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The Antibiotics Controversy

April 30, 2021 4 min read

The Antibiotics Controversy

The Problem

Your horse has a small cut on her right hip. It’s not deep enough to call the vet and it’s not actively bleeding, but it still needs some first aid care. First, most equestrians reach for a cleaning solution of their choice (like povidone-iodine) and then they might find themselves reaching for a small innocent-looking tube of antibiotic ointment. Stop right there! Using antibiotic ointment on your horse is not without risk.

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria can cause huge problems for you and your horse. Problems that may even be fatal. Most equestrians think that only oral or IV antibiotics contribute to the growth of “superbugs,” but the reality is that over-the-counter antibiotic creams and ointments are also threatening your horse’s health. Choosing antibiotic-free equine healthcare products is one of the biggest ways you can prevent the development of life-threatening superbugs.

The Science Behind Antibiotic Resistance

Every time we use antibiotics of any type, we create some resistant bacteria. When we use antibiotics we kill off a large percentage of the bacteria, but there will always be a very small percentage left behind. This small percentage survived because it was resistant to the medication used. The resistant bacteria then multiply, creating their own resistant colony and turning into what is colloquially called a “superbug.” According to the CDC, some resistant bacteria can even pass their resistance directly to other germs.

Currently, one of the most worrisome antibiotic-resistant diseasesthat impact horses is Clostridium difficile. The antibiotic resistant strain of C. difficile is life-threatening. Clinical signs include sudden death, bloody diarrhea, colic, fever, reduced feed intake, and lethargy. Because it’s resistant to multiple types of antibiotics, Clostridium difficile can be extremely difficult to manage. Antibiotics actually encourage the release of C. difficile spores into your horse's digestive tract, which actively contributes to the condition. Because of its resistance, scientists are starting to explore fecal transplantation as a possible solution. As scary as C.difficile is, it’s not the only antibiotic resistant disease that can impact your horse. The list includes staph infections, E. coli, and even Salmonella. You may be contributing to the rise of superbugs without even knowing it through the equine healthcare products that you choose to use.

Are You Contributing to Antibiotic Resistance?

Currently, the accepted way that equestrians use antibiotics is irresponsible. Antibiotic ointments are in the first aid kits of most horse owners and are often used on minor wounds without veterinary guidance. Even oral antibiotics are administered without forethought and instruction from a medical professional. Before you administer antibiotics of any kind to your horse, pause and think if there are any alternative equine healthcare products you could try first.

If you do decide to use antibiotics, call your veterinarian first. Oral antibiotics should never be administered without veterinary instructions on dosage and duration. If your veterinarian is not offering you antibiotics (oral or topical), then it’s for a good reason. Whatever situation you’re dealing with, your veterinarian believes that it’s not serious and will resolve without issue and without the help of antibiotics. Think of it this way: if your veterinarian is not dispensing antibiotics, then you should be happy-- your horse is not ill enough to need them!

Antibiotics may seem like the miracle cure. After all, when we want the best for our horses why would we wait until an infection develops before administering antibiotics? But it’s important to remember that antibiotics are not without risk. By using an antibiotic ointment on a small healthy wound, you could be predisposing your horse to the development of a life-threatening superbug later on. Consider revamping your first aid kit to include an antibiotic-free barrier cream instead of common antibiotic ointments like neosporin.

What You Can Do to Help:

  • Choose antibiotic-free equine healthcare products
  • Consult your veterinarian before using any product containing antibiotics
  • Use a barrier cream instead of an antibiotic ointment when appropriate
  • Refrain from asking your vet to prescribe antibiotics; use them only when they’re offered
  • Follow all of your vet’s instructions carefully

Zarasyl Offers an Alternative Option

When browsing through the aisles of your favorite tack store, it may feel like an antibiotic cream is the only option for your equine first aid kit. There are remarkably few equine healthcare products on the market that will nourish and protect your horse’s skin for a wide variety of issues, including wounds. Zarasyl Equine Barrier Cream is changing that.

Next time you’re reaching for antibiotic ointment, try Zarasyl first. This barrier cream creates an external layer between germs and your horse’s wound. Its unique formula contains a proprietary amorphous silica with a molecular structure tailored to provide sustained delivery of orthosilicic acid to the skin. Orthosilicic acid is the bioavailable form of silicon associated with healthy connective tissue growth. Zarasyl also contains PEG 400 as a topical disinfecting agent that works by drawing water from bacterial cells. PEG 400 is effective for management of inflammatory skin disease, scar tissue formation and enhancing the repair of damaged skin, mucosa or wounds.

The Antibiotics ControversyTry the barrier cream that veterinarians have called a “go to topical for wounds, pastern dermatitis, and even saddle bumps.” Have questions about how Zarasyl works? Check out our Zarasyl Science tab. Ready to buy? Just click here.