By Dr Huw Stacey, DipAS(CABC) MRCVS, Director of Clinical Services, Vets4Pets
At Vets4Pets, we believe it’s time that companion animal vets were armed to do their bit in the fight against antibiotic resistance.
Many pets will receive antibiotics as part of their treatment plans. In fact, a 2016 review by VetCompass found that 25% of dogs and 21% of cats studied received at least one antibiotic course over a two year period.1
Until now, companion animal vets have simply been advised to prescribe antibiotics ‘responsibly’ in practice without being given clear guidance on what this means or the tools to do so. That’s why the new Vets4Pets ‘Stop, Think… are Antibiotics Required?’ (STAR) initiative is such a game-changer.
The STAR initiative aims to give all Vets4Pets practices a range of tools to evaluate their antibiotic use making it simple and easy for vets to make informed, up-to-date choices. It was developed by the Group’s clinical services team, working with a team of vets and nurses across the group who trialled the assets and helped to shape and improve the initiative through their feedback.
Giving vets easy-to-access resources is a key part of changing the way we use antibiotics in practice. Vets and nurses are used to seeing clients day-in, day-out; there’s often a new case every 10-15 minutes, and emergencies can come in at any time. Faced with upwards of 150 clinical cases a week, the sheer number of clinical decisions made in a veterinary practice on a daily basis can be staggering.
With a huge list of things to consider when prescribing medication, including compliance, the cascade, side-effects and client finances, antimicrobial resistance may come further down the list of concerns for vets than it should.
Prescribing habits, changes in understanding of some diseases, and a tendency towards price-sensitivity within the profession also mean that antibiotics are often dispensed when they are unnecessary.
With the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance strong enough for the World Health Organisation to instigate a Global Action Plan, at Vets4Pets, we are championing reducing the amount of antimicrobials prescribed in companion animal medicine.
The Vets4Pets ‘Stop, Think… are Antibiotics Required?’ (STAR) initiative assets are designed to be used as a quick reference and reminder and for them to be easily visible when vets are making their clinical decisions. This is achieved, for example, by moving all antibiotics to a single cupboard and then putting a poster on the front of that cupboard highlighting common conditions where antibiotics are often prescribed unnecessarily. This is paired with a second poster inside the cupboard that summarises good prescribing practice.
Thoughtful use of antibiotics results in better prescribing practices, improved service, better outcomes, and a safeguarding of antibiotics for everyone, person or pet, who needs them.
At Vets4Pets, we believe this is a cause that everyone needs to be a part of.