The objective of this study is to survey general prescribing behaviour by Belgian companion animal veterinarians and to assess agreement of these practices with current treatment guidelines. Therefore an online survey was administered with five realistic and frequently occurring first-line cases to primary-care veterinary practitioners. For each case a predefined pattern of questions were asked about whether or not they would prescribe antimicrobials, if they would prescribe a non-antimicrobial treatment and if they would perform additional diagnostic steps. The responses were compared with recommendations in national guidelines and recent literature. The overall most prescribed antimicrobials were potentiated amoxicillin (43.0 per cent), fluoroquinolones (14.7 per cent), third-generation and fourth-generation cephalosporins (10.9 per cent) and tetracyclines (10.9 per cent). Only 48.3 per cent of the veterinarians complied with the guidelines in nearly all of the clinical scenarios (ie, prescribing antimicrobials when indicated, not prescribing antimicrobials when it is not indicated). Moreover, when prescribing highest priority critically important antimicrobials, susceptibility testing on bacterial cultures was performed in only 12.4 per cent of the prescriptions. The results showed that the prescribing behaviour of antimicrobial compounds by primary-care veterinary practitioners in dogs and cats is often not in agreement with national guidelines. Focus in improvement of this prescribing behaviour should be on performing the appropriate diagnostic steps and decreasing the use of highest priority critically important antimicrobials.