When you applied to veterinary school, do you remember explaining why you wanted to become a veterinarian? During that time in my life, I viewed veterinarians as people who directly cared for their animal patients— and those who indirectly helped the people who rely on animals for milk, food, and/or companionship.
Long before I heard of the One Health concept (the interconnection between animal and human health and that of plants and our shared environment), I was already demonstrating a One Health mindset. I answered that application question many years ago, and today, as a predominantly small animal clinician, I’m always considering One Health approaches to veterinary care.
Why One Health matters
When collecting a patient’s history for the subjective, objective, assessment/analysis, plan (SOAP), were you trained to learn about the patient’s environment? Is the cat indoor only? Is she the only pet in the house? What flea and/or tick preventive is given to her? When was her last dose? And when you find out that a client is pregnant or there is a young child in the home, do you think twice about prescribing a topical medication versus an oral one?
As veterinarians, we are very influential. People tend to trust us. We become part of families, receive thank you cards after euthanizing a geriatric pet, and can protect people from various zoonotic diseases through our one-on-one talks after we make a diagnosis.
Not convinced yet? Do these One Health-related questions look familiar?:
- How many times have you discussed the risk of Toxoplasma in cats with expecting mothers?
- Have you helped to ensure that a giardia-positive puppy does not inadvertently share this parasite with other animals and people?
- Do you think about how can keep families safe when their dog has Leptospirosis?
- What do you say to elderly owners of a dog that you suspect has Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infection?
If you answered yes, you’ve been applying a One Health approach without even realizing it.
The time is now
Start educating your clients about One Health by simply discussing the pet’s condition, consequences of the illness, plus the possible impact the disease can have on the client and their family’s health. The answer to why we should educate our clients about One Health is also simple—we chose to join this great and influential profession to improve the health and well-being of others. By maintaining a One Health mindset—we can accomplish that mission and much more.
Deborah Thomson, DVM, is the founder and president of One Health Lessons. She’s also a 2019-2020 AVMA Congressional Fellow and a practicing clinician in Virginia.