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Hear The Truth

Written by Dennis Sun

For the last year or so, we’ve heard a lot about the dangers of using antibiotics in animals and the potential for resistance to antibiotics in human medicine. Instead of just shouting from the mountaintops about resistance in humans, we need to really think about the issue.

First off, I think we take antibiotics for granted these days. At some point in the past, they were overused, not only in animals but more so in humans. Antibiotics were the quick fix for almost everything, even though they didn’t cure everything. While antibiotics have their limits, they were a great discovery for treatment of bacteria in humans and later in livestock. We first need to realize what a great medicine they have turned out to be. Antibiotics have saved many, many lives over the years, and we’re proud of that fact. Then, we found out antibiotics were useful for treating livestock and animals, first as a cure and later as a feed additive to control sickness or potential threats, such as respiratory illness or foot rot, for example. And, like our doctors did, many of us thought an antibiotic could cure everything. If a little was good, a lot was better. We would even add a shot of a combiotic to make us feel even better. We knew it would work fast and save us from retreating the animal later. We’ve even seen or heard how a small glass of LA-200 with water cured the feedlot pen rider’s flu bug. All of this use, whether it was human or animal, finally caught up with us, but you know, we all thought we were doing the right thing. Then we started hearing about the resistance issue.

We need to take a deep breath and be sure we don’t do something wrong here. Remember all meats, except those which we slaughter for our own consumption at home, are inspected and tested. They all have a withdrawal period before they are slaughtered after antibiotics have been used. Using antibiotics to treat bacterial infection in both humans and animals is both the right thing and the proper ethical treatment, but not using antibiotics in the proper way or for the wrong reasons is totally wrong for both the treatment and prevention of diseases.

It is important to begin with a common understanding of the term antibiotic resistance. We have all heard the term antibiotic residue and wondered whether it is related to antibiotic resistance. The two are not related. Antibiotic resistance refers to bacteria that evolve to the point they are not easily killed by antibiotics. Antibiotic residue refers to molecules that remain in meat from animals that have been treated with antibiotics. Properly used antibiotics should not be a problem with animals. In fact, some animal rights people say animals would suffer greatly if all antibiotics were banned.

Studies conclude there is a one in 1 billion chance of treatment failure from antibiotic resistance related to the use of common animal antibiotics. You are thousands of times more likely to die from a dog bite than from treatment failure related to the use of antibiotics in animals.

Now, you have to realize that these words are coming from a bunkhouse vet and outhouse doctor whose only recognized medicine is horse liniment, aspirin and glass of whiskey. Most likely, they’ve all been a part of this problem.