Veterinary Public Health
VETERINARY PUBLIC HEALTH
In 1999, a study group on veterinary public health (VPH), convened jointly by the World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and the Office International des Epizooties (OIE), and including twenty-eight experts from eighteen countries, defined veterinary public health as "The contribution to the complete physical, mental, and social well-being of humans through an understanding and application of veterinary medical science."
The contribution of veterinary science to human health has been fundamental and sustained over millennia. It is not generally appreciated that this contribution pertains not only to livestock and food production, animal power, and transportation, which have laid the basis for most urban societies around the world. The study and management of animal diseases have also laid the basis for much of what is known about the dynamics and management of infectious human diseases, and has aided in the promotion of environmental quality.
Calvin Schwabe, one of the most important figures in veterinary public health in the twentieth century, has traced and documented the roots of the healing professions to healer-priests in the Nile Valley. Because cattle and horses were so important for sustainable food supplies, transport, and the military cohesion of ancient empires, these animals were very carefully observed and husbanded. In addition, the integrative view of healers in Egyptian and Greek cultures allowed lessons of comparative anatomy and diseases learned from the slaughter, hunting, and sacrifice of animals to be applied readily to the healing of primates. Even today, both human and veterinary medical practice draw upon the same pool of comparative, multispecies biomedical research.
RELATIONSHIPS TO PUBLIC HEALTH
If we narrow the focus of veterinary public health to those aspects that are directly pertinent to the practice of public health, rather than to human health in general, three broad areas of involvement become clear. Although these are sometimes characterized in historical terms, or in terms of "rich country-poor country" divisions, these different facets of veterinary public health are in fact ongoing, in complementary and often synergistic fashion, in most parts of the world.
Veterinary public health, in the first place, grows from its relationship to food production, usually by investigating and controlling animal diseases that threaten either food supplies or animal transportation and labor, which are essential elements in food production throughout much of the world. A second facet of veterinary public health relates to control of the transmission of zoonotic diseases, either directly or through foods. This is reflected in a wide array of activities, including research and control of infectious agents in meat and milk, rabies vaccination campaigns (both of wildlife and domestic animals), monitoring arboviruses and Lyme borreliosis in populations in wildlife, and hydatid disease control programs.
These first two facets are widely recognized as veterinary public health activities. The third facet, however, is less widely known. In many parts of the world, veterinarians, because of their knowledge of animal diseases, as well as the ecological, economic, and human cultural contexts of these diseases, have been instrumental in developing and implementing new methods of promoting sustainable public health that are ecosystemically grounded, culturally feasible, and economically realistic.
Many veterinary public health activities are reflected in the nature of veterinary involvement in public health institutions in North America and Europe. Veterinary activities involving disease control and health management in animal populations, and their integration of clinical, pathological, and epidemiological practices, often preceded similar activities in human medicine by decades, or, in some cases, centuries. It was in the area of food hygiene, however, that veterinary contributions to public health were first formally institutionalized. In Europe, particularly in Germany, veterinarians in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were integral to the development of food hygiene laws and meat inspection systems, initially to curb large outbreaks of trichinosis.
In the aftermath of World War II, the U.S. Public Health Service's Communicable Disease Center, later named the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) established a veterinary public health unit. James Steele, the first chief public health veterinarian in the CDC, was also active in promoting the veterinary public health unit in the World Health Organization. Martin Kaplan, another American veterinarian, became the first director of this unit. Both men expanded the traditional European emphasis on veterinary-directed food-safety programs to include investigations into the epidemiology and control of zoonoses. The 1960s and 1970s saw a reduced interest in veterinary public health, particularly in North America, because major infectious diseases were thought to be under control, and public health epidemiologists focused their efforts largely on chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer. Although veterinarians were deeply involved in improving the understanding of these conditions by studying them in animal populations, many scientists and laypeople still had an image of veterinary public health practitioners as meat inspectors in a slaughterhouse. In 1975, the veterinary public health unit within the CDC was officially disbanded. Even during this time, however, several veterinarians were making strong contributions to public health through the CDC. Joe Held, a graduate of the Epidemic Intelligence Service of CDC, went on to become director of the National Institutes of Health Division of Research Services, Assistant Surgeon General, and director of the Pan American Zoonoses Center in Argentina.
Some within the CDC have argued that veterinary skills have been put to much broader use since the disbanding of the veterinary public health unit. In 1997, Peter Schantz, a veterinary parasitologist at CDC, documented that there were fifty-nine veterinarians at CDC assigned to eleven different centers, institutes, or program offices. Besides programs carrying out research and control of zoonotic diseases, veterinarians worked as epidemiologists and research scientists on other infectious diseases—including HIV/AIDS (human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome)—and on the national immunization program, environmental health, occupational health, and international health.
It was really only when infectious diseases began to reemerge as a global problem in the 1980s and 1990s that veterinary public health came back into prominence. This is largely because veterinary education, traditionally oriented to farm livestock, has been at the forefront of understanding the epidemiological features of infectious diseases in populations. It is no accident, for instance, that the protective effects for a population of vaccinating part of that population is termed a "herd effect." Furthermore, the wide scope of veterinary education lends itself well to studying and controlling zoonotic and food-borne illnesses, which became important areas of interest at the beginning of the twenty-first century.
Animal diseases may threaten human health in two ways: (1) they may threaten the animal populations that serve as food, transportation, or traction power in the fields; and (2) through zoonotic diseases, that are transmissable to humans.
NONZOONOTIC ANIMAL DISEASES OF PUBLIC HEALTH IMPORTANCE
Cattle plague, or rinderpest, which affects all cloven-hoofed animals, may serve as an example of how an epidemic disease in animals may have catastrophic effects on public health through a variety of indirect ways. The virus which causes rinderpest, related to canine distemper and human measles, was once endemic in Central Asia and made periodic forays into Europe, where it killed off tens of millions of cattle in the eighteenth century, despite strong quarantine measures, stimulating the creation of Europe's first veterinary schools. Rinderpest arrived in the lower Nile Valley with the British campaigns into the Sudan in 1884 through 1885. The prosperous cattle cultures further south, however, were initially protected by the Sahara Desert. Then, in 1889, the Italian army invading Eritrea brought cattle with them for provisioning. The disease then spread south in great devastating waves, killing millions of cattle and destroying the wealthy, cattle-based sub-Saharan civilizations. A third of the Ethiopian human population is estimated to have died as a result of this cattle plague. In what is today Tanzania, fewer than 5 percent of 4.5 million cattle survived. Villages disappeared, pastoral people were forced to become sedentary, and sedentary people lost their beasts of burden. About two-thirds of the Masai people starved to death. The way was opened up for European settlers and Bantu agriculturalists, who, of course, viewed their conquests as signs of superiority rather than as an exercise in carpet-bagging. One white South African source is quoted as saying that "the ravages of rinderpest, although reducing the native to poverty, has not been without beneficial results, and the native has now learnt humility to those to whom he is subordinate." Many wildlife species, especially large ungulates like buffalo, eland, giraffe, and kudu were decimated, and carnivores, deprived of their normal food, took to open attacks on people and other nonsusceptible species.
The disease also destroyed, initially, the natural hosts for tsetse flies, which spread blood-borne trypanosome parasites that cause sleeping sickness in people; the disease thus disappeared from wide areas of its historic habitat. Both wildlife and the scrub woodlands that support tsetse flies rebounded more quickly than the cattle and their associated grasslands. This created misconceptions among Europeans about the nature of African civilizations, the ecology of Africa in general, and about the zoonotic nature of sleeping sickness. Many sub-Saharan African ecosystems have, at different points in history, self-organized around wildlife-woodland species and cattle-grassland species. Current conservation efforts have been directed to conserve the wildlife-woodland system, which is also more hospitable to tsetse flies and endemic sleeping sickness. This is one of many examples where the veterinary activities, if allowed to take their appropriate place alongside ecologists and human health practitioners, can make profound contributions to our understanding of sustainable public health.
More recently, the public health effects of major epidemics of such nonzoonotic animal diseases as foot-and-mouth disease and both classical and African swine fever have been buffered and softened by social and economic safety nets, as well as rapid veterinary, public health, and economic responses.
The second way in which animal diseases may be of importance for public health is when the agents that cause them can be transmitted to people. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines zoonoses as "those diseases and infections, [the agents of] which are naturally transmitted between [other] vertebrate animals and [people]." This is a good, clear definition, and includes most of the diseases, such as rabies, brucellosis, tuberculosis, Q Fever, Lyme disease, salmonellosis, hydatid disease and sleeping sickness, which are conventionally viewed as being zoonoses. However, this definition is often stretched to include many infections that people share with other animals, either directly or indirectly. In some cases (such as histoplasmosis and blastomycosis), animals create conditions which allow the disease organisms to proliferate more easily. This broader net also includes other animal-associated illnesses—such as allergies—as well as the beneficial effects of animal ownership, ranging from lowered blood pressure and survival after heart attacks to serving as substitute social networks in time of crisis for elderly people.
Most often, humans are accidental hosts of zoonotic agents. The exceptions are some tapeworms, such as Taenia solium, Taenia saginata, and Diphyllobothrium latum, for which humans are the definitive host. In these cases, the agent is recycled back to people when they ingest meat from pigs, cattle, and fish, respectively, which have had the misfortune of ingesting infested human feces. These diseases are clearly tied to public hygiene measures as well as animal feeding practices.
Zoonoses may be classified according to their maintenance cycles. Direct zoonoses, such as leptospirosis, hantaviruses, and anthrax, may be perpetuated in nature by a single vertebrate species. Cyclozoonoses have maintenance cycles that require more than one vertebrate species, but no invertebrates. Echinococcus multilocularis, a tapeworm of canids that goes through intermediate stages in ruminants or omnivores, is an example. Metazoonoses require both vertebrates and invertebrates, such as ticks or mosquitoes, to complete their life cycle. American trypanosomiasis (Chagas disease, spread by triatomid "kissing bugs"), Lyme Disease (spread by deer ticks), plague (spread by rat fleas), and leishmaniasis (Kala-Azar, spread by sand flies) are metazoonotic diseases.
Saprozoonoses depend on inanimate reservoirs or development sites, such as soil, water, or plants, as well as vertebrate hosts. Toxoplasmosis, a single-celled intestinal parasite of cats which requires days to weeks in the environment to develop into an infective larval stage, and which infects people either through environmental contamination or through undercooked meat, is one example. Toxocara canis and T. catis, which exist as roundworm infections in dogs and cats, require an external environment to become infective for people. Children pick these larvae up in contaminated playgrounds and develop visceral larva migrans (VLM) or ocular larva migrans (OLM) when the larval forms move through the human body. Finally, mycotic infections such as blastomycosis, which can spend their entire life cycles externally, are also examples of saprozoonoses.
After a half century of seeming to be under control, food-borne diseases reemerged in the 1980s as a major class of human infections. Most of the agents associated with the current worldwide increases in cases of food-borne diseases—Salmonella DT 104; Salmonella enteritidis ; Escherichia coli 0157:H7; Campylobacter jejuni ; Listeria monocytogenes ; and the prions associated with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease) and its human form, new variant Creuzfeldt-Jakob disease (nvCJD)—have their reservoirs in animal populations. In most cases, they cannot be controlled without a full, multispecies understanding of the food chain, from "stable to table." Veterinary public health has therefore become a much more active field of inquiry and activity than it was in the mid–twentieth century.
The reasons for the global increases in food-borne diseases are complex, and have revealed weaknesses in how modern agriculture is organized. Industrialized agriculture tends to encourage economies of scale to keep prices down, and large groups of animals are often gathered into one place. Poultry and swine are often kept in large groups throughout their lives. Cattle may be kept in a dispersed manner when young, but are then gathered into large feedlots for fattening. Since the conditions which promote epidemics are a function of the size of the susceptible population and the probability of adequate contact (itself a function of the agents and the methods of spread), these large populations of animals are vulnerable to epidemic diseases. In an attempt to control this vulnerability, veterinarians have worked closely with various livestock industries to set up "herd health" or "flock health" programs. When these have broken down—as all programs eventually do, especially those requiring high labor, energy, or educational inputs—there have been catastrophic epidemics of diseases such as hog cholera, salmonella, or foot-and-mouth disease. But these economies of scale have also created epidemic conditions for agents which may not only affect the livestock themselves.
No matter how they are kept, most livestock, or livestock products such as milk, are processed in centralized facilities. At some point in the modern food system, the bacteria and viruses from a wide variety of sources are brought together in one place. This allows not only for cross-contamination, but for wide dispersal of the agents so gathered, since these centralized processing industries must, in order to remain economically viable, serve large populations.
The biological effects of these economies of scale have been exacerbated by the economic pressure to become more efficient; hence animal "wastes" (organs and parts of animals not considered fit for human consumption) have been reprocessed (rendered) into protein supplements (meat and bone meal, or MBM) through various heat and chemical processes. These allow animals to grow faster or produce more milk. Economically, this seems to make sense. Ecologically, however, this has created ideal conditions for the spread and enhancement of food-borne illnesses. Well before the epidemic of BSE in Britain in the 1980s and 1990s, salmonellosis was known to increase and be magnified throughout the food system through the synergistic effects associated with scale and efficiency.
The epidemic of BSE in the United Kingdom had several contributory factors. Not the least of these was a large ratio of sheep (40 million, compared with 8 million in the United States) to cattle (12 million, compared to 104 million in the United States). Furthermore, there was a high prevalence of scrapie-infected sheep in the United Kingdom (scrapie is a well-known but little understood transmissible spongiform encephalopathy of sheep). Thus, in the United Kingdom, rendered animal protein was 14 percent sheep-derived, compared to 0.6 percent in the United States, and much of the sheep-derived MBM came from scrapie-infected sheep. Then, in the late 1970s, changes in the economic value of tallow and fats and deregulation of the rendering industry affected the proportion of MBM processed with hydrocarbon fat solvents, which fell from about 70 percent in the mid-1970s to about 10 percent in the early 1980s. It is hypothesized that this helped create conditions which allowed infective prions to slip through the system.
The BSE epidemic not only clarified some of the weaknesses in how post–Word War II agriculture was organized. It also uncovered some structural problems in the relationships between veterinary and human public health. The first cases of BSE in cattle were reported in 1986. Within two years, it became clear that there was a serious epidemic of a new disease in cattle underway, and a series of well-designed veterinary epidemiological studies were done. As the epidemic unfolded, the emphasis shifted between concerns for BSE as an animal disease, to BSE as a public health, economic, and sociopolitical problem. Although the epidemic was brought rapidly under control through various draconian measures, the lack of formal structures to link these various concerns in a systemic manner has been costly not only in terms of lives lost to nvCJD, but also through the broad, preventable, public health impacts mediated through economic and agricultural restructuring. Public health workers have tended to view transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) such as CJD as rare, geographically widespread, and species-specific. However, those who worked with animal TSEs such as scrapie saw them as endemic in many countries, with evidence that they were capable of crossing species barriers. An integrated veterinary public health system might have made much earlier use of this information.
As indicated earlier, Salmonella epidemics in poultry had identified the recycling of animal proteins back into animal feeds for reasons of efficiency as problematic even before the BSE epidemic. Similarly, the use of antimicrobials in animal feeds—again for reasons of efficiency and cost—had underlined the fact that there could be serious public health consequences to such practices. There was evidence in the 1970s that feeding of antimicrobials to animals for growth promotion or as prophylaxis could promote the spread of resistant bacteria. What also became apparent was how easily bacteria can share genetic coding for resistance, and the degree to which resistance to various drugs might be linked. An understanding of the ecology of microbial populations in the food chain has improved, even as new strains of multidrug resistant bacteria, such as Salmonella DT 104, have emerged as serious human pathogens in North America and Europe. The links between microbial ecology, veterinary practices, and public health have made this an increasing area of concern for veterinary public health practitioners.
If agricultural activities have created epidemic conditions for food-borne diseases and problems with antibiotic resistance, they have also contributed—along with land use and climatic and cultural changes—to creating ecological conditions suitable for a range of other zoonoses. Among these, arboviruses—small, simple RNA viruses carried by arthropods (insects, spiders, crustaceans)— are particularly sensitive to changes in habitat and climate. Arboviruses multiply in the arthropods, which transmit them between vertebrate hosts. Thus, the incidence and spread of infection is sensitive to increases in standing water (mosquito breeding sites), which can be caused by irrigation systems as well as increased rainfall and temperature due to global climate changes. Hence, they often appear in seasonal epidemics. The feeding habits of the mosquitoes (whether they favor one host, or switch according to availability) are also important. For many of these viruses, small mammals and birds act as important reservoirs because they provide a steady supply of new, susceptible hosts.
Of the 535 arboviruses catalogued, some 100 are known to cause human illness, ranging from general fevers and muscle and joint pain to hemorrhagic symptoms and encephalitis. Many of these also cause similar illnesses in domestic animals. Large, long-lived vertebrates may actually serve to slow an epidemic since they develop strong immunity and, because they tend to develop low-level viremias, are not considered an important source of reinfection for other animals. These include various equine encephalitis viruses, which have been well studied for decades, such as those associated with Western, Eastern, and St. Louis Encephalitis; as well as others, like West Nile virus, that emerged as major concerns (at least in Europe and North America) at the turn of the millennium. They also include the agents of Rift Valley fever, yellow fever, and Japanese encephalitis. Even dengue fever, which is transmitted by the yellow fever mosquito Aedes aegypti, may have its origins in a treetop jungle cycle between wild primates and sylvatic mosquitoes.
The relationships between emerging infectious diseases and global environmental change have been stimulated not just by arboviral infections. At least two direct zoonoses—hantavirus pulmonary syndrome and leptospirosis—are sensitive to these changes. A few years ago, few people outside of military circles had ever heard of hantaviruses. Military people knew about them because they caused epidemic hemorrhagic fevers and kidney problems for troops in South Korea. Over three thousand United Nations personnel were infected. Indeed, this version of the disease has been reported around the world for many decades. Only in 1993, when a new version of the disease seemed to emerge in the American southwest, did something approaching panic spread through the medical community. This illustrates a global rule of disease emergence: diseases are important if politically or economically powerful people deem them to be so.
Being associated with drought, floods, and plagues of rodents, the story of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome has strong biblical resonances. In the spring of 1992, six years of drought in the Four Corners region of the southwestern United States ended in torrential rains. In the wake of the floods came piñon nuts and grasshoppers, and then a plague of deer mice. In one year, the deer mouse population increased tenfold, bringing the little creatures into much closer contact with farmers and other rural residents. By the time the mouse population started declining in 1993, forty-two people had succumbed to an illness that started with fever, nausea, and vomiting and ended, for twenty-six of the forty-two, with fluid in the lungs, and then death. This emergence of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome demonstrated that the disruption of ecosystems, whatever the cause, was not merely an "environmental" issue.
In many ways, hantavirus infection is similar to leptospirosis. Both are associated with spiral-shaped bacteria that prosper in warm moist places like kidneys and bladders. Neither of these diseases require a flea or other invertebrate to help complete their life cycle. The difference between hantaviruses and leptospires is that the leptospiral bacteria can survive longer in the environment, and thus are more likely to be directly affected by changes in temperature and rainfall patterns as a result of global environmental changes. Leptospirosis is believed to be the mystery killer disease which appeared in Nicaragua in 1996 after extensive flooding. Both leptospires and hantaviruses, however, are spread through rat urine and its aerosolized forms and both are closely associated with agricultural and military occupations that demand intensive meddling in restructured natural environments where rats make their homes. Hantaviruses may have started as pathogens of poor housing conditions and poverty, but the North American middle-class infatuation with visiting, or living in, "natural landscapes" has spread these agents to all socioeconomic levels.
Concern with food-borne and other emerging infectious diseases, many of which are zoonotic, has certainly broken down many barriers between veterinary and "mainstream" public health. The presence of veterinary epidemiologists at international public health conferences is no longer considered an aberration. Veterinarians are active in most public health departments in industrialized countries. ProMED, the important international electronic list-serve for reporting emerging infectious diseases, brings plant, animal, and human reports into one forum. Veterinary epidemiologists and pathologists, together with human health researchers and ecologists, have characterized many of the environmentally and agriculturally related public health problems of importance in the twenty-first century. All of these trends point to a return to the roots of "one medicine" as practiced by the great poly-mathic biologists of the nineteenth century. But these new activities take comparative medicine one step further, as they consider the ecological and cultural contexts in which diseases occur.
ECOSYSTEM-BASED VETERINARY PUBLIC HEALTH
Arboviruses and other wildlife and environmentally related zoonoses have renewed interest among veterinary public health practitioners in ecology and medical geography, and in techniques of investigation, analysis, and presentation involving spatial statistics and geographic information systems. These, combined with new environmental management techniques, have resulted in several innovative initiatives to promote public health through ecosystem-based approaches. The Network for Ecosystem Sustainability and Health, an international network of researchers from a variety of disciplines and communities, has had strong veterinary involvement from the beginning, as has the International Society for Ecosystem Health. The Center for Conservation Medicine links the veterinary college at Tufts University with Harvard Medical School and the Wildlife Preservation Trust. A nationally coordinated professional veterinary elective in ecosystem health was developed in 1993 and delivered jointly by the four Canadian veterinary colleges. From the point of view of understanding and promoting public health in a sustainable fashion, these integrative initiatives were long overdue.
Veterinary public health, growing from an orientation toward animal populations, and chastened by economic limits, has always drawn strongly on epidemiological methods of investigation and control. Before the twentieth century, many of these methods were based on various ecological observations, as well as military and agricultural necessity. As early as the fourth century, Marcus Terrentius Varro, observing diseases of livestock in Rome, noted that "there are bred [in swamps] certain minute creatures which cannot be seen by the eyes, which float in the air and enter the body through the mouth and nose and cause serious disease." Based on this kind of understanding, population-health management, quarantine, mass treatments, and mass vaccinations were a well-developed method of controlling animal diseases well before they became standard public health practices.
The International Society for Veterinary Epidemiology and Economics (ISVEE) symposium brings together every three years researchers and frontline workers from around the world who deal with the ecological and cultural dynamics of zoonotic and animal diseases that affect public health. As the global public health movement matures, one can only hope that veterinary and nonveterinary public health practitioners can be more openly integrated into new organizational frameworks that take advantage of their complementary and synergistic understanding of what it means to create healthy and sustainable human communities on earth.
(see also: Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Climate Change and Human Health; Ecosystems; Emerging Infectious Diseases; Epidemics; Epidemiology; Food-Borne Diseases; International Health; Prions; Salmonellosis; Vector-Borne Diseases; Zoonoses )
Palmer, S. R.; Soulsby, L.; and Simpson, D. I. H. (1998). Zoonoses: Biology, Clinical Practice, and Public Health Control. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Schwabe, C. W. (1978). Cattle, Priests, and Progress in Medicine. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
—— (1994). Veterinary Medicine and Human Health, 3rd edition. Baltimore, MD: Williams & Wilkins.
Van Leeuwen, N. N. O., and Waltner-Toews, D. (1998). "Ecosystem Health: An Essential Field for Veterinary Medicine." Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 212:53–57.
Waltner-Toews, D. (2001). "An Ecosystem Approach to Health and its Applications to Tropical and Emerging Diseases." Cadernas de Saúde Publical Reports on Public Health 17 (Supp.):7–22.
See also the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases at http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/eid/ and the World Health Organization at http://www.who.int, where veterinary public health activities are integrated into various parts of the site.
FOUR LEGGED FRIENDS CLINIC
900 Timkin Rd.
Arlington Heights, IL 60005
Four Legged Friends Clinic (FLFC) is a new veterinary practice, in Arlington Heights, Illinois. FLFC will be distinguished from other veterinary practices by its focus on farm animals and house pet issues as well as expertise in alternative treatments.
It aims to be the first choice for farm animals and house pet owners in Arlington Heights that want the best for their farm animal or pet.
Veterinary care in the greater Chicago area is a $2,000,000 sized market and it’s growing. Positioned as a good choice for Arlington Heights farm animals and pet owners, FLFC will offer owners care of older farm animals and house pets. These customers are likely to visit veterinarian more than once a year and make veterinary care decisions based on quality rather price. We will have promotional efforts set up to attract customers.
Born and raised in Arlington Heights, I studied veterinary at Northwestern University. After my education I worked for the college for two years, and then went off to work at a large local veterinarian in Chicago. Since this I noticed a need for more veterinary clinics in Arlington Heights. There were a couple of reasons. Over the past five years, there has been about a 36 percent increase in the number of farm animals in a 60 mile radius of Arlington Heights. In addition to this increase, the population of Arlington Heights has increased by 22 percent, therefore increasing the amount of potential pet owners. The final reason is that the existing vet clinics cannot keep up with the business.
Four Legged Friends Clinic will be profitable by the end first of its year. By the end of its third year, it will likely grow to include another veterinarian. I am currently investing $45,000 in start–up funding to supplement my father’s $18,000 investment in the business. These additional funds will primarily be used to buy veterinary equipment.
Patricia Pugh: After working with a successful veterinary practice in Chicago, I decided to return to my hometown of Arlington Heights to establish a veterinary practice to serve the region’s farm animals and house pet owners especially.
- Re–establish myself in my hometown of Arlington Heights.
- Undertake the challenge of creating a profitable and respected practice.
- Achieve balance between my work and personal life, as I plan to have children in the next few years.
- Earn sufficient income to pay off my personal debt within two years.
Company’s Short–Term Objectives
- Secure office and kennel space by September 2006.
- Obtain start–up financing of $100,000 by July 2006.
- Open for business by October 2006.
- Hire a technician and an assistant by October 2006.
- Have 200 active patients by the end of the first year.
- Volunteer with the local Zoo, in order to make contacts.
- Talk with the local newspaper, to see if they would print a weekly pets column that I write.
- Offer a pets tips series for the local radio station to play.
- Be profitable by the end of the first year.
Company’s Long–Term Objectives
- Have 500 active patients by the end of the second year.
- Have 700 active patients by the end of the third year.
- Hire another veterinarian by the end of the fourth year.
Offer best service as well as conventional and non–traditional veterinary services in a way that stresses compassion, and quality–of–life for pets and owners.
General treatment for pets and farm animals, preventative vaccination, diagnosis, treatment, surgery and kennel facilities for domestic pets. The kennel portion of our business will be larger than traditional veterinarian offices. We will have a year round service open 7 days a week. This will allow for clients to drop off their pets for either a day or a week. We feel this kennel will add extra revenue to our office and allow for clients to become comfortable with us, while we build long term clients.
By focusing on farm animals and house pets, The Four Legged Friends Clinic will offer a variety of expertise, experience, and high–quality operation unmatched by other traditional veterinary clinics located in Arlington Heights. Also, no other area veterinarian has the well rounded training that we will offer to our clients.
Demographic Factors and Trends
- Dog pet population is in a slow down over the past few years, this however is being offset by higher growth in the number of farm animals & other household pets.
- Baby Boomers are getting older and tend to have more disposable income to spend on their pets, therefore we will see more visits by boomer clients with the money to spend.
- According to the Arlington Heights Economic Department, Arlington Heights has been the third fastest growing city in Illinois since 2005 and Arlington Heights has now over 125,000 residents.
Social Factors and Trends
- Pet owners are embracing veterinary service like preventative dental care.
- The city also now passed a bylaw stating all cats must be neutered and licensed. This has greatly increased the amount of cat neutering that is required.
Such products and services will probably be offered more if interest continues to increase.
Economic Factors and Trends
- The current economic hot market has positively affected market the for essential veterinary services
- The market for “non–traditional” veterinary product and services may grow even more quickly as the economy continues to grow.
- The Arlington Heights economy continues to grow while it shifts more toward oil and gas business.
Technological Factors and Trends
- New veterinary technologies are constantly emerging. Forinstance, using laser therapy to treat tissue disorders in small animals is gaining acceptance. As technologies continue to be designed, I anticipate upgrading my practice’s equipment and skills.
- Many veterinarians are using practice management software to help run their businesses. We will want to invest in this specialized software.
Regulatory Factors and Trends
- Veterinarians in Canada must study for at least two years at a university, and then graduate from a 4–year program at an accredited college of veterinary medicine. To qualify for a provincial license, veterinarians must pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam.
- According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, American veterinary colleges only graduate 400 new veterinarians each year.
Environmental Factors and Trends
- Veterinary medicine involves handling chemicals that could potentially harm humans. Special steps must be taken in the administration, storage, and disposal of medicines, vaccine needles, and blood samples, resulting in additional costs.
- With the spread of West Nile and similar viruses, veterinarians today must adhere to strict guidelines for reporting any infection that is listed in the federal government database. These controls are in place for the betterment of humans as well as protection for the animals.
The Arlington Heights population and the Baby Boomers’ disposable income are causing an increase in the amount of money spent on pet care in Arlington Heights that will probably continue to increase in the coming years. At this time, the number of veterinarians remains restricted by the number of veterinary colleges. As a result, the demand may exceed the supply, and practicing veterinarians will likely enjoy a steady rise in business. Specialty treatments like preventative dental care will become more popular and will represent significant sources of income for veterinarians.
Arlington Heights, Illinois demographic profile 2002
(Primary trade area)
July 1, 2002 Population (Primary): 62,129
% change 1996 > 2002: +7.07%
Average annual growth rate: 1.15%
Average household income: $51,133
Retail sales: 42% above national avg.
Average family income: $55,527.00
Per capita income: $20,497.00
Private households: 24,905
Family size: 3.0
Housing starts (2000): 413
According to Research Inc., 24 percent of American households have at least one pet. Based on the most recent American census data, this suggests that about 45,000 pet owners live in the greater Arlington Heights area. The average pet owner spends about $230 per year on pet health care. As a result, the market for veterinary services in the Arlington Heights area is estimated to be over $5 million.
Goodland Animal Clinic:
- Strengths: Large staff (at least 12 full–time veterinarians); strong relationships with area kennels
- Weaknesses: Aging equipment and higher than average pricing
Arlington Heights Pet Palace:
- Strength: Reasonable prices
- Weaknesses: Young staff; small, crowded kennel facility
Lakefront Vet Clinic:
- Strength: In business in Arlington Heights since 1947
- Weaknesses: Limited parking; expensive vaccines
Windy City Clinic:
- Strengths: Excellent reputation for dog–specific care; services include preventative dental care; also sells dog food and other products
- Weaknesses: Higher than average pricing
At FLFC, my primary target customers are farm animals and house pet owners, specifically owners of older farm animals and house pets. Owners of older farm animals and house pets tend to:
- Visit the veterinarian more than once a year, due to the age of their pet.
- Make veterinary care decisions based on quality of care, rather than on price.
- Encounter more pet health problems that can be treated using alternative methods, in conjunction with conventional treatment.
These customers will choose FLFC because as their farm animals and house pet’s age, my clinic can offer an unparalleled range of animal–focused expertise in treating both the common and rare ailments that afflict farm animals and house pets.
Sales & Mark Position
FLFC Client Benefits
- The sense of community and the comfort that comes with using a veterinarian that specializes in treating the species they love.
- The exclusivity that comes with knowing that their pet is being cared for by the only veterinarian in the area with alternative pet care expertise.
- The security that comes with knowing that everything is being done to prolong and improve the quality of their pets’ lives.
Customers will be required to pay immediately by cash, check, debit card, VISA or MasterCard.
Except in the case of checkups, farm animals & house pet owners will receive follow–up calls from my assistant within 24 hours after their appointment, to check on their pet’s well–being. Premises permitting, kennel facilities will also be offered. Existing customers will be able to leave healthy pets in the overnight facility for a small fee.
As the Veterinarian and owner of FLFC, I will be responsible for running the business and providing veterinary care to customers’ pets.
Planned promotional efforts are in keeping with the American Veterinary Medical Association Advertising Guidelines.
- A free workshop for farm animals and house pets owners in “Feline Health and Happiness” to be conducted at a busy local bookstore, Professor’s Books, several weeks before the opening of the practice. Attendees’ names will be collected, and I will send them an announcement of the practice’s opening.
- A listing in the Yellow Pages.
- Meetings with area veterinarians, to build relationships and channels for referrals.
- An article about the practice in the Lifestyles section of Arlington Heights’ local newspaper.
- Birthday cards sent to customers’ pets.
New clients will either be referred by other veterinarians and pet businesses, or they will choose my practice based on promotional efforts. All services will be rendered in FLFC offices.
Our business and strategic alliances include:
- Grooming Gods is a high–end grooming company
- Arlington Animal Hospital, which has agreed to help offer me 2–hour on–call veterinary service clinic, will be the only “Approved Referral”
When I’m away from my practice for short periods of time, Dr. Alfred Benito at the Arlington Animal Hospital has agreed to care for my patients.
- Premises: I am buying a free–standing building close to major streets, in residential neighborhoods that are appropriately zoned and can be easily converted into a veterinary practice and kennel space. To maximize exposure to the under–served community, I am specifically looking in neighborhoods. Cost: $1,500–$ 2,500 per month, paid for initially from the $30,000 equity investment I’ve made from the business.
- Renovation of space: I expect I will have to convert the premises into a more suitable veterinary practice. Cost: Approximately $15,000, including furniture
- Veterinary start–up package: I will order this package from Animal Supplies Inc. It includes digital walk–on scale, treatment tub, hydraulic table, machine, feline spay pack, x–ray machine, film and supplies, a blood chemistry unit, used kennel cages, and other equipment. Cost: Approximately $48,000, financing required.
- Computer hardware and software: To manage the practice’s front office, I intend to buy a computer from Computer Associates and management software from Veterinary PDM Inc.
I am seeking $65,000 in bank loans to finance the purchase of veterinary equipment.
I already have life and disability insurance and need to obtain critical illness insurance. My employees will be covered by workers’ compensation insurance.
I have a will. While I don’t have anybody in mind to take over my practice if I become unable to work, I have given my parents’ contact information for competitors who would be potential buyers if something should happen to me.
If my supplier fails to deliver a shipment, suddenly raises its prices, or goes for business out of town, I have established a relationship with a back–up supplier of animal and house pets equipment in Chicago.
If I am unable to find a full–time assistant with practice experience, I will consider part–timers with only administrative experience.
If I need legal advice, I will retain the services of Robert Smith, a partner at the law firm of Smith and Smith Law Firm and one of the leading law firms in Arlington Heights. I will arrange a small line of credit or overdraft protection to cover any unforeseen expenses or to accommodate slow payment by a client.
- Fred Brown, a chartered accountant
- Cindy Blum, Manager of a consulting firm
- Responsibilities: Making appointments, ordering supplies, managing files, processing bills and payment, other clerical duties
- Required experience: At least three years of employment at another veterinarian clinic or health care practice.
- Salary: $21,000
- Start date: February 2007
- Responsibilities: Assisting with physical examinations, surgery, immunizations, extracting teeth, and caring for in the farm animals and house pets’ kennels
- Required experience: A Veterinary Technician or Health Technician diploma from a nationally–recognized college, plus at least four years working with companion animals (preferably farm animals and house pets) at another veterinarian practice
- Start date: February 2007
Through referrals, I already have leads on a number of qualified candidates for both positions.
I will also use the following methods to acquire potential employees:
- Place want ads in the Arlington Heights shopper
- Post listings at online job sites
- Contact employment agencies.
Staff training will be ongoing.
By the end of my third year of operation, I expect to hire a second veterinarian to grow the clinic and give me more flexibility to be away from the clinic when necessary. The new hire’s areas of expertise will depend upon the needs of the practice at that time, but I expect to pay them around $55,000 per year.
In general, FLFC’s prices for conventional diagnostics and treatment will be relatively high, in line with its exclusive positioning. Here are the clinic’s intended prices for representative veterinary services.
For non–traditional treatments like acupuncture, FLFC will charge $57 per forty–minute session. Kennel services will cost $19 per night.
We will offer the following services in our clinic:
- Walk–in service
- Overnight care
- Seven days a week, 24 hours a day, call–in service
- Off–site service (the Vet will go to your farm)
- Routine animal care services
- GPS Tagging for tracking animals
Veterinary On–Call Services
A veterinarian is on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year (366 in a leap year) to provide veterinary services to animals involved in research projects. During working hours, a veterinarian may be contacted by the university telephone system or by cell phone. After hours and on holidays the cell phone number should be used. Veterinary Services is committed to responding to emergency calls within ten minutes. Telephone numbers are available from facility managers and should be posted in a prominent location. If you use the cell phone system and your call is not immediately answered, please leave a message including your telephone number and remain by the phone. If your call is not answered within 10 minutes please call again. We also request that you notify the department of any call which is not answered in a timely fashion.
Drugs and Supplies
The Department of Animal Care and Veterinary Services maintains and keeps inventory of commonly used veterinary drugs and supplies. Drugs are only sold in accordance with an approved “Application to Use Animals in Teaching and Testing”. Restricted drugs are only dispensed in small amounts. Accurate record keeping and suitable storage facilities are prerequisites. Buprenorphine is a commonly used analgesic that is available from ACVS.
Items are sold on a cost plus basis and are charged directly to the investigators account number. Items may be ordered specifically for an investigator. There is no additional charge for this service unless immediate delivery is required. In such instances, shipping and handling will also be applied.
Veterinarians are available to discuss such topics as anaesthetic and analgesic regimes, animal models, surgical methods etc. There is no charge for this service.
It is recommended that investigators, technicians and other research staff take advantage of this service prior to the submission of invasive animal use protocols. The veterinarian will attempt to identify problems which may arise during the review process. This may expedite the review process.
In addition, information is available on animal handling equipment, zoonotic diseases, specialized surgical instrumentation and other topics related to animals in research.
Consultations may be made over the telephone, or in person, either in the animal laboratory or in the offices of Animal Care and Veterinary Services.
A full-time licensed Veterinary Technician is available to perform animal procedures based on an hourly rate. Time should be booked as soon in advance as possible. Examples of techniques commonly performed include:
- antibody raising procedures
- blood collection
- post–operative care and monitoring
- surgical assistance
Licensed veterinarians are also available to perform surgical or other experimental procedures.
Veterinary Rounds and Veterinary Health Checks
University veterinarians make routine visits to all holding facilities. This provides research staff with the opportunity to discuss problems with animal care or research methods. The veterinarian discusses the visit with the facility manager and research staff and prepares a brief report, which is sent to the facility manager and members of the Animal Use Subcommittee. In addition, on a less frequent basis, visits are made to research laboratories.
In addition to the above visits, arrangements can be made to have a veterinarian observe procedures, examine animals or perform post–mortem procedures. You may contact the department directly, or have the facility manager make the necessary arrangements.
Loans and Rentals
The Department of Animal Care and Veterinary Services makes a number of items available to investigators. There is usually a daily stipend applied. The income from this charge is used to maintain the various items. A partial list of some of the items is included below. If you are interested in obtaining additional information, please have the facility manager make the necessary arrangements.
- rodent induction chambers
- circulating water heating pads
- glass bead instrument sterilizers
- ultrasonic instrument cleaner
- surgical instruments
- gas anaesthetic machines
- heat lamps
- surgical drape packs
- surgical greens
Reference Library and Handouts
The Department of Animal Care and Veterinary Services maintains a departmental library. The library is available for ‘in–house’ use. Subjects covered include Anaesthesia and Analgesia, Medicine, Surgery, Animal Models and Animal Husbandry. In addition to texts there are also instructional and informative video and audiotape presentations which may be viewed in the library. Journals specifically related to Laboratory Animal Medicine are also available for use within the library.
In addition to the above, handouts on animal diseases and procedures are available. Some of these are available on the website.
A clinical veterinarian is available to perform post–mortem evaluation of animals where the cause of the animal’s demise is unknown. There is no charge for this service. Additional testing such as histology or bacteriology is charged out on a cost plus basis. In addition the veterinarian performs routine necropsies as part of facility health surveillance. There is no charge to the investigator for any costs involved in these procedures.
A veterinarian is available to perform necropsies as part of a research protocol, however in this case the procedure would be charged out as a rent–a–vet service.
Throughout the first twelve months of business, FLFC will have a steady cash flow.
In its first year of business, FLFC is projected to do $347,000 in sales, with $44,000 profit.
|Stationery, etc.||$ 1,800|
|Total start-up expenses||$100,700|
|Start-up assets needed Cash balance on starting date||$ 67,000|
|Other current assets||$ 0|
|Total current assets||$ 67,000|
|Accounts payable||$ 0|
|Current borrowing||$ 0|
|Other current liabilities||$ 0|
|Current liabilities||$ 0|
|Long-term liabilities||$ 65,000|
|Total liabilities||$ 65,000|
VETERINARY MEDICINE. The Indians of North America had no domestic animals until they captured progeny of horses and cattle that had escaped from Spanish explorers during the early sixteenth century, and their animals received only the most primitive veterinary care. Animals brought to the Virginia and New England colonies with the first settlers arrived in a nearly disease-free environment and, despite generally poor care, disease did not become widespread until the late seventeenth century.
Europe had no veterinary schools before 1760, but self-tutored cow doctors and farriers plied their trade and wrote books, some of which found their way to America, and a few early colonists gained local recognition for prowess in animal doctoring. A Virginia lawsuit of 1625, when a William Carter was brought to court over a cow he had guaranteed to cure, provides what is likely the first reference to such a practitioner.
The first American work to discuss animal disease, the anonymous Husband-man's Guide (1710), devoted a dozen pages to "The Experienced Farrier." An early work of some consequence, because it and others of its genre retarded the development of scientific veterinary medicine for nearly a century, was The Citizen and Countryman's Experienced Farrier (1764) by J. Markham, G. Jeffries, and Discreet Indians, which essentially rehashed a wretched British work, Markham's Maister-peece (1610).
Few serious animal diseases broke out in America before 1750; one of the first was "horse catarrh" (equine influenza, still a periodic problem) in 1699 and again in 1732 in New England. Canine distemper is said to have originated in South America in 1735 and by 1760 caused many deaths among dogs along the North Atlantic seaboard. In 1796–1797 a "very fatal" form of feline distemper (a different disease) appeared in New York and Philadelphia, where an estimated nine thousand cats died before it spread over most of the northern states. Rabies, or hydrophobia, was recorded as early as 1753 and reached alarming proportions in many areas by 1770. About 1745 a "mysterious malady" attacked cattle from the Carolinas to Texas and decimated local herds along the way to northern markets. This likely was piroplasmosis (Texas fever), a blood disease transmitted by the cattle tick, which later threatened the entire cattle industry of the United States.
America's first veterinary surgeon was John Haslam, a graduate of the Veterinary College of London (established 1791) who came to New York in 1803. His few writings in the agricultural press mark him as one whose rational practice was ahead of its time. As in Britain, few considered veterinary medicine a fit pursuit for educated persons, and by 1850 only a dozen or so graduate veterinarians practiced in America. Until about 1870 the numerous agricultural journals, several of which advertised "a free horse doctor with every subscription," supplied most contemporary information on animal disease.
In 1807 the eminent physician Benjamin Rush advocated the establishment of a school of veterinary medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, but this did not materialize until 1884. George H. Dadd, a British medical man who had emigrated to America and turned to veterinary practice about 1845, opened a proprietary school, the Boston Veterinary Institute, in 1855. The school had only six graduates when it closed in 1858, and Dadd became better known for two of his several books, The American Cattle Doctor (1850) and The Modern Horse Doctor (1854). Dadd was an early advocate of rational medical treatment and humane surgery, including the use of general anesthesia. Dadd also founded and edited the American Veterinary Journal (1851–1852; 1855–1859). The first veterinary journal to have real impact was the American Veterinary Review, established in 1875 by Alexandre Liautard. The American Veterinary Medical Association purchased the Review in 1915 and since has published it as the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Organized veterinary medicine had its shaky beginning in Philadelphia in 1854, when Robert Jennings, a nongraduate practitioner, helped found the American Veterinary Association. This group was superseded in 1863, when a separate group founded the U.S. Veterinary Medical Association (USVMA) in New York with a London graduate, Josiah H. Stickney of Boston, as its first president. In 1898 the USVMA, which had only belatedly attracted proper support by the still-fledgling veterinary profession, changed its name to the American Veterinary Medical Association. In the years since it has had a major influence on veterinary education and practice.
The veterinary educational system in the United States began with a series of some two dozen proprietary schools, which until 1927 had about eleven thousand graduates, who, for many years, made up the majority of the profession. Following the ill-fated attempt in Boston and another in Philadelphia (1852, no graduates), the New York College of Veterinary Surgeons (1857–1899) became the first viable school, although the American Veterinary College (New York, 1875–1898) soon overshadowed it. Most successful were the schools in Chicago (1883–1920) and Kansas City (1891–1918), with about 4,400 graduates. These schools depended entirely on student fees, offered a two-year curriculum, and emphasized the study of the horse. At the turn of the century, increasing demands for an extension of the period of instruction to three and then four years (now six), together with a broadening of scope to include the study of other species, spelled the doom of schools lacking university support.
Iowa State University founded the first of the university schools (1879), followed by the University of Pennsylvania (1884). By 1918 nine more schools had opened at land grant universities in Ohio, New York, Washington, Kansas, Alabama, Colorado, Michigan, Texas, and Georgia. Increasing demand for veterinary services after World War II resulted, by 1975, in the establishment of a school at Tuskegee Institute and eight at land-grant institutions, mostly in the Midwest, with more schools in the planning stage.
After 1750, records indicate numerous local outbreaks of animal disease, serious enough in some areas to cause considerable hardship, but the isolation of settlements and continuing availability of new land kept animal disease at tolerable levels nationally. The rise of large-scale animal disease in the United States in about 1860 in part explains the formation of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1862 and its Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) in 1884. The Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862 accelerated the establishment of agricultural colleges, and most of the twenty-two in existence by 1867 offered instruction in veterinary science. Unusually competent educators and researchers staffed many of these departments, such as James Law of Cornell, and many of their early students became prominent veterinary scientists.
With Daniel E. Salmon as its first chief, the BAI formed when efforts by the states to stem the rising tide of animal plagues proved inadequate, threatening the livestock industry of the entire nation with extinction. Contagious pleuropneumonia of cattle originated with a single cow imported from England to New York in 1843, and a major outbreak in Massachusetts in 1859 stemmed from four imported Dutch cows. By 1880 the disease had spread to most of the states east of the Mississippi, and the BAI's first task was to eradicate it by slaughtering infected and exposed cattle, which it accomplished in 1892.
After Theobold Smith discovered the protozoan cause of Texas fever in 1889, Fred L. Kilborne proved, in about 1893, that the cattle tick was the necessary vector in the disease's transmission. Delineation of the tick's life cycle by Cooper Curtice then paved the way for control of the disease by dipping cattle to kill the ticks.
Hog cholera originated in Ohio in 1833, infecting herds throughout the United States by 1870, when losses in the Midwest exceeded $10 million annually. BAI scientists began searching for its cause in 1884, eight years before any viral cause of disease had been demonstrated; discovery of the hog cholera agent in 1904 led to its control by vaccination. However, the use of virulent virus in vaccine maintained a reservoir of the disease, and in 1960 the country began a program of total eradication. In 1974, with the program completed, experts declared the country completely free of hog cholera.
In less than two decades, BAI veterinarians found the means for combating three distinct types of animal plagues by three vastly different means: a bacterial disease by slaughter, a viral disease by vaccination, and, for the first time in the history of medicine, a protozoan infection by elimination of the vector. In the ensuing years veterinarians also eradicated by slaughter several outbreaks of socalled exotic diseases, such as foot-and-mouth disease in cattle. These efforts have been successful—the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in England in 2000 did not affect livestock in the United States.
Veterinary practice, which began with self-denominated farriers and cow doctors (who often called themselves veterinary surgeons), shifted to the hands of graduates who, from 1870 to about 1920, were concerned primarily with the horse. Practitioners dealt mainly with individual animals, and veterinary medicine remained more of an art than a science. Attention increasingly turned to cattle and pet animal practice. After World War II employment opportunities for veterinarians broadened greatly, and many graduates entered such areas as public health, laboratory animal medicine, zoo animal practice, medical research, and various specialties including radiology, ophthalmology, and equine practice.
Few women became veterinarians during the early 1900s. By 1950 they constituted only about 4 percent of the workforce, but by 1970 they made up more than 20 percent of student enrollees and increased thereafter. Between 1900 and 1996, 60 percent of veterinary school graduating classes were women. By 1999 about 30 percent of the 59,000 veterinarians in the United States were women, and the numbers were still rising.
Bierer, Bert W. A Short History of Veterinary Medicine in America. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press. 1955.
Dunlop, Robert H. A Short History of Veterinary Medicine in America. St. Louis: Mosby, 1996.
Smithcors, J. F. The American Veterinary Profession: Its Background and Development. Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1963.
J. F.Smithcors/c. w.
Veterinary microbiology is concerned with the microorganisms , both beneficial and disease causing, to non-human animal life. For a small animal veterinarian, the typical animals of concern are domesticated animals, such as dogs, cats, birds, fish, and reptiles. Large animal veterinarians focus on animals of economic importance, such as horses, cows, sheep, and poultry.
The dogs and cats that are such a familiar part of the household environment are subject to a variety of microbiological origin ailments. As with humans, vaccination of young dogs and cats is a wise precaution to avoid microbiological diseases later in life.
Cats can be infected by a number of viruses and bacteria that cause respiratory tract infections. For example the bacterium Bordetella pertussis, the common cause of kennel cough in dogs, also infects cats, causing the same persistent cough. Another bacteria called Chlamydia causes another respiratory disease, although most of the symptoms are apparent in the eyes. Inflammation of the mucous covering of the eyelids (conjunctivitis) can be so severe that the eyes swell shut.
Cats are prone to viral infections. Coronavirus is common in environments such as animal shelters, where numbers of cats live in close quarters. The virus causes an infection of the intestinal tract. Feline panleukopenia is a very contagious viral disease that causes a malaise and a decrease in the number of white blood cells. The immune disruption can leave the cat vulnerable to other infections and can be lethal. Fortunately, a protective vaccine exists. Like humans, cats are also prone to herpes virus infections. In cats the infection is in the respiratory tract and eyes. Severe infections can produce blindness. Another respiratory disease, reminiscent of a cold in humans, is caused by a calicivirus. Pneumonia can develop and is frequently lethal. Finally the feline leukemia virus causes cancer of the blood. The highly contagious nature of this virus makes vaccination prudent for young kittens.
Dogs are likewise susceptible to bacterial and viral infections. A virus known as parainfluenzae virus also causes kennel cough. Dogs are also susceptible to coronavirus. Members of the bacterial genus called Leptospira can infect the kidneys. This infection can be passed to humans and to other animals. A very contagious viral infection, which typically accompanies bacterial infections, is called canine distemper. Distemper attacks many organs in the body and can leave the survivor permanently disabled. A vaccine against distemper exists, but must be administered periodically throughout the dog's life to maintain the protection. Another virus called parvovirus produces a highly contagious, often fatal, infection. Once again, vaccination needs to be at regular (usually yearly) intervals. Like humans, dogs are susceptible to hepatitis , a destructive viral disease of the liver. In dogs that have not been vaccinated, the liver infection can be debilitating. Finally, dogs are also susceptible to the viral agent of rabies . The virus, often passed to the dog via the bite of another rabid animal, can in turn be passed onto humans. Fortunately again, vaccination can eliminated the risk of acquiring rabies.
Microbiological infections of farm animals and poultry is common. For example, studies have shown that well over half the poultry entering processing plants are infected with the bacterium Campylobacter jejuni. Infection with members of the bacterial genus Salmonella are almost as common. Fecal contamination of poultry held in close quarters is responsible. Similarly the intestinal bacterium Escherichia coli is spread from bird to bird. Improper processing can pass on these bacteria to humans, where they cause intestinal maladies.
Chickens and turkeys are also susceptible to a bacterial respiratory disease caused by Mycoplasma spp. The "air sac disease" causes lethargy, weight loss, and decreased egg production. Poultry can also acquire a form of cholera, which is caused by Pasteurella multocida. Examples of some other bacteria of note in poultry are species of Clostridium (intestinal tract infection and destruction of tissue), Salmonella pullorum (intestinal infection that disseminates widely throughout the body), Salmonella gallinarum (typhoid), and Clostridium botulinum (botulism ).
Cattle and sheep are also susceptible to microbiological ailments. Foot and mouth disease is a prominent example. This contagious and fatal disease can sweep through cattle and sheep populations, causing financial ruin for ranchers. Moreover, there is now evidence that bovine spongiform encephalopathy, a disease caused by an infectious agent termed a prion, may be transmissible to humans, where it is manifest as the always lethal brain deterioration called Creutzfeld-Jacob disease.
See also Zoonoses
vet·er·i·nar·y / ˈvet(ə)rəˌnerē/ • adj. of or relating to the diseases, injuries, and treatment of animals: veterinary medicine a veterinary nurse. • n. (pl. -nar·ies) dated a veterinarian.