Do Bugs Need Drugs?

Antimicrobial resistance is a problem in human and veterinary medicine

Published: July 23, 2018
Illustration by Wendy Brooks, DVM.

I love puppies. However, somewhat ironically, in my day-to-day gig as a veterinarian it’s pretty rare that I get to see (much less snuggle) with them. There are a number of reasons for this, probably the largest one being that as an internal medicine specialist I don’t tend to see a lot of puppies or healthy dogs. In fact, most of the patients I (or my vet students) see tend to be sick, and more and more they seem to be ill with infections that are increasingly difficult to treat.

Antimicrobial resistance (i.e. bacteria not being killed by antibiotics) is a problem in human and veterinary medicine. And while the focus (and burden) of this is frequently centred on human health care providers, the spotlight is on veterinarians as well. Where am I going with this you ask OR what does this have to do with puppies? (Besides the obvious awesomeness of puppies in general). Hang in there…

Antimicrobial stewardship is a topic that many people have never heard before, and even those of us who have can find the topic uncomfortable or just plain confusing. However, regardless of your definition of antimicrobial stewardship (or how many multi-syllable words you like to cram together), what it means is all of us taking the time to be more aware of things we can do to recognize that infection occurs (and worsens) when we forget to stop and think about the long-term effects of our choices (i.e. the stewardship aspect). And that’s true whether we are human health care providers, veterinarians, pet-owners, parents or just plain people.

I think the other thing to recognize is that we all need to help each other be better about resistant infection-prevention (i.e. the antimicrobial or antibiotic choice portion) by accepting accountability for our actions. Resources that help with informing this include: Canresist, Do Bugs Need Drugs?, and AMMI Canada’s short and snappy ‘Symptom-free pee: Let it be’. These simple messages can help educate all of us to be more aware (and vocal) about things we may hear, observe or are told in our doctor’s office, veterinary clinic, at school, virtually any public place or at home.

So, feel free to test out your awareness and commitment to stewardship (and my love of puppies) anytime. An example might be to say “Michelle, Can you please wash your hands before you touch my dog?” And just watch me smile and then head over to the sink so that I can enjoy the snuggle-fest AND respect your choice to help me keep your dog as safe as we both can.

Reprinted with permission from The Puppy Tales Blog

VIN News Service commentaries are opinion pieces presenting insights, personal experiences and/or perspectives on topical issues by members of the veterinary community. To submit a commentary for consideration, email

Information and opinions expressed in letters to the editor are those of the author and are independent of the VIN News Service. Letters may be edited for style. We do not verify their content for accuracy.