Vaccination supporting better animal welfare - Veterinary Practice
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Vaccination supporting better animal welfare

In the wake of World Animal Vaccination Day, the NOAH chief executive discusses the importance of vaccinations in preventative animal health and welfare

April 20th was World Animal Vaccination Day, when the contribution of vaccines to the health and welfare of animals across the world is celebrated. Dawn Howard, National Office of Animal Health (NOAH) chief executive, explained that making best use of the vaccines already available, sits alongside the development of exciting new technologies, in the fight to protect animals from disease.

“Prevention of disease is at the heart of NOAH’s vision for animal health and welfare in UK farming. We are focusing on priority diseases and those conditions where increased uptake of vaccination can make a real difference to the level of disease across animal populations,” she said. “This will not only help health and welfare on individual farms, but also will help raise health and welfare levels across the whole country, meaning UK farming will be better equipped to provide safe high quality and nutritious food, while also delivering the environmental benefits from healthier animals.

“We support the DEFRA Animal Health and Welfare Pathway as an important step to support farmers in England and help improve animal health and consequently welfare,” she said.

“And we must not forget aquaculture, a relatively new farming sector important to the economy and to the production of nutritious food. Here, advances in vaccination technology, alongside diagnostics and nutrition are helping support fish health, and reducing the need for antibiotic treatments,” Dawn added.

Looking at the importance of vaccination to companion animals, a recent NOAH survey encouragingly found 94 percent of dog owners and 84 percent of cat owners said their pets had been vaccinated, with 67 percent of dog owners and 61 percent of cat owners confirming vaccination as essential to protect their pet.

However, some owners expressed concerns: for cat owners, expense and pet stress topped the list, while for dog owners concerns about potential risks from vaccination, and not knowing anyone who had pets with diseases that are vaccinated against were top reasons. Some cat and dog owners felt vaccination was unnecessary as their pet was not ill or did not know regular vaccinations were needed.

Dawn explained: “It can be easy to forget the positive impact that vaccines have, because they continue to be successful at controlling disease in our pets, meaning we don’t see many cases. Yet disease remains out there: when vaccination rates fall below certain levels the risk of disease outbreak increases.

“By keeping the risk of infection at bay in the population, we can protect against animal pain and suffering, and the need for expensive and difficult treatments.”

She added: “NOAH members are working on pioneering new vaccines for existing diseases, as well as those which can help against disease that may develop in the future. They are looking at how vaccines are given, to make disease prevention even more straightforward. These will sit alongside other new technologies, such as diagnostic tools, digital technologies and monitoring for livestock and pets – to support a healthier future for the nation’s animals.

“It is good to reflect today how important vaccines are to all our lives.”

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