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Antibiotics vital to animal health

To mark European Antibiotics Awareness Day on 18th November the British Small Animal Veterinary Association is urging the veterinary profession and pet owners to work together to slow the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and prevent the spread of resistant infections.

Antibiotics have been an important health tool since the discovery of penicillin in 1928 yet today antibiotic resistance is an international One Health concern. The number of infections due to antibiotic-resistant bacteria is growing, new antibiotic development is slow, and may be preserved for human healthcare, presenting a bleak outlook on effective veterinary antibiotic treatment in the future. 

 “We know that many antibacterials considered important in human medicine are also considered important in veterinary medicine” explains BSAVA President, Trisha Colville. “This is why the veterinary profession is working hard to promote and practise responsible approaches to the use of these vital medicines, especially those that are highest priority in human medicine. We have to preserve these lifesaving drugs for the future, and also protect our right to prescribe them to our patients.”

In order to do this, The BSAVA and University of Liverpool have developed the Small Animal Veterinary Surveillance Network to improve our understanding of pet animal health.  David Singleton is a veterinary surgeon who has just started a PhD with SAVSNET in partnership with the Veterinary Medicines Directorate, specifically aimed at improving our understanding of antimicrobial prescription and resistance in small animals. Early results show that around 39% of cats and dogs that are presented sick at a consultation are being treated with antibiotics, and that vets are avoiding the use of those antibiotics recommended for use only in humans.

David Singleton is a University of Liverpool veterinary graduate undertaking a PhD, working with SAVSNET to focus on national surveillance of antimicrobial prescription and resistance in small animals. This will help the veterinary profession have an even greater understanding of the threat of antimicrobial resistance and inform the way that it prescribes these important medicines.

“Monitoring antibiotic use is essential because the profession will be able to use that data to ask ‘are we currently prescribing at the right levels, for the right things, and in the right ways?’” says general practitioner Ross Allan. “It’s also why the PROTECT guidelines from BSAVA are so invaluable to those of us in practice.”

BSAVA’s PROTECT guidelines, developed with the Small Animal Medicine Society, have become an essential tool in helping practices ensure they are taking a responsible approach to antibacterial prescribing. This provides a checklist by which vets in practice can ensure they are taking the best course of action.

Working with clients to ensure antibiotics are used in the right way is as much of a challenge in veterinary medicine as it is in human health. Vets and vet nurses work hard to communicate with pet owners the importance of completing the course of prescribed antibiotics in order to cure the infection and keep bacteria from finding new ways of being resistant to the antibiotic.

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