Animal health and welfare are essential for efficient beef and
milk production and disease control is a vital component of a
successful farming business. Treatment of disease is not as
effective or as economical as prevention.
Fig 1: Certain causes of
abortion can be controlled by timely
Poor health status and subclinical disease can be a major cause
of financial losses on many beef and dairy farms. The impact of
many diseases can be avoided or minimised by reducing exposure to
disease pathogens (effective biosecurity) and implementing
effective vaccination programmes. Vaccination programmes should be
designed for the individual farm and included in the herd health
Fig 2: Acute severe respiratory disease can be
reduced by timely vaccination.
When treatments are necessary there is a joint responsibility
between the veterinary surgeon and the farmer to ensure that
antimicrobial drugs are used correctly and that all legal
requirements are met.
- Prescription Only Medicine-Veterinarian (POM-V)
- Prescription Only Medicine-Veterinarian, Pharmacist, Suitably
Qualified Person (POM-VPS)
- Non-Food Animal-Veterinarian, Pharmacist, Suitably Qualified
- Authorised Veterinary Medicine-General Sales List
POM-Vs can only be prescribed by
veterinary surgeons for administration to animals under their care
of a veterinary surgeon. The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons
requires that a number of criteria should be met for an animal to
fall into this category:
The veterinary surgeon should have
been given responsibility for the animal's health by its owner or
The veterinary surgeon should have
performed a clinical examination of the animal for the purpose of
diagnosis or prescription, or have visited the premises in which
the animal is kept sufficiently often and recently enough to have
sufficient personal knowledge to make a diagnosis and prescribe for
the animal in question.
Fig 3: The veterinary practitioner must have visited
the premises in which the animal is kept sufficiently often and
recently enough to have sufficient personal knowledge to make a
diagnosis and prescribe for the animal in
POM-Vs may also be supplied by a
pharmacist or another registered veterinary surgeon but only on
production of a written prescription from the animal owner's
A clinical assessment is not necessarily required prior to
prescription of POM-VPS. This category corresponds closely to the
former PML (Pharmacy Merchants List) group of medicines. Medicines
in this category can only be prescribed by a registered qualified
person (RQP). A RQP is defined as a:
- Registered Veterinary Surgeon
- Registered Pharmacist
- Registered Suitably Qualified Person (SQP).
Fig 4: A clinical assessment is not necessarily
required prior to prescription of POM-VPS but this heifer did not
have parasitic gastroenteritis as the farmer suspected.
Anthelmintic treatment of the group of heifers was an expensive
Medicinal products under this category may be supplied by any
retailers (including supermarkets and pet shops) with no
restrictions on supply. This category corresponds closely to the
former GSL (General Sales List).
Health and Safety requirements for
In addition to the considerations above, medicines are also
controlled by the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health
(COSSH) Regulations 2002 (enacted under the Health and Safety
at Work Act 1974). COSHH regulations relate to work involving
substances that are deemed to be hazardous to health and includes
veterinary medicines and other substances produced by animals
(blood, tissue, urine, faeces). It is the employer's responsibility
to perform a risk assessment of each of these substances.
Manufacturers of veterinary products provide a product safety data
sheet to aid such risk assessment. The employer must prevent or
control exposure of employees to these substances by information,
instruction and training.
Withdrawal periods for drugs (Food producing
The Animals, Meat and Meat Products (Examination for
Residues and Maximum Residue Limits) Regulations 1997 control
residues of animal medicines in food producing animals. Maximum
Residue Limits (MRL) are set which aim to avoid toxicity in man and
technical problems for the food producing industries. Under EU
legislation the MRL is defined as:
Maximum concentration of residue resulting from
administration of an animal medicine which is legally permitted in
the Community or recognised as acceptable in or on a food.
Withdrawal periods for meat and milk are listed on the data
sheet accompanying the drug and must be strictly observed.
Withdrawal periods are defined as:
The time between the last dose given to the animal and the
time when the level of residues in the tissues (muscle, liver,
kidney, skin/fat) or products (milk, eggs, honey) is lower than or
equal to the MRL.
Withdrawal periods are given for time after administration to
slaughter (meat production), and time from administration to milk
entering the bulk tank or being used for human consumption. Where a
withdrawal period is not given for a species a minimum of the
following "standard" withdrawal periods should be adopted; 28 days
for meat and 7 days for milk.
Additionally, some organic food schemes require the doubling or
tripling of data sheet and standard withdrawal periods.
Storage of veterinary medicines
Most of the requirements for the storage of veterinary medicines
are based on common sense. The important points are:
- Store in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions.
- Refrigeration must be available and maintained between 2°C and
8°C. Refrigerators should be fitted with a maximum / minimum
thermometer to allow monitoring of the temperature.
- The designated storage area should not be accessible to the
- Storage areas should be kept clean and should be well
ventilated. Eating or drinking should be forbidden in this
- Dates of delivery should be logged and marked on products and
for multi-use products date of first use should be marked on the
Fig 5: Refrigeration must be available and maintained
between 2°C and 8°C for vaccine storage. Vaccines must not be
Practical points for handling medicines
- Direct contact between the skin of the person dispensing the
drug and the drug itself should be avoided. This can be achieved
through wearing protective clothing, such as disposable
- The data sheet should always be consulted.
Parenteral administration of medicines.
Medicines can be given by intravenous, intramuscular and
subcutaneous injection. A new sterile needle and syringe must be
used on every occasion.
The only exception is the administration of a vaccine to a
number of animals using an automatic syringe. In this situation it
is essential that the hide is clean, free from contamination, and
dry. Vaccination of dirty or wet cattle should be delayed until the
hide is clean and dry otherwise there is the risk of abscessation
at the injection site.
The animal must be adequately restrained for the injection
procedure. In growing and adult cattle this will necessitate
restraint in cattle stocks or stalls (dairy cattle). Be aware that
certain injections may cause pain during administration and the
animal may jump and/or kick.
The correct size of hypodermic needle should be
gauge 1 inch
Cattle 200 to 600
kgs 18 gauge 11/2
inch (good syrigeability)
Cattle 200 to 600
kgs 16 gauge 11/2
inch (viscous products)
gauge 2 inch (intravenous injection of large volumes e.g. 400 mls
of calcium or dextrose).
The volume injected at a single site must not exceed that stated
in the data sheet. Only administer by the stated route(s). An
accurate live weight measurement must be used either by weight
crate or weigh band. Underestimates of bodyweight may lead to
under-dosing and the medicine not being wholly effective. This
situation is most likely when treating a group of animals with a
wide range of weights where the average bodyweight is selected
(e.g. treating growing cattle with an anthelmintic).
When using medicines which are suspensions, such as penicillin
preparations, thorough mixing is essential before
Fig 6: Penicillin preparations must be thoroughly
mixed/shaken before administration.
When using the same bottle of medicine multiple times, a needle
should be inserted through the rubber stopper and left in
situ with the syringes attached to this needle.
Subcutaneous and intramuscular injections
Subcutaneous injections are administered in areas where the skin
is loose mainly on the side of the neck or behind the
Grasp a fold of skin and slide the needle through the skin
parallel to the animal's neck or trunk. This method will avoid
penetration of underlying muscle or injection into the chest
cavity. The needle should be inserted several inches from the
operator's hand to avoid accidental self-injection. The plunger of
the syringe should always be pulled back to ensure that the needle
point is not located within a blood vessel. Ensure that the needle
point does not emerge from the skin fold. Slight resistance when
depressing the syringe plunger will indicate that the solution is
being injected subcutaneously and not through the skin fold and
onto the skin surface.
The main site for intramuscular injection is the muscle mass of
the neck for which the animal must be adequately restrained to
avoid head-butting or kicking. Alternatively, the muscles of the
hind leg can be used.
Fig 7: Hold the needle hub firmly between thumb and
Fig 8: Insert the needle into the muscle to the hub
with a sharp slap action.
Fig 9: Connect the syringe to the needle, draw back to
check for absence of blood.
Fig 10: Slowly inject the contents of the syringe over
Draw up the solution for injection into the syringe. Disconnect
the needle and hold the hub firmly between thumb and middle finger.
Insert the needle into the muscle to the hub with a sharp slap
action. Connect the syringe to the needle, draw back to check for
absence of blood, then slowly inject the contents of the syringe
over 10 seconds. Do not inject too quickly as this main cause pain
to the animal.
Never insert the needle connected to syringe because it is more
difficult to insert the needle to the correct depth with a single
movement and the syringe hub is the weakest point and will often
snap if the animal moves rendering the contents of the syringe
This is the fastest route for drug administration, bypassing
absorption and is commonly used by veterinary practitioners.
However, rapid injection of a drug bolus may cause adverse
reactions, such as collapse. Drugs administered intravenously
include some antimicrobials, non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
and mineral solutions including calcium, magnesium and
Fig 11: Intravenous injection into the left jugular
vein of a cow using a flutter valve giving set.
The jugular vein in the neck and mammary vein running along the
ventral abdominal wall are the most common sites.
Extravascular injection can lead to severe local tissue reaction
overlying the site of injection. The use of dirty injection
equipment introduces infection directly into the blood stream and
may have fatal consequences.
Small volumes of liquid (less than 50 mls) can be administered
by mouth using a drenching gun. The animal is suitably restrained
in cattle stocks (not necessary for calves). The animal's head is
held with the chin up and the liquid slowly squirted onto the
tongue. The animal's head is released once it has swallowed the
Larger volumes can be administered by stomach tube (orogastric
tube), most often in calves to administer colostrum or oral
rehydration solution by oesophageal feeder. These feeders are
designed such that the bulbous end cannot be mistakenly passed into
the trachea (windpipe) and thereby introduce the liquid into the
animal's lungs. The tube is passed slowly through the animal's
mouth and advanced when the calf swallows - do not force the tube.
After repeated use the plastic tube may become kinked and it is
necessary to first pass warm water through it to soften the plastic
and enable passage.
In adult cattle, restraint in cattle stocks or head yoke is
necessary. Select the correct diameter stomach tube (there are
stomach tubes specifically designed for cows e.g. "Agger's pumps").
A wide gauge tube reduces the risk of passage into the windpipe.
Measure the stomach tube against the side of the cow following the
contour of the lower neck to a point 30 cms behind the point of the
cow's elbow (entry into rumen).
Fig 12: Inserting a mouth gag into the right hand side
of the cow's mouth.
Face the same way as the cow and place your back against the
cow's chin with one arm over the cow's nose with your hand at the
mouth to guide the tip of the stomach tube. With your other hand
pass the stomach tube into the mouth and guide the tip over the
cow's tongue with your other hand (a mouth gag may help) and
advance the tube into the rumen. Gas is often released as the tube
enters the rumen. Note the animal should not struggle vigorously
and rarely coughs - such reaction may indicate that the tube has
entered the windpipe. If not used to this point, a mouth gag will
prevent the cow chewing the stomach tube. An outer protective metal
tube would serve a similar purpose.
The Veterinary Medicines Regulations 2009
Food-producing animals: proof of purchase of veterinary
The keeper of a food-producing animal must keep proof of
purchase of all veterinary medicinal products acquired for the
animal (or, if they were not bought, documentary evidence of how
they were acquired).
It is an offence to fail to comply with this regulation.
Food-producing animals: records of administration by a
A veterinary surgeon who administers a veterinary medicinal
product to a food producing animal must either enter the following
information personally in the keeper's records or give it to the
keeper in writing (in which case the keeper must enter the
following into those records) -
(a) the name of the veterinary surgeon;
(b) the name of the product and the batch
(c) the date of administration of the product;
(d) the amount of product administered;
(e) the identification of the animals treated;
(f) the withdrawal period.
Food- producing animals: records of acquisition and
When a veterinary medicinal product is bought or otherwise
acquired for a food producing animal the keeper must, at the time,
(a) the name of the product and the batch
(b) the date of acquisition;
(c) the quantity acquired; and
(d) the name and address of the supplier.
At the time of administration (unless the administration is by a
veterinary surgeon in which case the record must be in accordance
with regulation 18) the keeper must record-
(a) the name of the product;
(b) the date of administration;
(c) the quantity administered;
(d) the withdrawal period; and
(e) the identification of the animals treated.
A keeper who disposes of any or all of the veterinary medicinal
product other than by treating an animal must record-
(a) the date of disposal;
(b) the quantity of product involved; and
(c) how and where it was disposed of.
It is an offence to fail to comply with this
Food-producing animals: retention of
The keeper of a food-producing animal must keep the
documentation on the acquisition of a veterinary medicinal product
and the records relating to the product for at least five years
following the administration or other disposal of the product,
irrespective of whether or not the animal concerned is no longer in
that keeper's possession or has been slaughtered or has died during
It is an offence to fail to comply with this regulation.
Veterinary healthcare waste
Controlled mainly by: Control Hazardous Waste (England and
Wales) Regulations (HWR) 2005
Method of disposal
Needles, blades, broken contaminated glass
"Sharps" bin, usually yellow with a white or red
Used and empty medicines containers and used syringes
Part used or expired drugs, empty bottles, vials and other
"Pharmy" bin usually a green or yellow container
"DOOP" containers (Destruction Of Old Pharmaceuticals), usually
green with a red lid.
Return to veterinary surgery for disposal.