To help combat future problems with antimicrobial resistance, a vet group has launched a new initiative aimed at reducing the use of antibiotics amongst its small animal practices.
Vets4Pets and Companion Care surgeries across the UK have been provided with a STAR (Stop and Think, are Antibiotics Required?) toolkit to challenge established prescribing behaviours and promote best practice for antibiotic use.
It has been developed by Vets4Pets’ Clinical Services team in conjunction with its Clinical Advisory Board of practicing vets and nurses. It incorporates new approaches and draws on ideas from organisations such as the World Health Organisation, BVA, BMA, BSAVA, NOAH, the VMD and The Bella Moss Foundation.
The group is following the lead of livestock vets and the NHS in promoting responsible antibiotic use and effective hygiene and disinfection measures.
Dr Huw Stacey, Director of Clinical Services at Vets4Pets, said: “Without concerted effort, antimicrobial resistance may make much of the modern healthcare we take for granted today impossible to deliver in the future.
“It’s taken nine months of development and refinement to finalise the STAR initiative, but now it’s being rolled out to more than 450 practices.
“Antibiotic resistance is a recognised problem in human healthcare with bacteria such as MRSA. While multiple antibiotic resistance is currently rare in veterinary care, we still need to act responsibly to reduce the risk of its development.
“Livestock vets have recorded a 30% reduction in antibiotic use with initiatives in their sectors, and we’ll be monitoring and reporting on antibiotic prescribing levels within our practices going forwards.”
The STAR toolkit, which is being supported by Bayer, looks at four key areas of support – antibiotics husbandry, antibiotics reporting and benchmarking, hand hygiene, and client education.
Dan Hughes, from Bayer, said: “We are delighted to support this initiative. Antibiotics are essential in preserving the wellbeing and health of pets and farm animals.
“Given their importance, antibiotics should always be used responsibly in order to protect their effectiveness for future generations.
“This does not simply mean using less. It means using the right antibiotic upon diagnosis of a bacterial infection, in the necessary dose, for the appropriate duration, and always with veterinary oversight.”
While the project only started at the end of February, feedback from practices has been positive.
Dr Stacey added: “We’re grateful of the support from Bayer to the initiative and also our practices that have made good progress already.
“The pack sent out to practices will educate and influence colleagues, and help them to explain to pet owners why antibiotics aren’t always the best option for pet care.
“It includes novel ideas such as relocating antibiotics to one cupboard, placing highly-visible posters in key places around the surgery as a reminder to challenge established prescribing practices, and benchmarking antibiotic use to compare against other surgeries.
“Client knowledge and understanding are essential parts of this project. We’ve developed client-facing leaflets and posters to help explain the clinical decision of not using antibiotics where they’re not required.
“And having good hand hygiene is not only common sense but helps reduce the transmission of infections and indirectly the need for antibiotics. We’re encouraging the provision of alcohol hand gel dispensers within practices for both colleague and client use.
“One of the antibiotics we’re particularly looking to reduce usage of is Cefovecin. This is widely used in companion animal practice but is classified by WHO as a critically important antibiotic and as such, should only be used when there are no suitable alternatives.
“The use of antibiotics in companion animal practice is very small in comparison to human health or farming, but it’s still essential that we use them responsibly, so they remain effective into the future.”