A Systematic Review on the Link between Animal Welfare and Antimicrobial Use in Captive Animals

Maria Rodrigues da Costa, Alessia Diana*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
73 Downloads (Pure)


This systematic review aimed to assess the link between animal welfare and antimicrobial use (AMU) in captive species (i.e., farm, zoo, companion, and laboratory animals) and its effect. Studies empirically examining the effect of welfare on AMU or vice versa were included. Studies in wild animals were excluded. A total of 6610 studies were retrieved from PubMed® and Web of Science® in April 2021. Despite finding several papers superficially invoking the link between welfare and AMU, most did not delve into the characteristics of this link, leading to a small number of publications retained (n = 17). The majority (76%) of the publications were published from 2017–2021. Sixteen were on farm animals, and one publication was on laboratory animals. Most of the studies (82%) looked at the effect of animal welfare on AMU. The body of research retained suggests that, in farm animals, better animal welfare often leads to lower AMU, as was hypothesised, and that, generally, poor welfare is associated with higher AMU. Additionally, AMU restrictions in organic systems may prevent animals from receiving treatment when necessary. Limitations of this study include focusing only on empirical research and excluding non-peer reviewed evidence. More research is needed to corroborate these findings, especially on the link between animal welfare and AMU in other captive species.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1025
Issue number8
Early online date14 Apr 2022
Publication statusFirst published - 14 Apr 2022


  • antibiotic stewardship
  • cattle
  • companion
  • farm
  • laboratory
  • pigs
  • zoo


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