Published: 31 Aug 2016 | Last Updated: 31 Aug 2016 09:05:46

A Royal Veterinary College (RVC) initiative, VetCompass, which shares and analyses veterinary clinical information from primary practices to understand disorders and improve animal welfare, has released valuable information about antimicrobial usage.

This particular research project, examining the use of antimicrobials in UK cats and dogs, was funded by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD), who is the Government policy lead on antimicrobial resistance in respect to animal health.

The rationale for the study is that multi-drug resistance in bacteria is a growing concern in human and animal health; yet small animal practice has not received sufficient attention as a reservoir of multi-resistant infections and there is limited evidence on the extent of antimicrobial usage in pets.

A clear understanding of current levels of antimicrobial usage in practices that treat small animals is critical to address multi-drug resistance in companion animal veterinary practice.

VetCompass (Veterinary Companion Animal Surveillance System) is a not-for-profit RVC initiative which now has sister projects running in several countries worldwide.  VetCompass researchers investigate a wide range of companion animal health problems and this antimicrobial project is just one of many that are underway to help animal health internationally.

Findings from the project have just been published  online in the peer-reviewed Veterinary Record. The article is entitled: ‘Characterisation of antimicrobial usage in cats and dogs attending UK primary care companion animal veterinary practices’.

Within the article, postdoctoral researcher Dr Emma Buckland and colleagues highlighted the frequency in which antibiotics are used in companion practice, having examined usage in 374 practices across the UK and relating to nearly a million dogs and 600,000 cats. Overall, 25% of dogs and 21% of cats received at least one antimicrobial event over the two-year period, between 2012 and 2014. Many of those animals received antimicrobials repeatedly during this period.

The main agents dispensed or administered for cats and dogs were penicillin-types and cephalosporins, with many considered critically important antimicrobials to human medicine.

The study highlights the value of using anonymised electronic patient records from primary care veterinary practices to study important topics relevant to companion animals and public health in general. Primary practice research programmes, such as VetCompass, have an increasingly important role in providing evidence-based guidance for vets in practice as well as policymakers and other stakeholders.

Commenting on the study, RVC Vice-Principal and VetCompass team member Professor David Church said: “This study highlights the enormous value of VetCompass in studying real world issues that affect vets in practice as well as the wider ‘One Health’ community. The RVC has invested heavily in primary care research and work such as this highlights its huge relevance.”

Senior Lecturer in Companion Animal Epidemiology Dr Dave Brodbelt added: “This interesting study underlines the importance of studying primary care practice in order to get a more complete picture of key issues affecting the profession such as antimicrobial usage and resistance. This study not only provides an up-to-date picture of the patterns of antimicrobial usage seen in primary care practice but also puts into context the actual quantities used in small animal practice. We are particularly grateful to the VMD for supporting this important study.”

Research Reference

Characterisation of antimicrobial usage in cats and dogs attending UK primary care companion animal veterinary practices. E. L. Buckland, D. O’Neill, J. Summers, A. Mateus, D. Church, L. Redmond, D. Brodbelt Veterinary Record (2016) doi: 10.1136/vr.103830

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