Better nutrition, clean water and disease prevention leads to healthier populations of both people and animals. Medicines are still needed to treat disease when it occurs.
Animal medicines allow pets to live long, healthy lives and help farmers to raise healthy, productive animals in ways that respect their welfare. These medicines are part of a broader approach to managing disease – including good animal husbandry, biosecurity and preventative health programmes such as vaccinations.
Animals need to be protected from the wide variety of different pests and organisms that can cause or spread disease. These organisms typically reproduce very quickly so their population can increase rapidly, leading to infestations which cause illnesses, or death, in animals.
Life-saving vaccines limit the spread of disease and ensure that animals remain healthy and productive.
Many killer diseases have been kept in check by responsible animal owners maintaining vaccination programmes. Some of these diseases are transferable between animals and people (zoonotic disease).
When a significant proportion of a population (or herd) is immunised, this provides a level of protection to those who aren’t immunised, known as herd immunity.
The animal health industry has developed useful products for controlling ticks and worms.
- Anthelmintics act against parasitic worms inside the animal.
- Ecto-paraciticides control parasites such as fleas.
Antimicrobials are used to treat a variety of bacterial, fungal, viral and parasitic diseases.
Antimicrobial medicines can be grouped according to the micro-organisms they act primarily against. For example, antibiotics are used against bacteria and antifungals are used against fungi.
In New Zealand, the use of antibiotics in animals is limited to ‘only when necessary’ to treat a bacterial infection.
Antibiotics fight the infection by inhibiting its growth or by preventing it from reproducing.
Tools for vets
The animal health industry also makes products for veterinarians performing surgery.
Continuous investment in breakthrough technologies and innovation is imperative to controlling diseases.