Research roundup: Supporting efforts to decrease antimicrobial resistance, University researchers measure antibiotic prescribing by small animal and equine veterinarians

July 12, 2022

To better understand prescribing practices, a University of Minnesota team led by Jennifer L. Granick, DVM, MS, PhD, reviewed antibiotic use data obtained from medical records of cats, dogs and horses from approximately 1,900 veterinary visits. The researchers collected single day antibiotic prescribing data from small animal and horse veterinarians each quarter for 1 year. The review of records from the visits showed that approximately 1 in 4 visits involved antibiotic prescription. Additionally, a survey of the veterinarians showed that beliefs about antibiotic use did not always match the actual prescribing practices documented in the visit records.

Overuse of antibiotics contributes to antimicrobial resistance (AR). Affecting animals, people, and the environment, antimicrobial resistance is a top public health threat, according to The World Health Organization. Antimicrobial resistance happens when microorganisms like bacteria evolve to outsmart drugs designed to kill them. Nearly 3 million antimicrobial-resistant infections occur in people in the U.S. each year. Increasingly, animals also develop antimicrobial-resistant infections because of overuse of antibiotics.  

As in human medicine, antibiotics are important for the welfare of pets and agricultural animals. However, there are no national or state-level programs or policies in place to track veterinary antibiotic use in dogs, cats, and horses. Antibiotic-prescribing recommendations by groups like the American Veterinary Medical Association or USA Food and Drug Administration aim to guide veterinary practice. However, without antibiotic use data, it is difficult to measure adherence to guidelines or efforts to improve antibiotic prescribing practices. 

This study demonstrates first steps in measuring antibiotic use by small animal and equine veterinarians. Data collection tracked the number of visits that resulted in use of an antibiotic, the reason for prescribing an antibiotic and the type of antibiotic used.  Additionally, researchers noted what type of diagnostic test, if any, was used to determine the need and most appropriate antibiotic to prescribe. Measurement of antibiotic use is a key part of antibiotic stewardship and prevention of antimicrobial resistance. The data collection tool and standard operating procedures implemented in this study prove suitable for national antibiotic usage data collection. To learn more about their research, read the original publication in Zoonoses and Public Health.