The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is supporting the theme of this year's World Antibiotic Awareness Week: "Seek advice from a qualified health care professional before taking antibiotics."
Research shows that the global growth of antimicrobial resistance is undermining the effectiveness of antibiotics.
"Antibiotics are important for treating bacterial infections in humans and animals but we need to make sure they are used appropriately," says MPI's Director Systems Audit, Assurance and Monitoring, Allan Kinsella.
"Animals sometimes need antibiotics to treat bacterial infections. All antibiotics registered for use in animals in New Zealand are rigorously assessed before being used," says Mr Kinsella.
Most antibiotics can only be used to treat individual animals or groups of animals that show symptoms of disease or prevent sickness in cases where there's a high risk to the animal.
"New Zealand is a low user of antibiotics in food producing animals compared to many other countries.
"However, we need to remain vigilant. Any animal owner who thinks their animal should be treated with antibiotics should discuss this with their vet."
This year New Zealand began implementing its 5-year Antimicrobial Resistance Action Plan to minimise the impact of antimicrobial resistance to human, animal and plant health.
The plan's activities cover 5 different areas: awareness and understanding; surveillance and research; infection prevention and control; antimicrobial stewardship; and governance, collaboration and investment.
MPI is working with the Ministry of Health as well as a wide range of groups and organisations to make sure we are on the right track. This 5-year plan builds on previous work MPI has undertaken to manage antimicrobial resistance in animals.
Mr Kinsella says that New Zealand has a robust regulatory framework for managing antibiotics and other veterinary medicines.
"MPI must be satisfied that all antibiotics approved for use in animals are appropriate to the animal and do not harm human health."