Will a vet still be able to treat a bladder infection in a dog, cat or horse?

A cat is examined by a veterinarian.Jerry Bowler Statue

Animals get sick sometimes, just like people. Cystitis, pneumonia, ear infections, bad infections that can affect the animal a lot. Sometimes medicines are needed, for example antibiotics if it is related to a bacterial infection. But just as in humans, infection does not always go away with the first course. This could be due to resistant bacteria and your vet will have to prescribe a different type of antibiotic to treat the infection. For now, those other types of antibiotics are still available for animals. The question is whether it will remain that way.

The European Parliament will vote this week on a proposal from the European Green Party proposing that most types of antibiotics should be used only in humans from now on. Veterinarians then have a very limited number of antibiotics available to treat sick animals. Regardless of whether this concerns dogs, cats, cows, pigs, chickens, horses or other animal species. This endangers both animal health and animal welfare.


Antibiotic resistance is an important global problem. The irresponsible and excessive use of antibiotics in humans and animals will lead to an increase in the number of resistant bacteria. We know that a small portion of the resistant bacteria that originate in animals can also end up in humans, for example by incubating your dog, cat or horse. Dutch research shows that transmission of resistant bacteria from animals to humans is less common than previously thought. The consequences of antibiotic resistance in people in the Netherlands are still very limited. To maintain this relatively favorable situation, it is important to use antibiotics as restrictively as possible in humans and animals.

The Netherlands is one of the leaders in treating – and thus reducing – the use of antibiotics in animals. As a result, not only has the use of antibiotics in animals decreased by 70 percent, but the number of resistant bacteria in the animals has also decreased.

This issue is also receiving increasing attention in other countries and new EU regulations were published in January 2019. These regulations ensure a coordinated approach in the EU. The starting point is the responsible and restricted use of antibiotics in animals. For example, the preventive (for disease prevention) use of antibiotics will be limited and all Member States will be obligated to map the use of all antibiotics in animals.

order of antibiotics

In addition, experts from human and veterinary healthcare were brought together to classify antibiotics according to their importance to public health. In this order, a number of antibiotics that can only be used in humans and not in animals are indicated. For a number of other “critical” antibiotics, it is only recommended that they be used in animals under strict conditions.

This arrangement ensures that physicians and veterinarians have sufficient effective options for treating bacterial infections in their patients.

Drafted by Martin Hausling of the now European Green Party and which the European Parliament will vote on this week, the proposal aims to go far beyond new EU regulations by banning the use of all “critical” antibiotics for all types of animals. This means that veterinarians can no longer provide the care an animal needs. This puts the welfare and health of the animal at risk. Movement has dire consequences for your loyal pet.

Els BruinsVeterinary microbiologist, Utrecht University.

Mark BuntenProfessor of Molecular Epidemiology of Infectious Diseases, UMC Utrecht.

Inge van Jijlsvikhospital pharmacist, clinical pharmacist, Utrecht University.

Jobak Fan HotSenior Researcher and Veterinarian, Royal GD, Deventer.

Meryl LangelaarProfessor of Politics and Impact in Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University.

Jan KluitmansProfessor of Epidemiology of Healthcare Related Infections, UMC Utrecht.

thick mephiusProfessor Emeritus of Antimicrobial Resistance, Utrecht University.

Andreas VossProfessor of Infection Prevention Radboudumc, Nijmegen.

yap wagnarProfessor of Clinical Infectology, University of Utrecht.

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