9 in 10 vets fear antibiotic resistance means they won’t be able to treat infections in pets

18 November 2014

The scale of vets’ concerns about the threat of antibiotic resistance and what this could mean for their ability to treat infections in pets is revealed in figures released by the British Veterinary Association (BVA) today.
91% of small animal vets are concerned that a consequence of antimicrobial resistance could be the inability to treat infections in pets, figures from BVA’s autumn 2014 Voice of the Veterinary Profession panel survey reveal. 78% of small animal vets are also concerned that antimicrobial resistance could affect their ability to control post-surgical infections.

The survey results are released to coincide with European Antibiotic Awareness Day (EAAD) on Tuesday 18 November 2014.  Other statistics show:

  • 9 out of 10 vets are concerned about antimicrobial resistance, with a third describing themselves as very concerned
  • 72% of small animal vets cite poor owner compliance (such as not making sure a pet finishes a course of antibiotics or using antibiotics prescribed for one pet for another animal) as a main driver for antimicrobial resistance
  • Almost 90% of small animal vets said they had come under pressure to prescribe drugs to pets from their clients
  • 82% of small animal vets said their clients are not aware of antimicrobial resistance

Calling on pet owners to work with their vet to combat the threat of antimicrobial resistance, BVA President and veterinary surgeon John Blackwell said:

“The depth of our members concerns highlights the need for every  one of us to do the right thing and take responsibility for combating antimicrobial resistance for the good of both human and animal health. This means owners working with vets and understanding that in some circumstances antibiotics may not be required to treat their pets. 

“We need pet owners to help us. Just as people are ever more aware that they should not go to the doctor’s surgery with the expectation that they will be prescribed antibiotics, we would ask pet owners to not automatically expect antibiotics when their pet is not well.  

“We need to better inform pet owners about the risks of not following their vet’s instructions precisely when antibiotics are prescribed, particularly about what the consequences can be for using antibiotics prescribed for one pet on another. On European Antibiotic Awareness Day I would urge owners to read the excellent BVA leaflet for pet owners on their role in relation to antibiotics and to take the pledge to become an Antibiotic Guardian. We are particularly pleased that there is a special pledge for pet owners and I would urge all pet owners to make that pledge.

“We know that owners love their pets and will often think that a course of antibiotics will be the best thing to help their pets when they are ill. But the inappropriate use of antibiotics could mean that in the long-term the companion animals that mean so much to so many of us may be at risk of very serious and life-threatening infections with no ability to treat them.”

Further information

1) BVA’s second Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey ran from 17 September to 9 October 2014. 752 vets completed the survey.

In relation to antimicrobial resistance, 358  small animal vets were asked:

a. How concerned are you about antimicrobial resistance?

  • 90% were concerned or very concerned, with a third of that number being very concerned

b. In relation to animals and your work, how concerned are you about the following possible consequences of antimicrobial resistance?

  • 91% were concerned with the inability to treat infection
  • 92% were concerned with the enforced restriction on veterinary use of antimicrobials
  • 78% were concerned with the inability to control post-surgical infections

c. In relation to animals, what do you feel are the main drivers of antimicrobial resistance?

  • 72% identified poor owner compliance as a main driver
  • 67% identified over prescribing as a main driver
  • 57% identified lack of sensitivity testing as a main driver
  • 54% identified client expectations (prescribing pressure) as a main driver
  • 43% identified spread from human population as a main driver
  • 17% identified poor biosecurity as a main driver
  • 9% identified shortage of licensed products as a main driver

d. Generally, how aware do you feel clients are regarding antimicrobial resistance?

  • 82% thought their clients were not very aware or not at all aware of antimicrobial resistance, with a fifth of that number thinking their clients were not at all aware

e. Do clients come to you with an expectation that you will provide antibiotics?

  • 89% said that clients come to them with an expectation that antibiotics will be provided, with 36% saying this happened often

2) BVA’s Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey draws together a panel of over 1,000 BVA members broadly representative of the wider BVA membership who are surveyed on a semi-regular basis. The Voice of the Veterinary Profession captures the profession’s views and experiences by asking questions about animal health and welfare, public health and trends in the veterinary profession. The surveys are carried out by the independent research company, Alpha Research.

3) European Antibiotic Awareness Day is marked annually on 18 November. The European Antibiotic Awareness Day is an annual European public health initiative that takes place on 18 November to raise awareness about the threat to public health of antibiotic resistance and prudent antibiotic use. The latest data confirms that across the European Union the number of patients infected by resistant bacteria is increasing and that antibiotic resistance is a major threat to public health. The 2014 European Antibiotics Awareness Day focuses on self-medication with antibiotics.

BVA Media Office