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World Veterinary Day Celebrates Breadth of Profession

April 18, 2007

On World Veterinary Day, the World Veterinary Association reminds us of the many ways that veterinarians serve society. The following information is provided by the World Veterinary Association.  

What do veterinarians do?

Traditionally we think of veterinarians as caring for and treating sick and injured animals. However veterinarians are trained for many other roles that perhaps the public are not so familiar with. To describe a few:-

1. Food safety

Veterinarians work with organisations such as Codex Alimentarius and the WHO to ensure international standards are met. They also work to maintain quality control and hygiene in meat and other animal products for export and local consumption. International consumer concern about the safety of food has been heightened by events such as the BSE and dioxin issues. Veterinarians work in this area to reduce the risk of food borne illness to consumers and facilitate market access.

Veterinarians play an important part in everything from 'pasture to plate'('stable to table'). This includes monitoring imports, manufacture and use of agricultural compounds and veterinary medicines, animal health and production, to animal welfare. And can also include working in meat processing establishments ensuring the standards of hygiene and meat inspection produce meat and meat products fit for human consumption, and can be certified for export or home consumption.

2. Border control and quarantine

Veterinarians work in areas of quarantine and border control. These are of vital concern to protect export industries and help safeguard livestock from exotic diseases, such as foot and mouth disease. Veterinarians play an important part in all biosecurity programmes and use scientific methodology to set standards and legislation in these areas.

3. Clinical practices
3.1 Animals kept as pets

Most small urban animal practices use almost as full a range of techniques as a public hospital. In the field of veterinarian medicine this involves the diagnosis and treatment of diseases, in the surgical field, abdominal, thoracic, and orthopaedic surgery is routine. Within companion animal practice specialisation is becoming increasingly common, often requiring the service of ophthalmologists, dermatologists and behaviourists.

3.2 Rural practice

In farming areas, the emphasis is on farm livestock such as cattle, sheep, goats, deer and pigs. Veterinarians make an important contribution to the productivity of these animals by assisting with the planning and development of flock and herd health programmes, monitoring the health status and production of the animals. Veterinarians in these practices also have an important part to play in national disease control and eradication schemes, and in looking out for exotic diseases or pests that may be brought into the country.

3.3 Equine practice

Some practitioners specialise in the care of horses, and can make a valuable contribution to their country's economy and sporting achievements. Success in racing requires absolute health and fitness and veterinarians contribute to this.

3.4 Agriculture health and production

Veterinarians have expertise in health, disease, epidermology and medicine that are applied in agriculture. They are becoming increasingly involved in developing new sources of protein for human nutrition.

4. Animal health

Veterinarians play a major role in maintaining the health of animals. This can be at the level of the individual animal, the farm, or the national population.

5. Animal welfare

Veterinarians have the expertise to monitor and manage animal welfare standards. Veterinarians recognise the increasing urban population raises concerns for good animal welfare standards.

6. Research and technical services

Veterinarians contribute to all aspects of animal research and artificial breeding.

Laboratories also provide diagnostic services for veterinary practitioners through testing various samples from their animal patients. These include bacteriology, parasitology, virology, pathology and biochemistry.

Producers of veterinary pharmaceuticals, feedstuffs, and other aids to the maintenance of animal health, employ veterinarians in research, technical and management roles.

7. Wildlife

Veterinary expertise becomes critical in ensuring disease control, translocation and reproductive success in captive or free-living wild animals and birds that are under threat.

8. Environmental protection

The increasing human population is placing more and more pressure on the environment. It is important that resources are not spoiled by the production of food for human and animal use, or by the encroachment of humans into previously natural habitat.

Veterinarians have a wide range of expertise that enables them to contribute effectively to environmental protection.

World Veterinary Day