‘One health’ and the economics of the human animal bond.

Companion Animal Economics Cropped
One of a series of blogs  written by CABI editors for One Health Day November 3rd 2016

The term ‘One health’ was created to emphasise the fact that health of humans and animals were inter-linked and that the control of zoonotic diseases is best achieved by breaking down the barriers between human and veterinary medicine, developing an holistic approach. The disaster of BSE and the emergence of a new human disease, variant-CJD, and the risk of another pandemic of avian influenza, strengthened the case for One-health, and it has been adopted by the WHO, OIE, and many other relevant organizations.

Within the area of One-health, interest has been growing on the modern phenomenon of companion animals. In many parts of the world, particularly in developed countries, pets – mainly dogs and cats, are kept as companions, and are treated as one of the family. They are pampered and treated to expensive veterinary treatments when they become ill, whereas in earlier times, a sick pet would be destroyed and replaced. This attitude to animals is particularly well established in the UK, a nation of animal lovers, with an estimated 12 million (46%) households incorporating about 65 million companion animals, and  where it is not unusual to see a sign on the door of a pub saying “No children, dogs welcomed”.

The beneficial health effects that animals can have on people has been recognised with such schemes as riding for the disabled and therapy dogs that are trained to provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, schools, hospices, disaster areas, and to people with autism. The term ‘human animal bond’ was coined to describe this mutually beneficial and dynamic relationship between people and animals that is influenced by behaviours that are essential to the health and well-being of both.  

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It’s not just puppy fat

While it’s a well-known piece of perceived wisdom that owners look like their dogs, there is evidence that obese owners are more likely to have obese dogs. Writing in CAB Reviews, Ian Bland and Julian Hill discuss the importance of owner’s perceptions of exercise and diet in terms of controlling obesity in dogs.
It is hard to be sure what the level of dog obesity is, as there is no BMI equivalent, and estimates based on owner assessments are different to those conducted by vets, but the trend is upwards.

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Is Your Dog Over 60?

Dogs age more rapidly than humans, especially large breed dogs, and it is thought that one year to a human can be as many as seven years biologically for a pet dog. For example, if your dog is eight years of age, in “human years” your pet is approaching his sixties.

The life expectancy of a dog is highly dependent on its breed with most large breed dogs having a life-span of approximately 10 years (although in some breeds it is as few as five years), while smaller breeds may live for 20 years or more. However, most dogs are considered senior at seven years of age, while most 10 year old dogs can be considered to be in old age.

Pets go through different life stages, from being a puppy through a juvenile to adult, and their needs change as they age. Dogs grow up at different rates and some breeds stay puppies for a long time whilst others mature quickly, but all dogs should be mature by two years of age.

Each stage of a dog’s life requires regular veterinary check-ups and consultations regarding vaccinations, nutrition and exercise.

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