On World Vet Day, a female veterinarian in NZ is carefully examining a dog's head.

8 Reasons to Celebrate World Vet Day 2024


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World Vet Day is all about celebrating the essential health work vets do. Vets in NZ play a crucial role in the human-animal bond by ensuring our companion animals (and farm animals) stay healthy.

As we all know, vets also play an enormous role in human health too. For example, by ensuring the meat products humans eat come from healthy livestock and that the eggs are safe for consumption, vets keep us all healthy.

Vets in NZ and around the world work incredibly hard behind the scenes. But without them the world of pet ownership and much of human life as we know it would not be possible. Let’s bring vets into the limelight this World Vet Day.

a veterinarian is petting a Border Collie outpatient

What is World Vet Day?

The concept of World Vet Day is celebrating the incredible and absolutely necessary work vets do for animals (and their people). Without vets, the human animal bond would be sorely lacking. Without vets, many pets around the world would suffer in pain or even pass away.

World Vet Day was created by the World Veterinary Association in 2001. Since then we’ve been able to publicly celebrate our unsung heroes as a pre-organised collaborative effort, raising awareness around the lifesaving work vets undertake.

When is World Vet Day?

World Vet Day is celebrated once a year on the last Saturday of April. This means World Vet Day takes place on Saturday 27th April in 2024. There are several ways the pet community can celebrate this auspicious occasion.

Those in the pet industry community can do so by raising awareness around both the work that vets do (like we’re doing in this article) and the pressures faced in the industry.

Everyone from pet owners to pet professionals can take this moment to send thanks and show appreciation to the vets they work with. That could be via a Google review on a vet practice, a social media rating, and/or a good old fashioned card, simply to say “Thank-you.”

On World Vet Day, a dog with a bandage on its leg stands proudly on a bed, receiving the best care from veterinarians in New Zealand.

What is the theme of World Vet Day in 2024?

World Vet Day is a given a new theme each year. In 2017 for example, the theme was ‘Antimicrobial Resistance – from Awareness to Action’, while last year it was ‘Promoting Diversity, Equity, and Inclusiveness in the Veterinary Profession’.

The theme for World Vet Day in 2024 is “veterinarians are essential health workers”.

Here’s a quick recap of some previous World Vet Day themes:

  • 2008 – Celebrate our diversity
  • 2009 – Veterinarians and livestock farmers, a winning partnership
  • 2010 – One world, one health: more cooperation between veterinarians and physicians
  • 2011 – Rabies prevention
  • 2012 – Antimicrobial resistance
  • 2013 – Vaccination to prevent and protect
  • 2014 – Animal welfare
  • 2015 – Vector-borne diseases with zoonotic potential
  • 2016 – Continuing education with a one health focus
  • 2017 – Antimicrobial resistance – from awareness to action
  • 2018 – The role of the veterinary profession in sustainable development to improve livelihoods, food security and safety
  • 2019 – Value of vaccination
  • 2020 – Environmental protection for improving animal and human health
  • 2021 – The veterinarian response to the Covid-19 crisis
  • 2022 – Strengthening veterinary resilience
  • 2023 – Promoting diversity, equity, and inclusiveness in the veterinary profession

World Vet Day award

The theme for each World Vet Day is further celebrated via an award. Each year, the vet practice or organisation that has made the greatest contribution to animal health within the theme is given the award.

The award is presented by the World Veterinary Association and the World Organisation for Animal Health.

8 great facts about vets in NZ and the world

Behind every successful pet owner relationship is a hard working vet. Vets are the heroes whose contributions deserve to be known and celebrated. That’s why we’ve rounded up eight reasons to celebrate our heroic NZ vets this World Vet Day.

Take a look…

A veterinarian inspects goats on a farm and does a health safety check

#1. Vets protect human health too

Vets protect people too. This statement may sound like the obvious. After all, when our companion animals are healthy and happy so are we. In other words, our emotional and mental well-being benefits from the work vets do.

But beyond that there’s also the less obvious line of work. Vets protect our food security and safety in animal industries. This applies to meat and poultry industries. One could say that behind every good egg is a good vet.

Vets also ensure animals in zoos and nature reserves stay healthy. They contribute enormously to wildlife conservation too. All of these contributions allow us the freedom to continue living as we want to, knowing our environment and the species that inhabit it will be there for our children and our children’s children.

World Vet Day is a time to consider all these incredible veterinary contributions.

On World Vet Day, a veterinarian in NZ is carefully examining a dog's ear.

#2. Vet care isn’t government subsidised

Unlike human medical care, vet care isn’t subsidised. This puts enormous pressure on vets not just to do the essential health work they’re trained for, but it also places them into countless negotiations with pet owners around treatment costs. It means more admin chasing up unpaid accounts, too.

Pet owners routinely blame vets when pets are suffering and because costs are high. But the reality is that training to be a vet is costly, running a veterinary clinic is costly and ongoing education is costly. The costs aren’t necessarily high, but the pet owner sees the full extent of these costs with no government subsidisation.

Pet insurance is gradually helping change this – something we’d like to highlight for World Vet Day. As the uptake of pet insurance increases, so too does the freedom for pet owners to make treatment choices based on their animal’s needs rather than their own financial constraints.

This is why more vets are recommending pet insurance.

A cat and dog playing on a rug, playing and fighting as the cat threatens to claw the dog

#3. Vets are outnumbered by pets in NZ

In New Zealand there are nearly as many pets as there are people. We’re known for having one of the highest rates of pet ownership on the planet, second only to the US. Companion Animals’ last report (albeit published in 2020) set the number of pets in New Zealand at 4,352,000 while the human population was estimated to be 5,269,200.

“We don’t have enough vets and nurses in the world at the moment for the number of pets that we have.”
– Royal Canin ANZ Chief Health Officer, Dr Bronwen MacRae

In New Zealand, that makes vets even more important than nations with lower pet ownership. However, vets are far outnumbered by pets with only 2,633 practicing veterinarians by the last count.

The number of pets, people and vets in particular may differ from the ones we've got down here as the figures are somewhat out of date, but they do put in perspective the sheer volume of workload vets handle. 
On World Vet Day, a compassionate individual is expertly applying a bandage to a cat's leg at Vets NZ.

#4. Vets are on Immigration New Zealand’s skills shortage list

The need for more vets in NZ due to the supply versus demand mismatch is highlighted by the fact that vets are on Immigration New Zealand’s long term skills shortage list.

However, while our country is an ideal destination for many would-be vets, it isn’t just us having this problem. World Vet Day highlights that the vet shortage is a global problem. Countries across the planet are in need of more vets.

If you or someone you know is considering becoming a vet, now’s one of the best times in history to solidify that choice.

A vet nurse wearing a surgical mask, holds a clipboard in front of a window as she considers the treatment her dog patient will need based off its diagnosis

#5. Vets in NZ experience high levels of burnout

Compared with numerous other professions, vets are experiencing high levels of industry burnout along with low staff retention. In fact, it’s not just vets in NZ that are feeling the pressure. Regardless of the economic environment vets practice in, this appears to be a global phenomenon.

The need for more vets in NZ means those in practice are under ever greater pressure – something to be aware of for World Vet Day. It’s also one of the reasons pet health affects vet mental health.

There are many reasons for this, including long hours, euthanasia of animal patients and managing pet owner expectations. Take a look at some of the challenges and recommendations to do with veterinary burnout from Royal Canin’s ANZ Chief Health Officer, Dr Bronwen MacRae.

Also be sure to watch this exclusive interview with Dr Cath Watson and Dr Meg Irvine, founder of Vet Lifeskills. Together they discuss coping skills to help vets manage industry pressures and owner expectations.

veterinarian and vet nurses perform an operation on a dog

#6. Vets are in it for the animals and people (not the money)

While this might be something that goes without saying for many in the pet industry, vets tend to face lots of financial negotiations in their line of work. Pet owners often hope to lower the treatment fee, but vets have high overheads and need to earn a living.

As veterinarian and chair of Healthy Pets New Zealand, Dr Cath Watson, explains (here and in the video below):

“About 20% of the bill for veterinary care goes toward covering staffing costs and paying the people that are doing the work.”

If a person chooses a career with the expressed goal of making money (rather than simply making a living), they’re far more likely to become a lawyer, accountant or investment banker and not a vet. World Vet Day is about recognising the sacrifices vets make working under immense pressure for long hours for the love of it.

Another factor that reinforces this notion is that doctors make more than vets do. Vets are indeed doctors but they’ve chosen animal care rather than human care. This just goes to show that vets choose this line of work by and large because of a love of animals.

Watch this PD Pet Care vlog with more on what’s behind vet costs, from Dr Cath:

#7. Vet clinics are hospitals and so much more

Vet practices may appear to be small, specialised practices and indeed they are. But, in reality, they’re specialised in multiple areas of medicine to diagnose and treat numerous pathologies including dental, optical, surgical to name a few.

In other words, vet clinics are to the animal world what hospitals are to the human world.

“Your local veterinary clinic is set up to do what in the human health world would be the equivalent of being your GP, your dentist, your local imaging centre, your local laboratory, your E.R as well as any surgical suite that you might find in a hospital.”

– Healthy Pets New Zealand chair, Dr Cath Watson

Vet clinics house a large array of specialist equipment under one roof. And as Dr Cath explains, “we’re talking about full medical facilities available in each individual location for a veterinary clinic as opposed to what we have in the human health world where we have lots of different specialists in different areas.”

On World Vet Day, a gathering of people and dogs takes place at a veterinary clinic in NZ.

#8. Doctors treat one species, vets treat multiple species

In addition to running multi-specialist areas under one roof, it’s worth celebrating that vets also treat multiple species. This World Vet Day, we can all take a moment to consider what that means. Not only are vets in a fairly unique position of treating patients that don’t speak the same language, but multiple species require multiple sizes and types of equipment to cater to different biology.

Birds, for example, can’t be treated with all the same lab equipment to dogs. Cats and dogs aren’t always able to be given the same types of medication. Each species requires its own biological care and vets need an incredible depth of knowledge to support these needs.

This World Vet Day let’s all give thought to the depth of support our vets need from us. Let’s appreciate, celebrate and be aware of all that vets do to make a happy healthy animal and, by extension, human society.

In celebration of World Vet Day, a woman gently kisses her beloved dog while wearing a stethoscope.

Join the PD pet care world

In closing, and in celebration of World Vet Day, PD Insurance invites vets across NZ along with other pet professionals to join our partner rewards programme. Follow the link that best suits you to find out more:

Via this programme, PD Insurance delivers personalised training to your business personnel around our insurance offering. Our Business Development Managers will also link you with special partner rewards resources and support so you’re able to refer our multi award winning pet insurance to your customers and in return your business earns rewards. Contact us here to find out more.

Or if you’re simply after award winning pet insurance for your cat or dog, then click below to start your quote today.

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