National plan looks to slash antibiotic use in livestock in Canada


P.E.I.’s provincial veterinarian is urging people in the agriculture sector to learn more about some changes coming to antibiotic use in livestock. 

Starting Dec. 1, 2018, hundreds of over-the-counter antibiotics will require a prescription from a veterinarian, something Dr. Carolyn Sanford said may require a shift for some in the agriculture industry.

The changes are brought forward through a national plan led by federal Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Lawrence MacAulay to significantly cut back on the amount of antibiotics being pumped into animals.

‘Now’s a great time to have that conversation with your veterinarian. You have 11 months to figure out what that’s going to look like.’ — Dr. Carolyn Sanford

Sanford said the overuse of antibiotics in animals can cause “antimicrobial resistance” where microbes begin resisting treatments and can lead diseases or “super bugs” that may end up in humans.

“We need to make sure that when we get sick and when we go to the hospital or go to the doctor that the antibiotics or other antimicrobials that are prescribed to us are actually going to work against whatever’s making us ill,” she said.

“Super bugs can happen in animals just like they can happen in humans.”

Time to chat with your vet, Sanford says

The federal government previously described super bugs as “one of the most significant health threats to Canadians” — prompting the government to take action and implement the new plan. 

As a result of the plan, in December 2018 many antibiotics for use in animals will require something Sanford calls a “valid veterinarian-client relationship.”

This means veterinarians will only prescribe antibiotics after getting to know the client and animal. Sanford said this won’t mean much for farmers, as they’re used to having a vet around the farm on a near weekly basis.

Dr. Carolyn Sanford PEI provincial veterinarian

Dr. Carolyn Sanford started in May 2017 as P.E.I.’s provincial veterinarian. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

However, beekeepers for example, who wouldn’t likely have a vet, would now need a veterinarian to get antibiotics.

“Now’s a great time to have that conversation with your veterinarian,” she said. 

“You have 11 months to figure out what that’s going to look like.”