Guidelines of the Veterinary Practitioners Registration Board of Victoria
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Guideline 15 - Responsible supply and use of antibiotics

This guideline outlines the appropriate standard expected of a registered veterinary practitioner in the course of veterinary practice. It should be read in conjunction with other related guidelines.

Context to Guideline 15: Responsible supply and use of antibiotics

A veterinary practitioner may use and supply antibiotics, also known as antimicrobial agents, to prevent, control or treat animal disease caused by microorganisms.

Global authorities recognise that poor antibiotic stewardship is adversely impacting the effectiveness of antibiotics in the treatment of human and animal disease. There is growing concern that the increase in resistance of microorganisms to antibiotics (antimicrobial resistance or AMR) will lessen their effectiveness.

Fighting antimicrobial resistance is one of the Australian Veterinary Association’s strategic priorities. The Australian Government has adopted a national strategy to combat AMR.

Veterinary teaching institutions and veterinary businesses promote responsible antibiotic stewardship through offering guidance, continuing professional development and advice on the implementation of clinical protocols reflecting the responsible supply and use of antibiotics.

Poor stewardship of antibiotics in veterinary medicine may have impacts beyond the health and welfare of an individual animal, for example impacting public health and trade in food products. Antibiotics may also contaminate the environment where improper disposal of excess or expired antibiotics occurs. 

Before deciding to supply or use an antibiotic, a veterinary practitioner should satisfy themselves that their supply and use of the antibiotic align with national veterinary guidance and protocols to minimise AMR within their working environment and are in accordance with the policies or practice directions of their veterinary facility or workplace.

Owners have an important role and share responsibility with the veterinary practitioner to minimise AMR. An owner must administer and dispose of antibiotics only as directed by the veterinary practitioner or as appears on the label or in separate written instructions provided by the medication manufacturer.

An owner must not use, administer or request the supply of antibiotics if a veterinary practitioner-owner-animal relationship has not been established.

Professional conduct under this guideline is demonstrated by the following:
15.1 A veterinary practitioner maintains current knowledge of issues relating to antimicrobial resistance (AMR) by undertaking training or other continuous professional development at least every three years.
15.2 A veterinary practitioner supplies and uses antibiotics in a manner consistent with current Australian veterinary professional codes of practice and policies.
15.3 A veterinary practitioner has developed and/or has available, and complies with, a written protocol describing prudent and responsible use of antibiotics which directs their supply and use of antibiotics.
15.4 A veterinary practitioner responds in a timely and substantive manner to a formal request from the Board for information which demonstrates that their supply and use of antibiotics minimises AMR.
A veterinary practitioner does not supply, use or administer antibiotics without the prior establishment of a veterinary practitioner-owner-animal relationship.

Related guidelines

Date of publication
In effect from 1 May 2021.

This material is current only at the time of publication and may be changed from time to time. The Board reviews and updates the Guidelines on a continuous basis to reflect changes in the science and knowledge base underpinning contemporary veterinary practice. The Board will take reasonable steps to inform the veterinary profession when such updates are released but it remains the responsibility of the individual veterinary practitioner to ensure that their knowledge and application of these Guidelines to their own practice is current.

While the Board has made every effort to ensure that the material in these Guidelines is correct in law, it shall not be liable to any veterinary practitioner or any other person or entity in relation to any claim, action or proceeding whatsoever (whether in contract, negligence or other tort or in proceedings seeking any other form of legal or equitable remedy or relief) for any inadequacy, error or mistake, or for any deficiency in the whole or any part of this document (including any updates incorporated in the document from time to time). A veterinary practitioner or any other person or entity acting upon the contents of this document acknowledges and accepts that this is the basis upon which the Board has produced these Guidelines and made them available to such person or entity.