Veterinary Medicine is Constantly Evolving Closer to Human Health


                                  It has been 250 years since veterinary education began in Lyon, France. In a recent speech by Jill Galloway, she talks about 2011 being the year of veterinary science.

                                            Animal science and human medicine will link more closely in the near future, predicts Massey University’s head of the Institute of Veterinary, Animal and Biomedical Sciences, Frazer Allan
                                            When veterinary science began in 1761, “it was originally set up to look at diseases of livestock, such as rinderpest, a cattle plague, and a lot has happened since then.” In the past 250 years, Professor Allan said, there have been a lot of advances for society that veterinary science has been responsible for and the year celebrates that. 
                                                                                                                           “There has been an increase in animal production [of cattle, buffalo, sheep and goats] through disease reduction. Things like the control of brucella ovis, internal parasites, Johne’s disease, sub-clinical mastitis – a whole range of things. Diseases might not cause death, but they are production-limiting.” As well as improving the lot of production animals, Professor Allan said, there was also the work done with human health and that was an area veterinary science was increasingly involved with.
                                                                                                                                  It has been documented that cats in aged-care facilities are a benefit to the people there. Pets in long-stay hospitals also make it better for residents. “Companion animals bring well- being to people and their state of mind, and that’s the role of the companion animal veterinarian.” Professor Allan says more and more, the profession is branching off, with the decision being made to specialise in high-value individual animals, or production animals, in which whole herd or flock health is the focus. “We certainly don’t want to turn out graduates who go into one or the other. We think it’s important that a graduate is able to have the option of doing both.” 
                                                                                      “The companion animal veterinarian does not only attend to pets but also to high-value working dogs. A good heading dog, or huntaway, who can say what dollar value they represent to a farmer? There are emergency response dogs, who sniff out people under rubble. There are seeing-eye dogs.” But he says when it comes to pets, owners want the best for those animals, and expect vets to provide it, from cataract removal to expensive medical therapies for long-term conditions. Some are prepared to pay. In the future, Professor Allan sees development in three areas of veterinary practice:

Companion animals: People are moving further away from large-breed dogs, to smaller dogs, and often they are designer dogs. “People’s attachment to their pets is continuing to grow. Once upon a time, the dog was in a kennel out the back of the section, then it moved to the laundry, then to the foot of the bed. Most of the time, it is on the bed. Soon it’ll be in the bed,” he laughs. “They are treating their pet more as a member of the family.”
Professor Allan says some urban children think their steak comes from a supermarket, and milk from the carton, rather than realising it is from a farm. There is a real disconnect. And that means they have no idea of animals and their place in human lives. As a result they may take a different approach to the family pet. “There will be more and more specialisation, and, as people become increasingly affluent, they will require certain services and spend money on their pets,” he says.
“One of the new paradigms we call wellness medicine, so rather than being the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, it is dealing with health issues by keeping pets well. That can be by screening for issues that may be predominant for that breed or age of the animal.”
Production animals, such as cattle and sheep: “There is already a move away from the low-end technical tasks such as vaccination and pregnancy diagnosis and synchronisation of dairy herds, that sort of thing.” “For the profession it means we will have to develop a more holistic view of the farm as a business. We need to understand there are many levers we can pull to increase productivity, and, more importantly, profitability.”
Allan says his vision for the future is there will be more integration with farm business advisers, agronomists and animal nutritionists in a sort of one-stop-shop-type environment, with referral between all the specialists. “That will be more and more the case as there is more corporate farming. We’re already seeing that in Southland, with Landcorp and the Maori Incorporations. And I expect that trend to continue.”
Human health: There will be more recognition of diseases that are common to both livestock and people. “Sixty-two per cent of infectious diseases that people get come from an animal origin.” One nasty one is the E. coli bug in Germany and Scandinavia, which has killed many people. “E. coli is an organism that is likely to have come from animal origin. The vet has a role in trying to unravel the source of that and work out control or eradication methods.”

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