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This article is part of a series of informative animal health articles. The series goes hand in hand with the #VideoVet video series – watch the video below.

Antibiotics are vital medicine used for treating human and animal bacterial infections – they either stop bacteria from reproducing or destroy them. The problem is that bacteria can develop resistance against antibiotics, which would render them ineffective. To ensure the continued availability and effectiveness of these valuable medicines, they must be used responsibly.

When to use antibiotics in your herd

  • Therapeutic: Treating a sick animal or animals.
  • Metaphylaxis: Treating an at-risk group of animals when at least one is diagnosed with clinical infection.
  • Prophylaxis: Using antibiotics as a preventive treatment in animals.

Certain antibiotics are available over the counter, while others are only available from your veterinarian. Examples of over-the-counter antibiotics are short and long-acting oxytetracyclines or sulphonamides. Antibiotics that are only available through your veterinarian include penicillin.

Responsible use

As a livestock producer, responsible use of antibiotics should be top of mind because:

  • Antibiotics are the most importanttool we have to combat lifethreatening bacterial diseases.
  • Resistance occurs when bacteria change in a way that reduces or eliminates the effectiveness of antibiotics.
  • Antibiotic-resistant bacteria can quickly spread through a community, introducing a new strain of an infectious disease that is more difficult to cure and expensive to treat.
  • Antibiotic resistance is one of the most significant public health threats in the world. This means there are not enough types of effective antibiotic medicine to cure some infections.
  • Antibiotic resistance occurs when organisms such as bacteria and fungi develop the ability to defeat the drugs designed to kill them. In other words, organisms are not killed and continue to grow. Infections caused by antibiotic-resistant organisms are difficult, and sometimes impossible, to treat.


Whereas antibiotics combat bacterial infections, vaccines stimulate the body’s immune response against bacteria and viruses. So, to minimise antibiotic use and thus prevent resistance against antibiotics, vaccines should be considered a first line of defence against bacterial and viral diseases. By preventing diseases, vaccines can help minimise the need for antibiotics.

MSD Animal Health is one of the largest manufacturers of animal health vaccines, supplying over 100 billion doses each year. The company is also engaged in collaborative efforts to ensure that new and existing antibiotics are effective now, and in the future, for all species.

A word of caution

Antibiotics do not work for every disease. Antibiotics fight infections caused by bacteria, but they are not effective against infections such as lumpy skin disease, bluetongue and Rift Valley fever, which are all caused by viruses. Unnecessary use of antibiotics can do more harm than good.

The major problem with overusing antibiotics, is that bacteria adapt and develop antimicrobial resistance (AMR) which poses a grave danger not only to animals, but to humans as well. Resistant bacteria can be transmitted between animals, humans and the environment.

Covexin®10: Reg. No. G3354 (Act 36/1947).
Namibia Reg. No. V05/24.4/413 NS0.
Contains: Toxoids of Clostridium perfringens types A, B, C and D, Clostridium chauvoei, Clostridium novyi type B, Clostridium septicum, Clostridium tetani, Clostridium sordellii and Clostridium haemolyticum (Clostridium novyi type D).
Pack size: 100 ml.

For full details read product insert or visit Read previous articles in the series here.

Contact your local MSD Animal Health agent or veterinarian for more information. ZA-COV-210600001