The nurse’s role in One Health

Raw food, pet travel and outreach work were some of the topics discussed in the One Health lecture stream at BVNA last month

16 November 2017, at 3:16pm

One Health is a global initiative forging collaborations between health and environment disciplines; at its heart is the unity of the veterinary profession with human physicians and scientists to advance healthcare through accelerating research, enhancing public health efficacy, expanding the knowledge base and improving medical education and clinical care. The One Health stream at the BVNA Congress attracted many interested vet nurses – some of whom hadn’t heard of the initiative. 

Raw feeding

Matt Bernard, from APHA, described several key One Health issues that may affect veterinary nurses. The first was raw pet food, which is becoming increasingly popular and may have risks for food safety.

The food undergoes different bacteriological checks to human food, with fewer pathogens tested for, Matt explained. An owner’s decision to feed his or her pet raw food is usually an educated one, but there is advice that should be given to owners to reduce the concern about pathogens from a One Health perspective; Matt suggests advising that owners: 

• Keep raw pet food separate from human food
• Always label raw pet food to avoid accidental human consumption
• Defrost the food outside the human fridge (or at least make sure it is in a sealed container) 
• Use Tupperware rather than bags, which may leak
• Use separate utensils for raw food
• Give the thaw juice to the pet – it has nutritional value and pouring it down the sink will contaminate the surrounding area
• Remove the pet’s bowl after feeding, especially if there are children in the house
• Wash hands thoroughly after touching raw food
• Be very careful when disposing of faeces 

Pet travel

Matt also spoke about rabies transmission and the importance of vet nurses in noticing potential issues with how an owner acquired their pet. If you are suspicious that an animal may not have been imported legally, you should report it to the local health authority and/or APHA. But talk with your practice beforehand, says Matt, and come up with a practice policy if there isn’t one in place.

Joy Howell is a veterinary nurse, now working as a practice support adviser for Bayer. Her talk focused on parasitic disease threats, which are on the rise due to increased pet travel and pet importation, expanding distribution of established vector-borne diseases, and emerging parasitic diseases.

In 2012, the pet passport rules changed. Requirements for ticks were removed and tapeworm requirements were altered. Joy explained that following the legal requirements is not enough because pet passports exist to protect humans, not pets.

She recommends using ESCCAP (European Scientific Counsel Companion Animal Parasites) for information and resources. The site has editable, downloadable PDF sheets about pet travel and maps showing the distribution of parasites across the world.

The benefits of good control are immeasurable. Joy said vet nurses should educate owners to make sure they are protecting their animals, use products that will repel vectors and/or prevent disease, and consider heartworm- preventive treatments and available vaccinations. 


Welfare is an important aspect of One Health and the final speaker of the day, Sue Bartlett, discussed the importance of outreach work in building relationships with clients and gradually changing behaviours.

A startling proportion of dogs are fed scraps as their main meal and many have had no primary vaccinations. The vast majority of cat owners underestimate the lifetime costs of ownership and owners often say their cat has a behaviour they would like to change. Sue thinks these statistics can be changed through an increase in:

• Specific vet/nurse clinics 
• Client information sessions (perhaps with guest speakers) 
• Posters/advertising (but keeping messages simple and not telling people off)  • Social media (posting at least two to four posts per week) 
• Stocking relevant over-the-counter products
• Practice open days with behind-the-scenes tours
• Collaborations with pet charities to offer discounts and free services 
• Attending local community events
• Education sessions for kids, youths or adults 
• Practice competitions
• Editorial in local papers and magazines