The increase in the prevalence of antimicrobial resistance has resulted in both human and veterinary antimicrobial use coming under increased scrutiny. The aim of this study was to characterise antimicrobial prescribing patterns in small-animal veterinary practices in the UK. A cross-sectional survey of UK small animal veterinarians was undertaken. A postal questionnaire to evaluate antimicrobial prescribing habits was sent to 900 clinicians. Data were collected on the clinicians, their practices and their sources of information regarding antimicrobials and their use. Respondents were asked if they would prescribe antimicrobials to animals described in four clinical scenarios, and, if so, to provide details of the prescription(s). Questionnaires were completed by 51% of the veterinarians. Only 3.5% of clinicians reported that their practice had an antimicrobial use policy. Penicillins were most commonly prescribed in three clinical scenarios, and 1st generation cephalosporins were most commonly prescribed in a scenario about canine pyoderma. In one scenario, fluoroquinolones and 3rd generation cephalosporins accounted for 10% and 13% of prescriptions respectively. Five percent of all prescriptions were under the recommended dose and 20% were over the recommended dose. Overall, 2.3% of prescriptions were not licensed for use in dogs or cats in the UK. Associations between the use of various antimicrobial drugs and independent variables were analysed using multivariable logistic regression models. Off-license prescriptions and inaccurate dosing of antimicrobials by small-animal clinicians in the UK appears to occur. Antimicrobial use guidelines are rare in small animal practice. The introduction of such guidelines has been shown to lead to more appropriate use of antimicrobials and is therefore recommended.
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