Celebrating 250 years of healing animals

2011-06-24 00:00

2011 was named Year of the Vet by the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations, and is being celebrated 250 years after the first veterinary institute was opened in France, in 1761. The extension of medical services to animals was started by a dedicated French equestrian, Claude Bourgelat, who wanted to learn how to help animals in distress.

He founded the world’s first veterinary school in Lyon, France, and is known as the father of veterinary medicine. He worked with medical doctors and surgeons in Lyon, and began to apply what he learnt to animals.

He suggested that the study of animal anatomy and biology would also be beneficial to humans. Without comparison, the concept of comparative patho-biology would never have been developed, and modern medicine would not have evolved.

Many people are surprised to learn that veterinarians play a large role in the protection of human health too. One reason for this is that many of the diseases animals get can affect humans as well. So when a veterinarian is talking to an owner about illness in their pets or livestock, the vet also has to educate the client about any health risks there may be for humans who interact with those animals.

The role of veterinarians in world health also includes helping to maintain a safe food supply, being advocates for animal welfare, and protecting the ecosystem.

The Faculty of Veterinary Science at the University of Pretoria is one of 46 such faculties in Africa, and the only one of its kind in South Africa.

The Veterinary Academic Hospital (Onderstepoort) provides state-of-the-art facilities for the clinical departments, and is where students learn and apply their skills. It also serves as a referral centre for injured or sick animals who present complicated or unusual symptoms. It is recognised as one of the best facilities in Africa.

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