • high-quality feed;
    • protection from atmospheric agents;
    • implementation of appropriate biosafety measures;
    • use of vaccines;
    • regular clinical examinations;
    • pest control.
  2. Actively cooperating with the veterinarian/farm veterinarian to identify the best therapies
  3. Using antimicrobials and other medicinal products only as prescribed
  4. Adequately storing antimicrobials and other medicines and disposing expired or unused drugs as indicated in the package leaflet/labels or as recommended by the veterinarian
  5. Using medicines with a view to minimizing environmental contamination
  6. Recording the treatments (if required by law)
  7. Promptly notifying the veterinarian if there is no clinical response to a therapeutic treatment

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Data di pubblicazione: 19 gennaio 2017, ultimo aggiornamento 24 gennaio 2019

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