Resources Articles

Zoonotics, petcare and more: Interview with World Veterinary Association

Last month, we talked with Dr René Carlson, President of the World Veterinary Association, where she alerted us to the danger of Avian Influenza as we prepare for World Zoonoses day this July.

This month, we continued the conversation with Dr Carlson to better understand zoonotic disease and issues facing pet owners.

What impact does good animal husbandry have on food production and animal health – are veterinarians close enough to this process?

The growth of intensive food production and the global trade in animal produce means there needs to be a much greater emphasis on animal husbandry and better regulation. This is important not just to ensure consistent, high quality food production, but also to help limit the risk of disease spreading. 

In the developed world, the risk of food borne disease is much lower on the whole, but it a concern in parts of the world where there is very little regulation, or not adequate veterinary oversight. This is of huge concern for us all, as the demand for animal food products globally is only set to increase. 

As it stands, animal husbandry and veterinary oversight in developing markets is simply not up to scratch – this includes areas like nutrition, responsible use of medicines and good animal husbandry. We must improve this if we are to face the challenges of better food production, AMR and zoonotic disease reduction. 

Zoonotic disease is not limited to just wild animals – our pets can also share illnesses with us. In light of growing pet ownership worldwide, is this a growing problem? 

While it’s true that zoonotic disease is something that we associate more often with wild and food producing animals, let’s not forget that Rabies still kills 60,000 people each year. And this is a disease that is entirely preventable. The growth in pet ownership in the developing world, and the changing role of pet ownership on the whole, means that our pets now play a more central role in our lives; not just as companions but in helping to improve our lives in many other ways, too, such as relieving stress, assisting those with a variety of disabilities such as visual and hearing impairments and helping those suffering mental illness. 

Where veterinary professionals are concerned, it is essential that the right skills sets are in place, particularly in developing regions, to ensure companion animal health is properly met. Numerous global rabies vaccination programmes have enjoyed huge success in helping to eradicate the disease, but rabies still serves as a warning to all of us of the real risk of zoonotic disease and how devastating its impact can be when not properly managed.  

What are the big issues in companion animal health at present? 

Responsible pet ownership and proper breeder management are two big issues.

With increasing pet ownership comes the responsibility of providing diligent care, including good health care for pets. This includes such basics as good nutrition, pet identification, regular veterinary visits for vaccinations, parasite prevention, and neutering as recommended, and complying with local pet restriction laws to prevent nuisance activities.

The rise in popularity of certain breeds has helped exacerbate the problem of poor breeding. In many instances, particularly with pedigree breeds like French Bulldogs, breeders can sometimes neglect or overlook the genetics in their breeding programs that continue certain conformational traits considered ‘normal or standard’ for a breed, yet can lead to a catalogue of lifelong health problems for the dogs and greater expense to their owners.” 

What is the role of veterinarians in helping to overcome these challenges?

The challenge we face is that we can’t legislate this from the veterinary standpoint. What we can and should do, though, is be part of the process from the outset. For this to be a success pet owners need to look to veterinarians proactively and not just as someone to go to when problems arise. 

Veterinarians offer huge value to breeders and owners but too often the depth of medical knowledge that veterinarians have, and the wider value they bring, is overlooked. Veterinarians play a valuable role in advising potential owners on matching the right pet with their lifestyles.

The ability to purchase poorly bred animals is a global problem, yet animal breeding is an industry that is subject to minimal or no regulation. We’re firm in the belief that we should be regulating and licencing those who sell animals. Currently, there is no minimum requirement or regular checks on those who sell any animal, for either companionship or for food production. The emphasis should be on the supplier, not the pet owner. In the case of animals used in agriculture, the buyers should demand verification of veterinary oversight for the care of the animals they are purchasing for animal source food products for human consumption.