Animal Antibiotics | Information, Quick Facts and Resources

Antibiotics are as crucial in preventing and treating disease in animals as they are in people.

Antibiotics are one of the most important tools in a veterinarian’s toolbox because they cure bacterial disease in animals. Without them, animals would suffer or even die at the hands of devastating diseases like anthrax or pneumonia.

Just like people, animals need antibiotics to fight off illness and safeguard their health. Antibiotics protect the welfare of animals. 

Produced by living organisms, antibiotics work by killing harmful bacteria or by limiting its growth and stopping illnesses from spreading. This keeps farm animals free from disease as well as allowing pets to live long and healthy lives. 

In addition, antibiotics can be instrumental in containing dangerous and contagious disease, while reducing the need for more or much stronger medicines later on. When an animal shows signs of sickness, antibiotics can be quickly deployed to treat the sick animal and protect the rest of a herd or flock. 

The responsible use of antibiotics to anticipate and prevent a disease outbreak plays a key part in good animal welfare. After all, prevention is better than cure, and not getting sick in the first place spares animals the stress of both illness and subsequent treatment. 

Antibiotics must also be used responsibly so as not to compromise their efficacy or contribute to drug resistance. In addition, veterinarians need complementary tools including vaccination and diagnostics. It is also why sound animal husbandry, hygiene and good nutrition is important so that antibiotics can be used only as little as possible but as much as necessary, for the right length of time and in the right way. 

The Animal Medicines industry also formally committed to helping tackle resistance and promote responsible antibiotic use in our ‘Commitments and Actions for Antibiotic use’ declaration.  

But disease remains a constant threat for both animals as well as people. New and emerging illnesses and the complex problem of drug resistance mean it’s more important than ever to invest in the research and development of new treatments so we can continue to best attend to the animals under our care.  

Quick Facts

  • Antibiotics promote good animal health and welfare: More than 65% of veterinarians, producers and other animal health stakeholders felt that rearing animals in a 'Raised Without Antibiotics' system slightly or significantly worsens animal health and welfare, according to a 2018 study.
  • Antibiotics contribute to food security: The use of antibiotics in animal agriculture helps meet the growing demand for safe livestock-derived food such as meat, milk and eggs. Withdrawal periods mean animals treated with antibiotics are carefully regulated to avoid risk of contamination.
  • Antibiotics can prevent disease outbreaks: By treating a herd or flock when one animal falls sick, antibiotics can stop disease spreading.
  • Antibiotics can save livelihoods as well as lives: Diseases that might otherwise lead to a loss of livestock can be treated with antibiotics, protecting the incomes of some of the millions who rely on animal agriculture to make a living.