New Calgary app helps vets better prescribe antibiotics for sick animals

A stock photo of a a vet performing an examination on a dog. (Getty Images)

A new app from the University of Calgary is hoping to combat an issue the World Health Organization calls one of the top ten global threats facing humanity.

The issue is antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in animals.

Antimicrobials, such as antibiotics, are used to slow the growth of – or kill – bacteria that causes infections and illnesses.

When resistance to antimicrobials develops, it means the antibiotics normally used to treat bacteria and viruses may not work as well – or may fail completely, making infections harder to treat.

Antimicrobial resistance can happen naturally, but the misuse and overuse of antimicrobials have been identified as two key reasons it occurs.

The Firstline – Clinical Decisions app was developed in collaboration between the U of C, the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA), and Stewardship of Antimicrobials by Veterinarians Initiative (SAVI).

Dr. John Conly, infectious disease specialist at the Cumming School of Medicine, said in a news release that the app gives veterinarians guidelines for prescribing antibiotics for species-specific conditions.

"This is a novel tool which we hope will help promote the optimal use of antibiotics with the aim of reducing antimicrobial resistance," Conly added.

The idea came from a similar novel app, which Conly had helped develop for humans.

"We saw Dr. Conly’s app as an excellent opportunity to make that happen for animal health," said Dr. Herman Barkema, professor of epidemiology of infectious diseases at the University of Calgary's Faculty of Veterinary Medicine.

The app offers point-of-care treatment recommendations and other reference material for a wide range of animal health conditions in a wide range of species, a news release explained.

"It’s an ideal tool for rural mixed-practice veterinarians who treat companion animals like cats and dogs, as well as cattle, pigs, poultry, horses, and other species," the U of C said.

The app is available to veterinarians, vet technicians and veterinary students across Canada who are members of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA).

Users who aren’t can email Firstline– Clinical Decisions to receive a courtesy download.

"We don't want just another app, we want it to be really useful and we want it to be used," Barkema said.

"To our knowledge, this is one of the first digital apps to facilitate antimicrobial prescribing for veterinarians, and the U of C research team has been at the forefront," added Conly.

Barkema said while veterinarians won’t pull up the app for every case of an infectious disease, it will be a tool that they can use in discussion with farmers.