Antimicrobial Resistance

by Dr. Susan Hore, DVM April 17, 2017

Antimicrobial resistance is something we have be hearing about more and more often.  This is the ability of a microbe to change over time and become resistant to medications (such as antibiotics and antifungals) so that they are no longer an effective treatment. Similar situations can occur with insects and insecticides. As a part of evolution, organisms adapt and adjust to conditions in their environment naturally over time, in order to survive. 

Antibiotics can be life-saving in some situations, so it is important to have effective antibiotics when these situations arise.  What can you as a pet owner do to reduce the likelihood of antibiotic resistance?

  1. Make sure not to misuse or overuse antibiotics:
    • Viral infections are not susceptible to antibiotics. These drugs only work on bacterial infections.
    • Localized bacterial infections often don’t require antibiotics. For example, an abscess that is walled off from the body and draining, or a localized skin infection may only need topical therapy.
    • Question if antibiotics are needed when prescribed prophylactically for routine surgeries or dentistry.
    • When your vet decides that an antibiotic is necessary, a culture and sensitivity test before treatment can help to know which antibiotic will work most effectively and help to avoid treatment failures.
  2. If using antibiotics, follow your veterinarian’s instructions – only use them in the animal they’re prescribed for, give the proper dose and continue for the prescribed duration.
  3. As a consumer, your decisions when shopping for meat can make a difference. Low levels of antibiotics are sometimes used in animal feeds as a means of disease control and to promote growth.  This practice is associated with increasing antibiotic resistance.  Buying from a local farmer that you know and trust is a way of supporting agricultural practices that you feel are important.

Although many antibiotics, insecticides, and herbicides can have miraculous effects when first introduced, it seems inevitable that over time they will lose their efficacy, as we are already starting to see especially with antibiotics.  What does this mean for ourselves and our pets?  Is it realistic to think that we will always have better, stronger drugs?  Or is there another way to think about the problem? Rather than trying to conquer and destroy other organisms living in our shared environment, is it possible to improve the health of the individual, to strengthen their defenses and decrease their susceptibility to disease?  Could this be a better long term strategy for our own health, our animals’ health and the planet’s health?  Consider looking at your dog’s health from a different angle - that health isn’t always dependant on the destruction or total avoidance of other organisms in our environment but that the basis of health starts from within.

Dr. Susan Hore, DVM
Dr. Susan Hore, DVM