There are no guidelines for antimicrobial use in experimental animals even though appropriate selection is required to reduce risk of surgical site infection (SSI) and resistance development. Pigs are used extensively as experimental surgical models for people. This review compares reported antimicrobial prescription in recently published pig surgical studies (retrieved by PubMed, Web of Knowledge and Google Scholar) with human guidelines for prophylactic antimicrobial use (National Institute of Clinical Excellence and the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists). A five-point appropriate antimicrobial use index (AAUI), based on aforementioned guidelines, was used to grade 233 studies. Use of World Health Organization-designated critically important antimicrobials (CIA) was recorded. Antimicrobial use was described in 111 of 233 (48 per cent) papers. AAUI scores of 5 (maximal compliance) and 0 (no compliance) were awarded to 34 (15 per cent) and 101 (43 per cent) articles. Where reported, prophylactic antimicrobials were mostly administered after surgery (62/95, 65 per cent) and intramuscularly (36/72, 50 per cent). CIAs were described in 21 of 111 (19 per cent) papers and SSIs in 21 of 233 (9 per cent). Reported antimicrobial prophylaxis in experimental pig surgery deviates from human clinical guidelines. This has implications for antimicrobial resistance, study quality and animal welfare. Until species-specific guidelines are formulated, experimental surgical studies involving animals would probably benefit from adherence to human guidelines.