Apr 23, 2021

April 24th is World Veterinary Day

Posted by Bob under COVID-19, Veterinary Medicine

World Veterinary Day is an annual holiday created by the World Veterinary Association (WVA) to “…promote the veterinary profession and work on improving animal and human welfare, the environment, food safety, animal transport, and quarantine.” It is celebrated on the last Saturday of every April and this year is the 20th anniversary of its first celebration. Each year there is a theme and this year’s theme is, “Veterinarian Response to the COVID-19 Crisis.”

The year 2020 brought some serious challenges, and many people stepped up in exceptional ways to meet those challenges. Veterinary professionals were among those people. Animals did not stop needing care, and in fact, so many dogs and cats were adopted from shelters in 2020 that some shelters were completely emptied out at times! In addition, pet owners brought their existing pets to the vet more often in 2020 than they had in the past. Pet owners reported that quarantine and social distancing from other humans changed their relationship with their pets by fostering the human-animal bond and thus, they were more attune to their pet’s health needs. This meant that veterinary visits increased during a time when staff were being furloughed and social distancing was mandated. Veterinarians responded as they always do, with grace and fortitude. They navigated these uncharted waters by developing curbside service, telemedicine platforms, and fought for the right to be considered essential workers so they could keep the doors open for animals in need. Veterinary professionals forged ahead with the difficult task of maintaining a high level of pet care while trying to keep themselves, their staff and pet owners safe and healthy during a time of ever-changing rules and regulations.

Veterinarians also demonstrated the breadth of their caregiving spirit during this past year. They donated supplies to the human medical community, including PPE and respiratory ventilators early in the pandemic when resources were scarce, critical illness rates were high, and the disease was spreading rapidly. Then in April 2020, Great Britain called for assistance from their veterinarians to act as respiratory assistants. New York City asked veterinarians to care for the bodies of those who passed, ensuring they were treated with dignity and respect. And more recently, veterinarians in the United States have been authorized to administer COVID vaccines to their fellow humans in need, prompting the USDA to swiftly deploy their vets to aid in this monumentally important endeavor.

Equally as important as all the brave souls in the typical clinical practice setting, were the veterinarians that the public might not think of when they think of a “vet.” Agricultural veterinarians continued to make sure our food sources were safe and remained in steady supply. Veterinary pathologists, virologists, and epidemiologists diagnosed, studied, and reported on COVID-19 infections in animals, helping to assure the public that pets were considered a low risk for spreading the disease to humans. Veterinary medical school professors, like other teachers, found new ways to train their students when they could not be together in the classroom or the hospital. Government and private sector-employed laboratory veterinarians were among those in the medical and pharmaceutical fields working tirelessly to create COVID-19 treatments and vaccines. Veterinarians in the biotechnology field, such as veterinarian led VetStem, promoted the “One Health” sometimes termed, “One Medicine” concept by collaborating with the human medical community and sharing their wealth of knowledge about coronaviruses across different animal species. You can learn more about One Health here. To that end, VetStem Biopharma and sister company, Personalized Stem Cells, jumped into action in 2020, gaining FDA approval to begin a clinical trial treating human COVID-19 patients with stem cells. By March 2021 we celebrated the successful treatment of nine people who had been significantly afflicted with the disease. These patients had all been in a hospital ICU, and after receiving intravenous (IV) treatments with stem cells, they all made it back home to their families. This is a relatively small number of patients, but the results are certainly promising.

Despite the chaos, uncertainty, and heartbreak that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to this world, veterinarians have been steadfast in their dedication to promote the health and safety of all beings on this Earth, and I can honestly say that I have never been more proud to be a member of this special group of people.

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