Several years ago, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) decided that access to veterinary antibiotics was too easy for the average citizen. They announced that there would be an increased “stewardship” of these drugs (life-savers in survival settings) in the future. Thus began the implementation of Industry Guidance #213, also known as the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD). This action was meant to discourage the use of veterinary antibiotics and, hopefully, decrease antibiotic resistance.
While this directive applied to food-producing livestock, there was no rule against access to antibiotics used in the pet trade, specifically those targeting aquarium fish or pet birds. Despite this, the writing was on the wall; large distributors like Thomas Labs, maker of “Fish-Mox,” quietly ended their line of products. Other producers rose to fill the void, but the selection was less and availability less reliable.
Recently, the FDA issued Industry Guidance #263, a ruling that all remaining over-the-counter “medically-important” veterinary antibiotics should be “transitioned” to prescription-only by June 2023. Product labels will now state: “Caution: Federal law restricts this drug to use by or on the order of a licensed veterinarian.”
What does this mean for the preparedness community? The original article I wrote on “fish antibiotics” (about 15 years ago) was meant to give the off-grid medic a way to keep long-term disaster survivors from succumbing to minor infections that might turn into life-threatening ones. That concern still exists today, and you might agree we’re no less likely to suffer a major catastrophic event today than we were then. Having antibiotics around would save lives if the medical infrastructure collapsed. Not having them, well…
Websites that address this issue state that there will be no more OTC/non-prescription feed antibiotics available for use in food animal species. Unless you’re in the habit of eating your pet goldfish, though, there doesn’t seem to be a specific ban on currently available aquarium meds. Some sites note the rules apply to companion animals as well. Most likely, you’re not quite that close to the fish in your aquarium.
The FDA has its reasons for wanting to control veterinary antibiotics. A few years back, 73 percent of total antibiotic use in the U.S. was in the food-livestock industry. This was not meant to treat infection, but given because animals fed antibiotics seemed to mature faster and get to market quicker. Now, it will be illegal to use them for that purpose. Producers now need to obtain authorization from a licensed veterinarian to use them for prevention, control, or treatment of a specifically identified disease.
Nonetheless, limiting the preparedness community’s ability to access veterinary antibiotics for stockpile purposes will mean lives lost in the event of a long-term disaster event. Even if a person has a relationship with a licensed veterinarian, how many vets will even see small animals like a pet rodent, chicken, or parakeet? If they do, how many will see a sick guppy?
The amount of veterinary antibiotics the preparedness community puts in their medical storage is not even a drop in the bucket compared to the total used. Having said that, I would guess the government will eventually get around to controlling every aspect of our lives; this will be no different. If you’re the family medic and are concerned about a scenario where infections may run rampant among your people, consider getting a supply while they’re still available.
(Note: I’m not suggesting using any of your stockpiled antibiotics in normal times without the supervision of a qualified medical professional. This article relates to the availability of medications like these for long-term off-grid survival settings.)
Some sources that still offer over-the-counter “fish” antibiotics:
Joe Alton MD
Find out more about antibiotics, their uses, risks, and more in The Survival Medicine Handbook’s 4th edition or go even deeper with a copy of Alton’s Antibiotics and Infectious Disease. You’ll be glad you did.