July 18, 2015 5:42 pm
Updated: July 18, 2015 9:12 pm

Antibiotic resistance a growing problem for pets

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WATCH ABOVE: As Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports, antibiotic resistance was one of the alarming subjects discussed in Calgary Saturday, at the annual convention of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association.

CALGARY – Antibiotic resistance is not only a serious concern for humans, it’s also a rapidly growing problem for our pets.

Vets are seeing a big increase in bacteria strains that are resistant to many drugs.

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It’s leaving vets with fewer options for treating infections in your dog or cat and owners may to passing the problem on to their furry companions.

It was one of the alarming subjects discussed Saturday in Calgary, at the annual convention of the ‘Canadian Veterinary Medical Association’.

Dr. Mark Papich is on a mission to educate fellow veterinarians, to let them know how to better use the drugs we have now to treat our pets because like with human drugs, bacteria have become resistant to  many drugs for animals.

“It’s a huge problem because we haven’t  had a lot of new drugs in many years,” Papich said.

Vets say development of new drugs isn’t keeping up  because of the cost and the lack of return on investment to drug companies.

Dr. Papich says owners may be contributing to the problem by passing their resistance on.

“The greater likelihood is that if the pet has a resistant bacteria, the possibility is that they acquired it from the person that’s in the household,” Papich said.

One of the solutions has been to prescribe human antibiotics to pets but that has stirred up controversy.

“But my question for those critics would be what else are you going to do? Do you let the infection go untreated and the pet becomes a reservoir for resistant  bacteria or do you euthanize him? It’s a dilemma,” said Papich.

At a recent health summit in Ottawa, the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association urged further regulatory changes that would provide increased veterinary oversight of antibiotic drug use in Canada.

The group says regulatory gaps do not allow Canada to have effective control over antibiotic use in animals, which poses potential trouble for humans and animals.

“There is common bacteria. So if a bacteria mutates and becomes resistant to a certain drug, whether that happens in animals or in humans, it’s going to go back and forth,” said Dr. Nicole Gallant.

One Alberta company has acquired the Canadian licence for an anti-microbial product that was used for humans in the SARS outbreak, but it’s new to veterinary medicine. It’s designed to prevent bacteria without making them resistant.

“Other products are ‘chemical kill’ so they spray something on it,  they make the microbes stronger and more resistant as opposed to this, which just makes the surface inhospitable for any of the microbes to reside on,’ said Donna von Hauff, from Strathcona Ventures.

The best advice for pet owners is to ask questions of your vet about the antibiotics being prescribed and make sure you give the proper doses.

Health Canada calls this a critical situation for both human and animal health, but this spring the auditor general of Canada’s report stated there is no national strategy to address antimicrobial resistance.

Some veterinarians say drug companies need to be offered incentives to help develop new drugs for animals, which they don’t see as profitable.

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