The world of animal health is undergoing change at a breakneck speed. As populations expand, the world becomes more interconnected, conflicts grow, our climate changes and more, which increasingly challenges our ability to raise healthy animals. Here are just a few of the trends that will shape how our world must respond in order to ensure animals remain healthy, productive and contributing to our well-being.
Each year, households around the worldwide open their doors and adopt a pet into the family. Millions of dogs and cats provide companionship and emotional support to their owner, enhancing their health, wellbeing and quality of life. This is especially true in aging populations where pets have been shown to increase physical activity and develop an rewarding bond with their owner5. In fact, studies have found that people with pets report fewer visits to the doctor 6.
Products like parasiticides, which control parasites in animals, have made it safer for pets to live healthy lives inside our homes. This is especially important in smaller, urban housing in developing regions where animals can quickly spread illness.
Pets are also living longer, better quality lives thanks to an increasing number of nutritional and medical products that can address diabetes, obesity, pain, cancer and age-related diseases.
70 million dogs live across the United States, with Labrador retrievers as the most popular breed. That’s more than the combined population of 28 states!7.
Like a dog that can fit in your purse? You’ll be in good company in Brazil, which has more small dogs per person than any other country!
Dogs could double as food critics in Norway where citizens spend more on pet food (50% more than 2nd place Sweden) than anywhere else9.
These Latin American nations are true dog lovers. Two out of every three people live with at least one dog – the highest rate in the world10.
As the Indian middle class grows, so does the pet population. The total number of dogs rose 58% between 2007 and 2012 – the fastest rate of any country11.
A trend towards ‘humanising’ pets’ is growing in richer countries, as owners increasingly treat pets like one of the family. For example, in India, owners may now have cooked-to-order meals delivered to their pets 14.
It may sound like just another way to show your pet love, however, when pets eat like people it means facing the same issues.15 16
Just as in the human population, obesity is associated with chronic diseases, such as diabetes and liver disease. Coupled with closer living conditions, this increases opportunities for transmission of disease from pets to owners.
The increasing specialisation and sophistication of veterinary services in the developed world means pets are living longer than ever before, and livestock animals are living healthier lives 17.
Newly-qualified veterinarians are trained to treat all animals, but in practice are likely to deal with only a few species. In addition, veterinarians are increasingly likely to pursue a clinical interest, such as orthopaedic surgery, ophthalmology or dermatology. This focus is creating deeper wells of specialisation in the field that can more quickly and effectively identify problems and provide treatments to animals when needed.
However, this increasing specialisation, along with other factors like salary and changing preferences, has created challenges in the large-animal veterinarians sector where shortages have emerged and personnel are not there to fill the gaps 18.
In developing economies with major export markets for animal products – such as Brazil or Thailand – veterinarians are highly specialised advisers providing guidance on health and nutrition at a herd level. They are experienced in helping prevent the spread of disease across a farm or community.
However, many smallholder farmers with just a few head of cattle or a small flock of chickens cannot always afford professional advice or certain treatments. Smallholders often rely on their animals for contributions across their farm, from milk and eggs for their family to manure and labor in the fields. When their animals are stricken with disease it is an enormous threat to their livelihood.
Public-private partnerships are helping address this issue in many regions. However, as as national government support for veterinarians and animal medicines shrinks, the problem may get worse.
Each year, families, communities and countries worldwide suffer unmeasurable consequences from disease. It devastates livestock herds, harms our pets and can damage our health. The below map highlights some of the deadliest animal diseases members of the World Veterinarians Association are tackling in each region.
Led by institutions like the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), global eradication efforts have successfully eliminated some of the world’s most dangerous diseases and are well on their way to tackling others.
Once a ‘scourge of societies’ and considered ‘one of the most dreaded animal diseases in history’52, rinderpest was declared officially eradicated in 2011. The disease was highly fatal to livestock, often killing entire herds and devastating rural communities. A devastating outbreak in 1910 led to the creation of the World Organisation for Animal Health, which later led the vaccination campaigns that were the key to eliminating the disease.53
Officially eradicated in 1980, smallpox was the first human disease fought on the global level. Nearly 1 out of 3 people who contracted the disease would die51. Global cooperation through vaccination campaigns, surveillance and prevention measures eliminated smallpox and showed disease eradication was achievable.
Around 70 countries have seen outbreaks of PPR since it was first identified in 1942, with losses as high as a staggering USD$2.1 billion each year. The disease destroys the food and nutrition security of communities. OIE and FAO are working to eradicate this disease by 2030.54
Every 10 minutes, a person will die from rabies, leading to 60,000 deaths per year. The preventable disease spreads to humans through a rabid animal bite, however, simple, inexpensive vaccinations can prevent animals from ever contracting the disease. Global eradication efforts are underway in all regions, Latin America has reduced cases 90% in the past 20 years, making many hopeful that this devastating disease can be eliminated in humans.