The nation's largest veterinary association briefed Congress today on the uses of antibiotics and how they help protect animal health, providing in-depth scientific information on the necessity of antibiotic use for preventing and treating disease in companion animals and livestock.

Two educational sessions were held by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) with honorary hosts Rep. Kurt Schrader, DVM, (D-Ore.) and Sen. John Ensign, DVM, (R-Nev.), the only veterinarians serving in Congress. The discussions allowed congressional staffers to learn about when and how veterinarians utilize antibiotics to keep both food supply animals and household pets disease-free.

Speaking at the briefings as an expert in livestock medicine, Dr. Lloyd Keck, a worldwide animal health consultant to the poultry industry and former AVMA Congressional Science Fellow, dispelled arguments related to human antibiotic-resistance risks.

"Antibiotics are necessary for veterinarians to protect the health and well-being of animals," Dr. Keck said. "Benefits to animals and people outweigh the current risk associated with bacterial resistance. Going forward, we need to let good sense and good science guide this issue."

Dr. Rene Carlson, former Wisconsin Veterinarian of the Year and past-vice president of the AVMA, explained the indispensable role that antibiotics play in treating various ailments that affect household pets and the process that veterinarians use to determine whether or not to use antibiotics.

"Whenever I consider using an antibiotic in any of my patients, I always look at four outcomes," Dr. Carlson said. "First, will it successfully treat a diagnosed medical condition? The second outcome is prevention of an infection in a high-risk patient because of a particular injury or procedure. Third, I look at a decreased likelihood for development of a resistant infection or organism. And finally, I am concerned with the protection of the health of the animal and its owners who come in contact with it."

"The principles of antimicrobial use are the same whether for companion animals or food animals," Dr. Carlson added. "The difficulty comes when owners of the animals don't consult with a veterinarian or comply with the veterinarian's instructions."

The briefings were part of the AVMA's continued efforts to educate Congress about the complex and crucial nature of treating America's animals - and how the health of those animals impacts human health, whether through the food supply or through direct contact with pets.

The AVMA is strongly opposed to H.R. 1549 and S. 619, the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA). The AVMA's scientific experts have twice testified before Congress that broad-based antibiotic bans, such as PAMTA, would have adverse effects on animal and public health.

The AVMA continues to emphasize the importance of judicious use of antibiotics.

"Antibiotics are a vital part of the veterinarian's toolkit," said Dr. Ashley Shelton, assistant director of the AVMA's Governmental Relations Division. "There are very few drugs available for treating animal disease, and the AVMA believes that antibiotics should be used judiciously and in the best interest of animal health and public health."

Speaking last week, Rep. Schrader reaffirmed the role of veterinary medicine in protecting public health and the safety of America's food supply.

"America has the safest food in the world.  Advanced animal husbandry, 21st century technology, sanitation, appropriate veterinary and medicinal therapy allow us to compete on a global scale while assuring the health of our livestock and poultry," Rep. Schrader said.

The AVMA and its more than 80,000 member veterinarians are engaged in a wide variety of activities dedicated to advancing the science and art of animal, human and public health. Visit the AVMA Web site at www.avma.org for more information.

Source: American Veterinary Medical Association