Working for health, welfare of our pets

Many New Zealanders view their pets as part of their family. Photo: Reuters
Many New Zealanders view their pets as part of their family. Photo: Reuters
For many of us, the festive season is an opportunity to reconnect, recharge and to be thankful.

And for some it’s a chance to think about the people and animals having a tough time — like the pets whose owners leave them alone for a few days, while they enjoy a well-deserved holiday break.

Thankfully, while this country has one of the highest rates of companion animal ownership, most of our pets are well looked after. As a veterinarian it’s reassuring to know almost all Kiwi cat and dog owners view their pets as part of the family, according research by the Companion Animal Council.

Just like other family members, our pets have access to world-class healthcare. New Zealand veterinarians are internationally regarded, and many of them will share the global stage next year when the New Zealand Veterinary Association hosts the World Veterinary Congress in Auckland.

Sadly, there is no government subsidy for animal healthcare, so unlike the public health system, pet owners pay the full cost of the veterinary services.

They can help to reduce these costs, and more importantly give their animals the best chance to live a long, healthy and happy life, by getting regular check-ups and following their veterinarian’s advice.

New treatment methods and better diagnostic options can also help to improve the lives of animals. But again, while there is government funding for human healthcare research, there is none for pets.

That’s why I’m part of a team of veterinary professionals, which for more than 20 years has been raising money to fund important research to help improve the lives of companion animals.

With the help from some generous supporters, we have been able to fund several important studies focused on the big health and welfare challenges facing our pets — everything from cancer to antibiotic resistance, and canine joint dysplasia in some of New Zealand’s most popular dog breeds.

Founded as the Companion Animal Health Foundation, we recently changed our name to something that rolls off the tongue a little easier, that we hope will better connect us with Kiwi pet owners.

This is important as part of our mission is to share with the public key research findings that could lead to better pet health outcomes, and also because public donations help to fund our research.

So, last month, we became Healthy Pets New Zealand (HPNZ) and celebrated with a gold coin donation dog walk in Invercargill, and a dog-minding service at the Wellington Pet and Animal Expo.

The money raised will go towards innovative projects like the evaluation of a much cheaper steel bonding alternative to the expensive orthopaedic clamps used to repair some broken bones in cats.

The results of this study by Drs Ben Leitch and Andrew Worth were published in The New Zealand Veterinary Journal, and have given clinical assurance to veterinarians, who can now offer the same high-quality health outcomes to the cats they treat, while reducing treatment costs for owners.

To keep funding important research like this we continue to rely on the generous support of veterinary clinics and members of the public who share our vision of better lives for Kiwi pets.

It’s thanks to their backing we are able to support research that is helping our pets to live longer, happier and healthier lives, along with other members of the Kiwi families to which they belong.

Dr Cath Watson is a practising companion animal veterinarian based in Invercargill. She is chairwoman of Healthy Pets New Zealand and on the board of the New Zealand Veterinary Association.


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