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Should I worry about antibiotic resistant bacteria?

Q: I have been seeing more about the antibiotic resistant super bugs in people. Is this something I should worry about if my horse goes to the hospital?

A: Unfortunately, bacteria are becoming more resistant to antibiotics. This is true in both people and livestock, including horses. Over the past decades, multidrug resistant bacteria have been identified in horses. This includes multidrug resistant Salmonella and methicillin resistant Staph aureus (or MRSA).

These particular bacteria can cause serious illnesses in both horses and people. As such, we need to develop proactive steps to prevent the spread of these organisms, especially in our veterinary hospitals.

This includes isolating potentially contagious horses thorough disinfection and disease surveillance systems. Occasionally, these diseases have caused temporary closure of some veterinary hospitals. To avoid these problems it is important to use antibiotics under the supervision of a veterinarian, and promptly notify your veterinarian if you suspect a contagious illness in your horse, and separate your potentially ill horse from healthy herd mates. These steps will help catch outbreaks early and help protect herd mates.

At the University of Minnesota Veterinarian Medical Center, we have staff dedicated to disease surveillance and measures to prevent infections while in the hospital. These measures include:


  • Limiting foot traffic in certain areas of the hospital

  • Encouraging good hand washing

  • Disinfecting the environment

  • Monitoring cultures for these organisms

By Erin Malone, DVM, University of Minnesota

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