The British Veterinary Association (BVA) released seven tips to help pet owners and livestock keepers use antibiotics responsibly – so that they remain effective for future use. 

Only by working together can we make sure that we can continue to treat both animals and humans safely and effectively

The advice comes 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 were released for World Antibiotic Awareness Week (12-18 November) and ahead of European Antibiotic Awareness Day (18 November).

The study shows that almost all vets surveyed (97 per cent) are concerned about antimicrobial resistance, with nearly half (46 per cent) describing themselves as very concerned. The number of vets reporting concerns over the inability to treat infections (95 per cent) or control post-surgical infections (84 per cent) has also risen significantly in this time. Antibiotic resistance has been described as ‘the biggest threat to modern medicine’ by former UK Chief Veterinary Officer Nigel Gibbens. 

BVA’s Seven Tips on using Antibiotics Responsibly

This advice from the BVA is for pet owners and livestock keepers who play a key 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 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.”

BVA also joined forces with Defra, the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) and the Veterinary Medicines Directorate to launch the #TrustYourVet campaign, in order to raise awareness about responsible antibiotic use among pet owners.

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

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