BVA shares seven tips to help pet owners and livestock keepers use antibiotics responsibly

15 November 2018

The British Veterinary Association has issued seven tips to help pet owners and livestock keepers use antibiotics responsibly and keep them effective for both animals and humans in the future, after survey findings revealed a significant rise in vets’ concern about antimicrobial resistance over the last three years.

Statistics from BVA’s Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey, issued for World Antibiotic Awareness Week (12-18 November) and ahead of European Antibiotic Awareness Day (18 November), show that almost all vets surveyed (97%) are concerned about antimicrobial resistance, with nearly half (46%) describing themselves as very concerned. The number of vets reporting concerns over the inability to treat infections (95%) or control post-surgical infections (84%) has also risen significantly in this period. 

Nearly two-thirds of vets feel their clients are not aware of the issue of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), and almost 90% say that clients come to appointments, at least sometimes, with an expectation they will provide antibiotics for their pets.

British Veterinary Association President Simon Doherty said:
“Vets are working hard to reduce the threat of antibiotic resistance to ensure these vital medicines can be used in the future, but we cannot achieve this without the help of pet owners and livestock keepers, who have an equally important role to play in keeping antibiotics effective.

“I would encourage all animal owners or keepers to follow veterinary advice and to take a look at our advice on responsible antibiotic use. Only by working together can we make sure that we can continue to treat both animals and humans safely and effectively.”

Seven ways in which pet owners and livestock keepers can play a role in helping combat antibiotic resistance:

  1. Antibiotics are not always the answer: Trust your vet if they say antibiotics are not required. Antibiotics only treat infections caused by bacteria, not viruses, and every inappropriate use may accelerate bacterial resistance to the drug.
  2. Follow your vet's instructions when giving an animal antibiotics: Give the correct dose, at the right time and for the full duration prescribed. Remember, increasing the recommended dose does not mean it will work quicker, and not completing the course as prescribed by your vet may allow resistant bacteria to survive, making infection harder to treat.
  3. Use the right drug for the right bug: There are many reasons why an antibiotic that works for one animal will not be appropriate for another. Trust your vet if they say further tests are needed to find out whether treatment with antibiotics is really necessary and, if so, which antibiotic will work best.
  4. Do not try to treat your pet yourself: Do not share antibiotics between animals or re-use tablets that were prescribed for an earlier illness. Stopping and starting antibiotics inappropriately may result in an increased risk of resistance. 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. Don’t feed waste milk to calves: Feeding waste milk containing antibiotics to calves can increase the risk of antibiotic resistance.
  6. Prevention is better than cure: As a pet owner, do your best to keep your pet healthy by feeding it food with a high nutritional value, providing a healthy lifestyle, having it vaccinated regularly and taking it to your vet for an examination each year. As a livestock keeper, you can reduce animal disease and the need to use antibiotics to a large extent by good animal husbandry, biosecurity and management practices and by drawing up an effective health plan with your vet.
  7. Talk to your vet: If you have worries or questions about antibiotic resistance in your pet or farm animal, you should discuss these with your vet.

BVA’s survey findings come on the heels of rising global concern about antibiotic resistance among both the human and veterinary professions. Last year, former UK Chief Veterinary Officer Nigel Gibbens called it ‘the biggest threat to modern medicine’, a statement echoed by England’s Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies when she warned about a ‘post-antibiotic apocalypse’ unless action isn’t taken urgently.

The veterinary profession in the UK has been committed to championing the responsible use of antimicrobials through joined-up working with UK governments, industry and other health sectors, as part of a One Health approach to tackling this threat.

BVA is a member of RUMA and has been working closely with stakeholders in government and industry to develop appropriate and evidence-based targets across the livestock sector. These concerted efforts have led to levels of antibiotic use in farm animals falling to an all-time low in the UK. Earlier this year, BVA also joined up with Defra, the British Small Animal Veterinary Association and the Veterinary Medicines Directorate on the #TrustYourVet campaign to raise awareness about responsible antibiotic use among pet owners.

For more advice, view BVA’s guidance on How to use antibiotics responsibly for pet owners and Antibiotics- Your role as a farmer for livestock keepers.

BVA Media Office