Saturday, July 24, 2010

Think Before You Dose

By Darlene M. Cox

It is interesting how we horse lovers and owners can equate human-related health incidents into equine-related health issues. Recently, my daughter had a throat infection for which the doctor did not prescribe antibiotics, as he thought the infection was viral. Viral infections, caused by viruses, do not respond to antibiotics as these medications are explicitly used to combat bacterial infections.

While it may seem proactive to treat acute illness with antibiotics, such treatment may be contributing to a greater harm – the development of super germs that are antibiotic resistant. This resistance occurs when the bacteria changes its metabolic form making it impossible for the antibiotic to be effective in weakening or killing the bacteria allowing the horse’s natural immune system to battle it .

Have there been times when you may have self-diagnosed your horse and placed him on antibiotics you had in your tack room medical box? However, is this the right antibiotic to use, and is it the right dose? With the growing misuse and over-prescribing of antibiotics, more resistant strains of bacteria are developing. Such resistant strains can be very difficult to treat as the majority of antibiotics are not effective against them; therefore, it is important that antibiotics be prescribed by a veterinarian who has examined your horse and can determine which specific drug, if any, is best suited to treat the infection. The best way to determine what organism is the culprit in an infection is to culture it.

Antibiotic use can also cause problems of their own: pain, swelling, and abscess at an injection site, diarrhea in young horses, and allergic reactions to certain drugs are the most obvious problems that come to my mind. While these medications are greatly effective, it is best they be prescribed by your veterinarian.

Proper use of antibiotics will ensure effective and successful treatment of many bacterial infections and will most importantly abate the creation of additional super germs that are threatening not only our horses, but also we humans.

Happy trails!

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