Pharmaceutical prescription in canine acute diarrhoea: A longitudinal electronic health record analysis of first opinion veterinary practices

David A Singleton, P J M Noble, Fernando Sánchez-Vizcaíno, Susan Dawson, Gina L Pinchbeck, Nicola J Williams, Alan D Radford, Philip H Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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Canine acute diarrhoea is frequently observed in first opinion practice, though little is known about commonly used diagnostic or therapeutic management plans, including use of antimicrobials. This retrospective observational study utilised electronic health records augmented with practitioner-completed questionnaires from 3,189 cases (3,159 dogs) collected from 179 volunteer veterinary practices between April 2014 and January 2017. We used multivariable analysis to explore factors potentially associated with pharmaceutical agent prescription, and resolution of clinical signs by 10 days post-initial presentation. Use of bacteriological and/or parasitological diagnostic tests were uncommon (3.2% of cases, 95% confidence interval, CI, 2.4–4.0), though systemic antimicrobials were the most commonly prescribed pharmaceutical agents (49.7% of cases, 95% CI 46.1–53.2). Such prescription was associated with haemorrhagic diarrhoea (odds ratio, OR, 4.1; 95% CI 3.4–5.0), body temperature in excess of 39.0◦C, or moderate/severe cases (OR 1.3, 95% CI 1.1–1.7). Gastrointestinal agents (e.g., antacids) were prescribed to 37.7% of cases (95% CI 35.4–39.9), and were most frequently prescribed to vomiting dogs regardless of presence (OR 46.4, 95% CI 19.4–110.8) or absence of blood (OR 17.1, 95% CI 13.4–21.9). Endoparasiticides/endectocides were prescribed to 7.8% of cases (95% CI 6.8–9.0), such prescription being less frequent for moderate/severe cases (OR 0.5, 95% CI 0.4–0.7), though more frequent when weight loss was recorded (OR 3.4, 95% CI 1.3–9.0). Gastrointestinal nutraceuticals (e.g., probiotics) were dispensed to 60.8% of cases (95% CI 57.1–64.6), these cases less frequently presenting with moderate/severe clinical signs (OR 0.6, 95% CI 0.5–0.8). Nearly a quarter of cases were judged lost to follow-up (n=754). Insured (OR 0.7, 95%CI 0.5–0.9); neutered (OR 0.4, 95%CI 0.3–0.5), or vaccinated dogs (OR 0.3, 95% CI 0.3–0.4) were less commonly lost to follow-up. Of remaining dogs, clinical signs were deemed resolved in 95.4% of cases (95% CI 94.6–96.2). Provision of dietary modification advice and gastrointestinal nutraceuticals alone were positively associated with resolution (OR 2.8, 95% CI 1.3–6.1); no such associations were found for pharmaceutical agents, including antimicrobials. Hence, this study supports the view that antimicrobials are largely unnecessary for acute diarrhoea cases; this being of particular importance when considering the global threat posed by antimicrobial resistance.

Original languageEnglish
Article number218
Number of pages14
JournalFrontiers in Veterinary Science
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jul 2019


  • health informatics
  • antimicrobial resistance
  • companion animal
  • electronic health record
  • pharmacosurveillance
  • acute canine diarrhoea
  • haemorrhagic diarrhoea

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