As veterinary professionals our mission is to “foster pet health and client happiness” which is why we were so thrilled with the theme of this year’s Animal Health Week: One Health (Animal Health + Human Health + Planet Health). For those of you who don’t know what Animal Health Week is, it’s a week dedicated to the national public awareness of important animal health related issues. All across Canada, veterinary hospitals provide education to their communities based on the CVMA’s (Canadian Veterinary Medical Association) theme for that year. The message for 2016 is to emphasize the connection between the health of our pets and wildlife, the health of ourselves and our neighbors, and the health of this beautiful country we get to call home.
The standards and quality of pet healthcare have changed immensely over the years, and as an owner, it can be difficult to stay up to date. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) developed Preventive Healthcare Guidelines for dogs and cats. Included in these guidelines is an assessment for infectious and zoonotic (transmissible between animal and human) diseases and immunization with ‘core’ vaccinations. Although Rabies is the most commonly known zoonotic disease, you are at risk of contracting many other things from your furry friend, such as parasites, bacteria, and certain fungi. Annual health examinations, vaccinations, and parasite prevention not only keep your pet in their best health, it will help keep you in good health too.
Studies show that dogs have been man’s best friend for many thousands of years, but why is that? Owning a pet, whether it’s a dog or cat, has been shown to improve your mental and physical health. One of the obvious benefits, pertaining more to being a dog owner, is keeping up an active lifestyle. When you and Rover are exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight, you reduce your risk of developing arthritis, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other dangerous health concerns. St John Ambulance has a Therapy Dog program provided by volunteer dogs and handlers who aim to improve the health, safety and quality of Canadian lives. The program provides pet companionship to a variety of people such as hospitalized patients, children struggling with reading, victims of trauma and crime, and those living in homeless shelters. Jeanne Shaw, the West Kootenay unit facilitator for the St. John Ambulance Therapy Dogs, explains that many of these individuals have previously had dogs in their lives and visiting with the therapy dogs allows them to reflect on positive memories. As for the feline fanciers, don’t worry, cats bring some benefits to the table too. A study from the University of Minnesota showed that a cat owner’s risk of death from cardiovascular disease was 30%-40% lower than someone without a feline companion. Having Felix around can also reduce the chances of developing allergies or even asthma. That being said, perhaps pets are the best medicine after all.
Most everyone who owns a television knows Bob Barker of The Price is Right and his infamous closing line, “Remember to spay and neuter your pets”. Working in the veterinary industry, we cannot stress enough how important this advice really is. Although people have become more responsible over the years, with an increase in pets being spayed or neutered, overpopulation of domesticated animals is still a growing concern. The millions of homeless animals are reason enough to spay/neuter, without the added concern of their carbon “paw print” (cat litter, plastic poop bags, greenhouse gas emissions from meat production/pet food, etc.) From a different point of view, our carbon footprint is jeopardizing the health of our beloved pets as well. According to an article published in the Environmental Research Journal in January of 2012, “dogs whose owners reported use of professionally applied lawn pesticides were 70 percent more likely to have lymphoma (a cancer of white blood cells).” Ultimately, whether you’re a paw print or a foot print, we need to reduce our imprint.
As you can see, animal health, human health, and planet health, are an infinite circle of one health. Each one connects to the other and touches it in some way, whether it be a positive or negative impact. Simple changes like following the healthcare recommendations of your pet’s veterinarian can help contribute to animal health. If you spend a little more time around your “fur baby” when you’re feeling blue, or bring them along when a friend is feeling blue, you can contribute to human health. By becoming more conscientious of the prints we’re leaving behind, we can contribute to planet health. And so, with a balance of all three, we can achieve one health.