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Does your horse need antibiotics?

18 Dec 2013

Guidance for vets published by the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) has highlighted the problem of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in horses.

Antibiotics are lifesaving medicines that are widely used to treat disease caused by bacteria in animals and people. If these bacteria become resistant to antibiotics, it will mean a lack of effective treatments for some diseases in horses. Every time antibiotics are used, there is a possibility that some bacteria will become resistant, therefore it is vital that they are only used when absolutely needed. 

AMR in humans has now become such a problem that it has recently been classified as a clinical disease itself and it is starting to become a problem in horses as well. All major human health and veterinary organisations are trying to limit the development of resistance so antibiotics can still be used successfully.

There are simple steps that everyone can take to minimise the need for antibiotics. Good hygiene and stable management are key to reducing the risk of infection spreading between animals. It’s easily forgotten on the yard, but washing hands regularly with soap when working with horses is important (even after feeding and grooming) to remove germs that could affect humans or equines.

Many diseases in horses can appear similar to those cause by bacteria, such as allergic and viral diseases, but not respond to antibiotics. Antibiotics are not always needed in diseases caused by bacteria, since many horses are able to fight these infections themselves. Your vet will only prescribe antibiotics for diseases causes by bacteria, and only if they are really needed. 

Don’t forget: the BHS strongly recommends you seek veterinary advice as soon as possible if you are ever worried about an aspect of your horse’s health. Your vet will then be able to advise you on what treatments, if any, are best for the individual horse.

For more information, contact your vet, find more health advice from our Welfare team or read the BEVA's advice for owners (pdf).

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