Is It Responsible to Use Antibiotics for Prevention?

May 31, 2019

It’s time to take a topic head-on. I’ve been asked why antibiotics are used to prevent disease in farm animals. Why not wait until the animal gets sick? I can understand why the answer is not obvious to someone with limited exposure to agriculture, but the reason is crystal clear to me. 

The old axiom that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” comes to mind. A preventive dose of antibiotics is the responsible choice if the risk of disease is very high and treatment would prevent animal suffering. It’s important to understand that often times, if disease develops, treatment would require a larger dose of a more important antibiotic. At a time when we’re all concerned about antibiotic resistance, we need to be especially wise in deciding which antibiotics are used and when 

That brings me to another point. As a Mom, few things are more important to me than the health of my three daughters and I trust our family doctor to prescribe the right medicines when needed. As a veterinarian, I play the same role for farmers and I make those judgment calls carefully.

Did you know that veterinarians take an oath to protect animal health and promote human health? That’s right and the use of antibiotics in agriculture is important to uphold both aspects of our oath. Ending or decreasing animal suffering clearly helps to protect animal health, and healthy animals help ensure a healthy food supply for our families.  

It comes down to ethics. The responsible use of antibiotics – in people and in animals – is simply the right thing to do when we know the risk is high, because it leads to better health outcomes. Using antibiotics to prevent disease in animals is NOT the same as routine use. The risk of illness is assessed in each situation.

It means a lot to me, as a veterinarian, to be entrusted to make the right treatment decisions – a responsibility I take very seriously. And it’s important to ensure that veterinarians continue to have the tools needed to ethically care for animals. I hope this helps explain preventive use of antibiotics on the farm.  I invite you to check out my new video on the topicAnd as always, feel free to Questions? Please feel free to send me an email at or call me at 844-288-3623 if you have questions.