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Three trends we expect to see across the animal health industry in 2021 and beyond

When digital healthcare and scientific breakthroughs happen in human health, similar technological advancements are also occurring in the animal health space.

Here, we look at some exciting trends we’re likely to hear more about this year and beyond.

Ramping up sustainability efforts worldwide

Over the years, many countries have started to take action to achieve more sustainable food systems, recognising the role livestock production and good animal health plays in human and environmental wellbeing – known as One Health. Now in 2021, the UN is pushing this initiative to the next level with the first Food Systems Summit, and animal health plays a key part here.

Sick animals have a higher carbon footprint and currently 20 percent of livestockare lost to disease each year. So, we know that improved animal health supports more sustainable livestock, resilient farming systems, improved animal welfare and the production of safe and nutritious food.

The UN Summit aims to ‘awaken the world to the fact that we all must work together to transform the way the world produces, consumes and thinks about food’, driving action towards more sustainable practices, while achieving food security for hungry communities.

Although the event takes place in September, conversations worldwide are already happening to understand how to improve food systems country by country.

Opening the door to more digital health solutions

 Last year, the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying lockdown restrictions led to many veterinarians and pet owners considering telemedicine solutions, due to the prevention of some in-person appointments. And it’s thought this will open the door to more widespread uptake of digital technology in animal care.

Already, more and more pet owners are purchasing wearable devices for their animals or using apps to monitor daily behaviour and understand their four-legged friend on a deeper level. According to some studies, 56 percent of pet owners already own tech just for their pet . Such detailed information could prove invaluable to support veterinary care and the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in practice, which relies on data sets so algorithms can ‘learn’ about a particular disease.

While we may be a while away from seeing AI in our local veterinary practice, it would provide the ability to read reams of clinical data quickly to help veterinarians understand, diagnose and make treatment decisions, saving them time and improving pet care.

Other ‘futuristic’ technologies are also gaining momentum. For example, 3D printing is being used to build implants, prosthetic limbs and even tissue replacements for pets. Veterinarians can also use 2D images such as scans to create practice models in preparation for surgery.

New vaccine breakthroughs

Vaccines are critical for preventative care in animal health and there is much work being done to enhance accessibility.

For example, the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccines worldwide not only heralds a new global strategy to combat the disease, it welcomes a novel type of jab, called an mRNA vaccine. It works by teaching our cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune response rather than prompting the immune response by injecting a weakened or inactivated virus into our bodies, as is often the way with conventional vaccines.

Mass production of this mRNA vaccine opens up new opportunities and therapies that could target devastating diseases in animal health. Already, mRNA vaccines are being tested for other infectious diseases and have generated positive results.

Scientists have also been delivering more heat resistant vaccines that do not need to be stored at cold and sub-zero temperatures, making them more accessible to tropical countries and communities in remote locations where refrigeration isn’t always practical or affordable. They have already been successfully used in eradicating the cattle virus, rinderpest, and veterinarians in the field are using a heat-resistant vaccine in efforts to eradicate PPR.

New ways of delivering vaccines for mass coverage of animals are also being introduced, such as using conveyor belts to vaccinate day-old chicks or injecting the vaccine through the egg shell before hatching.

Greater understanding provides improved health for all

Healthy animals are critical for a healthy planet, whether that’s in the form of caring for pets, looking after livestock or protecting our wildlife. Continuous research and progress in 2021 and beyond will enhance our understanding so we can all be better care-takers.

Find out more about how we are joining in the conversation for the UN Food Systems Summit.