CVMA | The Bigger Picture

The Bigger Picture

The Veterinarian’s Role is strengthening to Combat Antimicrobial Resistance

Antimicrobial Resistance: An International Concern

Antimicrobial drugs are defined as any natural, semisynthetic, or synthetic substance capable of killing or inhibiting the growth of microorganisms. There are many types of these drugs, including antibiotics, antivirals, antifungals and antiparasitics.

Health care professionals, both in human and animal health rely on antimicrobials to treat, prevent and control infections. They are a cornerstone of modern health care.

However, the effectiveness of antimicrobials is declining due to the development of resistance. While resistance can develop to all types of antimicrobials, the World Health Organization (WHO) considers the development of resistance of bacteria to antimicrobials to be the most urgent global concern.

The WHO urges the development and implementation of a comprehensive national strategy in all countries that includes actions that help:

  • Reduce antimicrobial use and improve stewardship in humans and animals
  • Improve surveillance of antimicrobial resistance and antimicrobial use
  • Prevent and control the spread of drug-resistant infections, and
  • Stimulate research and innovation

Combatting Antimicrobial Resistance: A National Priority

In April 2015, the Public Health Agency of Canada announced that Health Canada’s Veterinary Drugs Directorate will introduce new federal regulations that will require veterinary oversight of the use of antimicrobials administered to food animals including those administered in feed or water. The date to have this completed is December 1, 2018. 

These initiatives are part of the Government of Canada's released Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) and Use in Canada, which builds on the Federal Framework for Action announced in October 2014. 

On September 5 2017, Public Health Agency of Canada published its document, Tackling Antimicrobial Resistance and Antimicrobial Use: A Pan-Canadian Framework for Action.

Antimicrobial Stewardship – A CVMA Top Priority

For many years, CVMA has held that successful antimicrobial stewardship involves the prudent use of antimicrobials. In 2008, CVMA developed guidelines for beef cattle, dairy cattle, poultry and swine to aid in antimicrobial selection.

CVMA also has a long-standing policy expressing concern for the unregulated importation and use of Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients in animal agriculture, which poses a potential risk to Canadian public health and food safety. CVMA has advocated to have these veterinary drug importation ‘loopholes’ closed to allow Canada to have complete regulatory control of such products for almost two decades. The upcoming federal regulatory and policy changes will address these issues. 

Provinces and Territories Play a Pivotal Role

The Canadian Council of Veterinary Registrars (CCVR), a forum in which the veterinary registrars can formally collaborate on issues, recognizes the pivotal role of the provincial and territorial veterinary regulatory organizations in the implementation of increased veterinary oversight of antimicrobial use.

The Veterinary Pharmaceutical Stewardship Advisory Group (VPSAG), established by CVMA, worked with the CCVR to develop a pan-Canadian framework of professional standards for veterinarians regarding veterinary oversight of antimicrobial use. View here.

How Does this Affect My Role as a Veterinarian?

Antimicrobial resistance is a global concern. Everyone must do their part to stop the further development of bacterial resistance to antimicrobials.

Your strengthened responsibility as a veterinarian demonstrates the importance that the veterinary profession has on “One health” - the protection of both animal health and welfare and public safety.

  • Questions about the regulatory and policy changes? Visit the Health Canada website. Contact them at
  • Questions on the management of the inventory of medically important antimicrobials during the transition to December 1, 2018? Visit the Canadian Animal Health Institute website.
Find further update on the CVMA website, under Veterinary Oversight of Antimicrobial Use in Animals in Canada.