Animal health products are valuable in helping dairy veterinarians and their clients treat infections, minimize pain and relieve suffering in sick animals. To maximize their effectiveness, it is important that those products are used correctly, and within the context of a valid veterinary-client-patient relationship.

The Dairy Calf & Heifer Association's Gold Standards III, which address animal welfare, dedicates a section to drug therapy because of its importance in animal welfare. Here are the recommended standards:

  • Use drug therapy as prescribed by the herd veterinarian to treat disease and relieve pain and suffering.
  • Follow Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) guidelines for handling and administering all medications.
  • Develop written, on-label treatment protocols with the herd veterinarian.
  • Train new employees on diagnostic and treatment procedures and review protocols with veterinarian and employees quarterly.
  • Follow label instructions for dosage, treatment frequency, route of administration, age restrictions, withdrawal times and storage recommendations.
  • If animals do not respond to treatment protocol within 48 hours, seek veterinary examination.
  • Discard expired or contaminated drugs.
  • Keep handwritten and/or computerized records of all treatments.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) also provides educational support to veterinarians to help them best serve their clients and patients. Among the AVMA's guidelines for "Judicious Use of Antimicrobials for Dairy Cattle Veterinarians," are:

  1. Preventive strategies, such as appropriate animal husbandry and hygiene, routine health monitoring and immunizations, should be emphasized.
  2. Veterinarians should work with those responsible for the care of animals to use antimicrobials judiciously, regardless of the distribution system through which the antimicrobial was obtained.
  3. Utilize culture and susceptibility results to aid in the selection of antimicrobials when clinically relevant.
  4. Antimicrobials considered important in treating refractory infections in human or veterinary medicine should be used in animals only after careful review and reasonable justification.  Consider using other antimicrobials for initial therapy.
  5. Accurate records of treatment and outcome should be used to evaluate therapeutic regimens.

When it comes to prescribing medications, veterinarians face a tall order. The AVMA document points out that a food animal veterinarian's responsibilities in treatment selection are three-fold: 

  1. To diagnose, prevent and, when necessary, treat disease in their animal patients; 
  2. To optimize the production and health maintenance resources of those who own and care for their patients; and 
  3. To meet the expectations regarding the safety of food animal production of those who choose to consume food products derived from their clients' cattle.

To learn more about drug therapy protocols in all of DCHA's Gold Standards, visit the association's website.

Source: Dairy Calf & Heifer Association