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

15 November 2018

Pet owners and livestock keepers have a vital role to play in keeping antibiotics working

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
    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:
    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.