Antibiotics by Prescription
By December 1, 2018 all beef producers in Canada needing to obtain antibiotics for their herd will require a prescription from their veterinarian. No longer will the local feed and livestock stores carry these products on their shelves, But what does prescription really mean, and why is it important?
What is a Prescription?
A prescription is simply an instruction from a veterinarian which authorizes a patient to receive a medication. A veterinarian is responsible for determining the nature of illness the animal is suffering from and what medications will work best in that situation. The veterinarian must be aware of any side effects or reactions and what milk and meat withdrawal periods apply to the medications used. They must ensure that the client understands how and when to give each medication so that the animal receives the best care. It is not necessary for a veterinarian to physically administer every medication or to always see each individual animal when it is ill. A thorough knowledge of a producer's herd and what diseases they commonly encounter can provide the veterinarian with the tools they need to prescribe a medication for an individual or a group.
What is a VCPR?
VCPR stands for Veterinarian-Client-Patient-Relationship. It is a professional association between a veterinarian and a client to ensure that both parties have an intimate understanding of the client's animals and operation.
In Alberta it means that the veterinarian has assumed responsibility for the health of the client's animals and that the client agrees to follow the veterinarian's instructions. The veterinarian must stay current on the client's operation by herd health visits, discussions and individual animal examinations as the need arises. Follow-up conversations and continuing care must be provided by the veterinarian's practice to ensure compliance and suitable outcomes. The doctor in question must ensure that they keep medical records of individual and herd health.
VCPRs by definition sound intense, however most clients that regularly visit their vet clinic already have this relationship in place. For those in remote locations or anyone unsure if this relationship exists with their veterinarian, they are encouraged to contact their clinic of choice to discover what needs to be done to establish a VCPR.
Why the change?
Health Canada is spear-heading the industry changes. Their focus is on medically important antibiotics that are used in managing diseases in humans. There is an increase in antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in bacteria of both animals and humans. In recent years there is evidence showing that some antimicrobials do not work as well as they once did in treating infections.
Health Canada's goals are twofold: reduce or slow the development of AMR in animal pathogens and demonstrate proper stewardship of the livestock industry for prudent antimicrobial use.
While strong links do not exist proving that AMR in livestock is causing resistance in humans, there is still reason to be concerned as an industry. It is important to show consumers that beef producers are conscientious operators that use antibiotics in a responsible manner with a concern for animal, human and environmental health.
Beef producers in 2018 need to contact their veterinary practice to discuss or establish a VCPR. Booking an appointment to visit the herd or incorporating a consultation with routine procedures such as bull breeding soundness evaluations is all it takes to keep current. Working with a trusted veterinary professional to obtain antibiotics is an easy and important step to take in protecting and promoting the livestock industry.