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9 out of 10 vets worried about inability to treat infections in face of antibiotic resistance threat

18 Nov 2021

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The British Veterinary Association (BVA) is highlighting vets’ fears about antibiotic resistance as a new survey reveals that 9 in 10 (92%) vets across the UK are worried about their ability to treat infections in pets in the face of this global threat.

9 out of 10 vets worried about inability to treat infections in face of antibiotic resistance threat Image

Figures from BVA’s Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey, released ahead of European Antibiotic Awareness Day (18 November) and World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (18-24 November), show that there is a general lack of understanding about the threat of antibiotic resistance among pet owners, with three quarters (76%) of vets in companion animal practice across the UK saying they feel clients are not aware about this issue. Almost all (99%) of the vets say they have seen clients come to appointments, at least sometimes, with an expectation that they’ll be given antibiotics to treat their pets.

Calling on pet owners to work with their vet to tackle the threat of antimicrobial resistance, BVA President Justine Shotton said:

“Antibiotics are a critical tool in our ability to treat both humans and animals effectively. Worryingly, as in human medicine, some bacteria no longer respond to the antibiotics we use to treat pets

“We know that owners love their pets and may often think that antibiotics are the best answer to treat their beloved companion, but this is not always the case. We need pet owners to help us keep antibiotics working against serious and potentially life-threatening infections now and in the future. Don’t automatically expect antibiotics when your pet is unwell and always follow your vet’s instructions in giving the recommended dose at the right time and for the duration prescribed.  

“Human health and animal health are closely linked. Take a look at our top tips and One Health poster to see what steps you can take as a pet owner to use antibiotics responsibly.”

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

  1. Antibiotics are not always the answer: Antibiotics only treat illnesses caused by bacteria, not viruses. Trust your vet if they say antibiotics aren't needed.
  2. Always finish the antibiotic course: Take 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. Use the right drug for the right bug: Different antibiotics work for different bacteria. Sensitivity tests recommended by your vet can help identify the right drug.
  4. 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.
  5. Prevention is always better: Avoid the need for antibiotics by taking your pet for regular health checks to a vet. 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. The poster is available for download.

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