The vast literature on antimicrobial drug use in animals has expanded considerably recently as the antimicrobial resistance (AMR) crisis in human medicine leads to questions about all usage of antimicrobial drugs, including long-term usage in intensively managed food animals for growth promotion and disease prevention. Attention is also increasingly focusing on antimicrobial use and on bacterial resistance in companion animals, which are in intimate contact with the human population. They may share resistant bacteria with their owners, amplify resistant bacteria acquired from their owners, and act as a reservoir for human infection. Considerable effort is being made to describe the basis of AMR in bacterial pathogens of animals. Documentation of many aspects of use of antimicrobials in animals is, however, generally less developed and only a few countries can describe quantities of drugs used in animals to kg levels annually. In recent years, many national veterinary associations have produced 'prudent use guidelines' to try to improve antimicrobial drug use and decrease resistance, but the impact of guidelines is unknown. Within the evolving global movement for 'antimicrobial stewardship', there is considerable scope to improve many aspects of antimicrobial use in animals, including infection control and reduction of use, with a view to reducing resistance and its spread, and to preserving antimicrobial drugs for the future.