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You are here: Home / Pharmacology / Antimicrobial Usage in Animals / Non-Therapuetic use of Antimicrobials in Animals

Non-Therapuetic use

The continuously increasing world demand for animal protein has led to increasingly efficient intensive farming systems where animals are raised to maximize the amount of utilizable product at the least cost.  High stocking densities and rapid animal growth, coupled with the reduction of available agricultural space, can sometimes facilitate the transmission of infectious agents and the susceptibility of the animals to infectious diseases.  It has long been established that antibiotics may help improve production and prevent disease; for this reason, food animal producers utilize antibiotics for non-therapeutic purposes. These uses are generally referred to as non-therapeutic applications of antibiotics of which there are two main categories:

  1. Use of antibiotics in animals for growth promotion
  2. Use of antibiotics in animals for metaphylaxis




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Unlike in humans, an even larger proportion of antibiotics produced for veterinary use are utilized in animal herds or flocks for purposes other than treatment.   A report by the Union of Concerned Scientists estimated that in the United States alone, the livestock producers use about 24.6 million pounds of antimicrobials for non-therapeutic purposes, a volume about eight times greater than the 3 million pounds estimated use for human medicine (Mellon et al., 2001).