New guidance for vets launched to 'Keep Britain's Pets Healthy'

New recommendations to help vets give pet owners the best possible consultations on how to keep their animals healthy have been launched by researchers at the University of Nottingham and global pharmaceutical company MSD Animal Health.

The recommendations are the result of a package of research by the Centre for Evidence-based Veterinary Medicine team at the University’s School of Veterinary Medicine and Science , aimed at improving and standardising best practice in preventative healthcare consultations.

Recent figures from the PDSA show that nearly half of dogs and a third of cats seen by UK vets are obese, one in four dogs and one in three cats never get vaccinated and only 13% of pet owners are aware of the 5 basic animal welfare needs relating to health, behaviour, companionship, diet and environment. These are just some of the issues the new advice, Optimising the Preventative Healthcare Consultation, is designed to address.

The suite of studies conducted, including a systematic review of the literature, a survey of vets and in-depth interviews with vets and owners, highlighted a number of areas for improvement and focus. It appears that around a third of visits to the vet are about preventing illness and infection in the animal. The researchers found that the structure and content of these consultations varied widely in terms of the clinical examination performed, topics discussed with differences in approach depending on the species of animal concerned.

The final Delphi study pinpointed the most important recommendations, leading to the creation of recommendations for use by the profession. The recommendations were scrutinised by a panel of 26 veterinary surgeons and 8 pet owners with a consensus of 80% agreeing that each recommendation would improve outcomes in preventative veterinary consultations.

The research was spearheaded by a team of researchers - Dr Rachel Dean, Dr Marnie Brennan, Dr Natalie Robinson and Dr Zoe Belshaw - at the University’s Vet School.

Dr Marnie Brennan, Deputy Director of the Centre for Evidence-based Veterinary Medicine, said: “These new recommendations are a practical way of communicating the results of many years of evidence-based vet practice research to the many veterinary surgeries caring for animals throughout the UK. The advice has been distilled into an 18-point guidance that veterinary practices can use to fine tune their health prevention services to pet owners. We hope the recommendations will be a game-changer for both vets and pet-owners, which will improve the delivery and take-up of preventative treatments, such as vaccines and parasiticides.”

Dr Rachel Dean, now Director of Clinical Research at VetPartners Group said: “It is fantastic to have recommendations such as these that can be implemented directly into veterinary practice - these practical recommendations can be used by everyone, regardless of the clinic or business you operate within.”

Senior Technical Manager at MSD Animal Health , Dr John Helps, said: “The UK is famously a nation of pet lovers but the PDSA’s 2018 PAW report shows that a big gap remains in public understanding of the health and welfare needs of pets. Preventative medicines are only effective when they are administered at the correct times and frequency and in an appropriate way. The effectiveness of reminder systems, loyalty schemes and health plans varies significantly, so achieving compliance to what is considered best practice to give pets the best chance of a healthy life is a key goal of ours.”

The recommendations include ideas to enhance the role of veterinary staff including vet nurses and receptionists in preventative animal medicine as well as the time allocated to discussing it with pet owners themselves. Increased rates of weighing of animals is also suggested along with a scoring of body condition of the pet using a scale agreed by the practice team.