How Are Antibiotics Prescribed in Animal Agriculture?

September 21, 2016
American Veterinarian Editorial Staff

Larry Granger, DVM, senior leader at the US Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, discusses how antibiotics are prescribed in animal agriculture.

Larry Granger, DVM, senior leader at the US Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, discusses how antibiotics are prescribed in animal agriculture.

Interview Transcript (slightly modified for readability)

“Veterinarians tend to prescribe antibiotics and dispense them at the same time in the course of their private practice. If you’re a clinical veterinarian in a small animal practice, it’s not unusual for you to send the patient out the door with a prescription in hand; whereas in human medicine, as you know, you write the prescription and have to go to a pharmacy to have that filled.

On the animal agriculture side, there is a limited number of ways that veterinarians can use antibiotics because of restrictions that have been placed on their use by [the] FDA. So, only certain antibiotics can be used and only under certain conditions in animal feeds and as water medications. Then, according to other laws, extra label use is prohibited except under conditions where there are no other alternatives.

In animal agriculture, it isn’t unusual for a veterinarian to prescribe antibiotics to treat whole populations of animals in a common setting if they’re at risk of exposure to a communicable disease. Antibiotics are used for control and prevention as well as treatment in whole populations, which is much different than the individual patient setting that human doctors are used to dealing with.”