Veterinary antibiotics to become prescription only

Highlights

  • In December 2018, regulatory changes mean veterinary antibiotics will be available by prescription only
  • Medicated feed that contain antibiotics, including for growth promotion will require a prescription as well
  • A valid veterinarian-client-patient relationship must be in place before prescriptions are written 

Major changes are coming to antibiotic access for livestock producers across the country. Regulatory changes by Health Canada that are set to take effect in December 2018 will see veterinary antibiotics available by prescription only.

Along with the need for prescriptions from veterinarians, the use of antibiotics for growth promotion will be discontinued. A prescription will also be required for any medicated feed (including chick starter) that contains an antibiotic.

The changes are fuelled by fears of antibiotic overuse and the growing resistance of bacteria to antibiotics within the human population. Humans and animals share many of the same bacteria and some livestock pathogens can infect humans.

The changes are fuelled by fears of antibiotic overuse and the growing resistance of bacteria to antibiotics within the human population. Humans and animals share many of the same bacteria and some livestock pathogens can infect humans.

Some of the public fears regarding the use of antibiotics in livestock may be misguided, but it’s difficult to counter fear with facts according to Wendy Wilkins, a veterinarian with the livestock branch of the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture.

She points out that additional oversight seems warranted given that antibiotic use within livestock is greater than within the human population. Recent research shows that farm animals on a per pound basis in this country receive roughly 1.6 times more antibiotics than the human population.

Efforts to reduce antibiotic use have been underway for some time within the livestock industry. For example, Chicken Farmers of Canada has a strategy to eliminate the preventative use of antimicrobials that have human importance.

Wilkins says it’s important to note that when an animal is sick, getting a prescription from a veterinarian is not a rubber stamp. A valid veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR) must be in place before prescriptions are written. This has always been a requirement.

A legitimate VCPR is considered to exist only if medical records of the practice contain sufficient evidence of relevant and timely interaction between the veterinarian, animal owner and animal patients.

Bringing an animal to the vet clinic at some point in the past may not constitute client interaction. The vet should have some familiarity with your operation. In other words, he or she should have been out to your place recently.

Wilkins advises livestock producers be ready for the changes taking place at the end of next year, and that means establishing a relationship with a veterinarian in advance if a relationship doesn’t already exist.

“Learn what will be required in your specific situation,” Wilkins advises. “Remember it’s not the veterinarian who is changing the rules, but they do need to follow.

From an AgriSuccess article (Nov 2017) by Kevin Hursh