Contribution of the veterinary profession to the Australian animal health surveillance system and opportunities for future contributions

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Animal health surveillance is crucial for early detection of emergency animal diseases and effective responses. However, surveillance systems are complex and rely on the contributions of many animal health stakeholders. Veterinarians are key stakeholders in this system, given their role and skills in investigating, diagnosing, and reporting notifiable diseases. This study investigated the contribution of the veterinary workforce to the Australian animal health surveillance system and opportunities for future involvement. To achieve the aims of the study, an online cross-sectional survey among the veterinary profession was conducted. Descriptive statistics and regression analyses were used to provide an overview and investigate drivers of attitudes and practices of veterinarians in relation to animal health surveillance. A total of 311 usable responses were obtained, with 191 being from veterinarians who worked in private practice in the previous 12 months. Among private practitioners, 58.6% worked with companion animals, 34.0% were mixed practice veterinarians and 7.3% were equine veterinarians. Over half (56.6%) of all participants considered themselves active participants in the local animal disease management system. The level of confidence in understanding the reporting system and knowing and identifying signs of endemic and exotic diseases was moderate among those working in private practice, with companion animal veterinarians reporting the lowest levels of confidence (p < 0.05). Approximately 40% of veterinarians had taken samples for diagnosis for notifiable diseases in the last year, with just over 20% reporting a notifiable disease. Awareness of and participation in training and surveillance programs for animal diseases by veterinarians was low, with those working in private practice having lower levels of both awareness and participation for most programs. In relation to potential future contribution to the surveillance system, over half of participants reported being interested and available to undertake surveillance work on behalf of the government, with those in mixed practice reporting higher levels of interest (69.6%) compared to those in companion (49.5%) and equine practice (30.8%). However, key challenges identified were related to perceived conflict of interest, and tensions between client needs and government agenda, followed by profitability and suitability of the business. This study provides evidence of a significant existing contribution by the veterinary profession to the surveillance system, and the capacity and willingness to increase this contribution. However, there are gaps in awareness, confidence and participation, as well as financial and veterinary-client relationship challenges that should be considered in any future planning to strengthen the Australian surveillance system.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106172
JournalPreventive Veterinary Medicine
Publication statusPublished - May 2024


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