One Health recognizes that the health of people is intimately connected to the health of animals – including livestock, companion animals, and wildlife – and the environment. One Health supports the interconnectivity of experts including veterinarians, physicians, scientists, and others, so that health challenges that cross disciplines may be addressed for the common benefit of people, animals, and the environment.

Veterinarians champion One Health approaches to solving problems daily in their practices. For example, diseases such as rabies, toxoplasmosis, and Lyme disease can involve wildlife and can seriously impact companion animal and human health. These are “zoonoses,” diseases that can be transferred between animals and humans.  These diseases have spread because of international travel and trade, movement of wildlife, or indirect effects of climate change. For example, changing insect and tick populations allow spreading in new regions.

The resurgence of rabies in southern Ontario highlights the necessity of keeping vaccinations up-to-date. This includes pets that rarely go outside, or are indoors-only. 

Veterinarians work with food-animal producers to support the health and welfare of livestock and to protect the food supply. The threat of antimicrobial resistance has prompted the veterinary and medical professions, livestock production specialists, and government officials to work together to promote appropriate antibiotic use. Although we tend to focus on reducing antimicrobial use in livestock production, we must also be mindful of its use in companion animals, as those prescriptions are often the same antibiotics used in human medicine. It’s important to maintain prudent use in all areas.

Another emerging term in this discipline is One Welfare. Simply put, it examines issues from a wider, global, and holistic perspective. The concept refers not only to animal welfare, but includes human well-being and societal mental health, as well as environmental conservation. It applies One Health concepts and ideas to welfare and environmental issues.

Whether using the term One Health or One Welfare, we all play a part in the betterment of health in animals, people, and the planet.

Responsible pet ownership, including regular veterinary visits, vaccinations, parasite prevention, exercise, and optimal nutrition, protects the health of people and our global environment.

For pet owners, simple things like ensuring our pets complete the full course of antibiotic treatment to help prevent the development of resistant bacteria, or not flushing leftover antibiotics down the toilet, help with the One Health and One Welfare concepts.

The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association’s Animal Health Week campaign runs from October 1 to 7, 2017. This year’s theme emphasizes the importance of animal welfare through the five basic freedoms animals require to survive and thrive. These include: adequate shelter, proper nutrition, appropriate veterinary care, proper socialization, and the ability to exhibit normal behaviours. We hope this year’s theme, Animal Welfare: Safeguarding the Five Animal Freedoms, will provide an opportunity to remember the fundamental elements required to provide animals in our care healthy and happy lives.