Exploring the behavioural drivers of veterinary surgeon antibiotic prescribing: a qualitative study of companion animal veterinary surgeons in the UK

C. King, M. Smith, K. Currie, A. Dickson, F. Smith, M. Davis, P. Flowers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)
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Background: Multi-drug resistant bacteria are an increasing concern in both human and veterinary medicine. Inappropriate prescribing and use of antibiotics within veterinary medicine may be a contributory factor to antimicrobial resistance (AMR). The ‘One Health’ Initiative aims to work across species and environments to reduce AMR, however; little is currently known about the factors which influence antibiotic prescribing among veterinary surgeons in companion animal practice.
This paper reports on qualitative data analysis of interviews with veterinary surgeons whose practice partially or wholly focuses on companion animals (N = 16). The objective of the research was to explore the drivers of companion animal veterinary surgeons’ antibiotic prescribing behaviours. The veterinary surgeons interviewed were all practising within the UK (England (n = 4), Scotland (n = 11), Northern Ireland (n = 1)). A behavioural thematic analysis of the data was undertaken, which identified barriers and facilitators to specific prescribing-related behaviours.

Results: Five components of prescribing behaviours were identified: 1) confirming clinical need for antibiotics; 2) responding to clients; 3) confirming diagnosis; 4) determining dose, duration and type of antibiotic; and 5) preventing infection around surgery (with attendant appropriate and inappropriate antibiotic prescribing behaviours). Barriers to appropriate prescribing identified include: business, diagnostic, fear, habitual practice and pharmaceutical factors. Facilitators include: AMR awareness, infection prevention, professional learning and regulation and government factors.

Conclusion: This paper uses a behavioural lens to examine drivers which are an influence on veterinary surgeons’ prescribing behaviours. The paper contributes new understandings about factors which influence antibiotic prescribing behaviours among companion animal veterinary surgeons. This analysis provides evidence to inform future interventions, which are focused on changing prescribing behaviours, in order to address the pressing public health concern of AMR.

Original languageEnglish
Article number332
Number of pages9
JournalBMC Veterinary Research
Publication statusPublished - 7 Nov 2018


  • antibiotics
  • antimicrobial resistance
  • AMR
  • antimicrobial stewardship
  • AMS
  • prescribing behaviours
  • companion animals
  • veterinary surgeons
  • qualitative


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