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Vets fear they could lose ability to treat infections due to antibiotic resistance, survey shows

British Veterinary Association

3 min read Partner content

Almost 90 percent of UK vets are concerned about losing the ability to treat infections in animals as a result of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). The new figures, released during World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (18-24 November), are from the British Veterinary Association’s (BVA) latest Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey.

Other concerns included potential enforced restriction on veterinary use of antimicrobials in the future (reported by 84% of vets) or the inability to control infections following surgery (75%).

Only a third (35%) of vets overall felt clients were aware of AMR. Vets working in small animal practice reported more often (68%) that their clients were not aware of the issue than those who work with large animals, like cattle or horses (34%).

These findings come in a month when the latest government data showed that sales of antibiotics for use in food-producing animals in the UK has reduced by 59% since 2014, as a result of collaborative efforts by vets, farmers and industry, making the country one of the lowest prescribers of the drugs in Europe.

British Veterinary Association President Anna Judson called on all animal owners and vets to continue to work collaboratively to tackle the serious global threat of antimicrobial resistance:

“Antibiotics are a vital tool in our ability to treat diseases in both people and animals effectively, but vets, like their counterparts in human medicine, are worried about excessive and improper use leading to some bacteria no longer responding.

“We’ve made huge progress in refining and reducing antimicrobial use in farm animals in the UK, but we can do more. Livestock keepers, horse owners and pet owners can all play an important role in keeping antibiotics effective by following their vet’s instructions and giving the recommended dose, at the right time and completing the prescribed course. Also, trust your vet if they want to conduct further tests so they can give the right drug for a particular infection. Finally, please return any unused antibiotics to your vet practice for safe disposal, both to help tackle AMR and prevent environmental pollution.”

BVA has issued top tips to help pet owners be antibiotic aware and play an active role in responsible antibiotic use:

  1. Use the right drug for the right bug: Antibiotics only treat illnesses caused by bacteria, not viruses. Trust your vet if they say antibiotics aren't needed, or if they recommend sensitivity tests to help identify the right antibiotic for the bacteria.
  2. Always finish the antibiotic course: Give your pet the recommended dose, at the right time, for the duration prescribed by your vet. Not completing the course can be very risky and may allow resistant bacteria to survive.
  3. Don’t try to treat your pet yourself: Don’t share antibiotics between animals or re-use tablets that were prescribed for an earlier illness. They may not be appropriate for your pet’s current condition, or they may be toxic for certain animals, out of date or contaminated. Never give human medicines to your pet as they could be dangerous.
  4. Return unused antibiotics: Return any unused or out-of-date antibiotics to your vet practice as part of the ongoing Antibiotic Amnesty campaign, so they can be safely disposed.
  5. Prevention is always better: Avoid the need for antibiotics by taking your pet for regular health checks. Follow your vet’s advice, give your pet a nutritionally balanced diet, and keep your pet’s vaccinations up-to-date.

BVA is also encouraging pet owners to take a look at the ‘Are you antibiotic aware?’ poster, developed collaboratively by human and animal health organisations, for more advice on how to use antibiotics responsibly: https://www.bva.co.uk/resources-support/medicines/are-you-antibiotic-aware-a-poster-for-practices.  

BVA urges vets in clinical practice to take a look at the 7-point-plan poster for advice on how to use antimicrobials responsibly: https://www.bva.co.uk/resources-support/medicines/responsible-use-of-antimicrobials-in-veterinary-practice-poster/

More information on the Antibiotic Amnesty campaign can be found at: https://www.bva.co.uk/news-and-blog/news-article/sign-up-for-the-antibiotic-amnesty-in-november/

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