To describe the use of antimicrobials in a veterinary teaching hospital for companion animals in Italy, with particular regard to the agreement with recommendations of prudent use The study was conducted with a retrospective, cross-sectional design. The population under investigation included 18,905 cats and dogs that were referred to the hospital between 2000 and 2007. Two different samples of the clinical paper forms were randomly selected to estimate the prevalence of animals receiving an antimicrobial prescription and to describe the pattern of antimicrobials used in relation to the condition being treated. The proportion of antimicrobials prescribed accomplishing recommendations of prudent use was also estimated, as well as the level of agreement with specific, diagnosis-based guidelines for antimicrobial use. Broad-spectrum antimicrobials, including penicillins with β-lactamase inhibitors, first-generation cephalosporins and fluoroquinolones, were the most frequently prescribed compounds. Antimicrobials prescribed with the support of microbiological analyses and susceptibility testing were less than 5%. Among the recommendation of prudent use, the availability of information from laboratory testing had the poorest degree of agreement, while the other evaluated items were accomplished in most of the cases. Our results highlight the need to improve the procedures of antimicrobial prescription in the study setting. This can be achieved by supporting the guidance for antimicrobial use at the local level, with the adoption of specific guidelines, and at the national level with a further implementation of the policies of prudent prescriptions.