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Introducing our position on the responsible use of parasiticides for cats and dogs

22 Oct 2021 | Megan Knowles-Bacon


Over the past few months, we’ve been working to draw together many different views on the use of small animal parasiticides. It’s been a fascinating and complex position to work on, requiring a truly One Health approach since it includes human, animal, and environmental health issues. This blog explains more about why we developed the position, how we went about it, and what we hope it will lead to.

Introducing our position on the responsible use of parasiticides for cats and dogs Image

Why did we develop this position?

We were increasingly hearing from members who were worried about the impact parasiticides might be having on the environment. Our then JVP Justine Shotton was asked to be involved in various conversations, and we also noticed the issue was coming up in the press.

Thinking about responsible use of medicines is nothing new, and is a topic BVA has worked on repeatedly over the years. The farm animal and equine sectors have already undergone huge changes in how parasiticide products are used, mainly due to issues with resistance, and we’ve seen changes in the laws around use of neonicotinoids in agriculture as the environmental concerns became increasingly apparent. In all forms of medicine, antimicrobial resistance is an important concern. The veterinary profession has been making huge progress in reducing their use of antibiotics, to make sure they are still able to be used in the future. It’s shown us how effective a voluntary and collaborative approach can be. 

As an issue that was coming under increasing scrutiny, and one that fitted with our previous One Health and medicines work, we felt BVA needed to have a view.

How did we do it?

We knew this was a complex issue, so the first step was to speak to a wide range of stakeholders and get their views. These included experts in environmental health, parasitology, and zoonotic and emerging diseases. We also heard from those currently carrying out research in relevant fields, members working to highlight independent information, and members of the Veterinary Products Committee (who advise Defra on veterinary medicines). We were also pleased that BSAVA and BVZS agreed to collaborate with us on the position and really valued their input.

Any BVA policy goes through several committee stages to make sure it is robust, so we also heard from members of our Ethics and Welfare Advisory Panel, Policy committee and Council.

And of course, we heard from our members, via their Council representatives and our July 2021 Voice of the Veterinary Profession mini-survey. We know this is a subject that many members care about. In the survey 98% of companion animal vets said they felt concerned about the impact of some treatments on the environment, with more 42% feeling very concerned.  

After a lot of reading, many discussions, and much debate, we eventually reached a position which we felt was balanced and fair, but acknowledges the serious challenges we face.

What does it include?

The position sets out the various risks to animal, human and environmental health, and highlights where the gaps in our knowledge are.

We discuss options for more responsible use, including the use of testing, non-chemicals prevention and better education to ensure animal owners use the products safely. Making sure clients understand the environmental risks and how to reduce the chances of contamination would be a good first step in reducing the potential harm from these medicines. We also highlight how changing the classification of some medicines and reviewing the requirements for environmental risk assessments could help.

In total we make 37 recommendations, aimed at veterinary professionals, researchers, veterinary organisations, the VMD, and pharmaceutical companies. Read the position here.

What next?  

We may be missing some of the evidence which conclusively proves the harm that parasiticides are causing, but looking at what we do know, it’s hard not to be deeply concerned. More research is needed, and that evidence should be found, but the veterinary profession cannot afford to wait – the time to start tackling this issue is now.

In our position, we encourage veterinary professionals to take a risk-based approach to prescribing parasiticide products, but we recognise the knowledge gaps can make this difficult. We are committed to developing resources to help make those decisions easier. We’ll also be sharing more advice and signposting to new information whenever we can. Please get in touch if there are any specific resources you’d like to see.

We’re also hosting a debate at the London Vet Show, to equip delegates with practical ideas for understanding and evaluating the risks and giving the right advice for clients and their pets. Come along to Effective and responsible use of parasiticidesat 3.40pm on 11 November to learn more.


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