Almost half of Spaniards have a pet. Of the 20.5 million pets counted in a recent survey, dogs continue to be the most popular (5.4 million), followed by birds (5.3 million), fish (3.9 million), cats (3.8 million) and other exotic species such as tortoises (2 million), according to the Spanish Association of Manufacturers of Pet Food (ANFAAC).
Despite the recession, owners continue to spend money on caring for their pets, around €2.2 billion in 2014 on food and vet visits, as they are considered another member of the family. This has given rise to the appearance of veterinary centres which, besides providing general medical care, are increasingly offering specialities such as oncology, ophthalmology, dermatology, orthopaedics and even homeopathy.
Around 3,000 experts from all around the world will be gathering at Fira de Barcelona to discuss the latest advances in the veterinary care of pets. From 15 to 17 October, they will be participating in the 50th edition of the National Conference of Spanish Association of Vets Specialising in Small Animals(AVEPA) and the 8th edition of the Southern European Veterinary Congress (SEVC), which, this year, coincides with the Iberzoo trade fair.
We spoke to Artur Font, president of AVEPA and of the 50th edition of the National Conference of AVEPA-SEVC, who gave us an overview of the profession.
Animals that are increasingly visiting the consulting room
Visits by cats and exotic animals have increased. In cities, more small and medium-sized dogs are being seen by vets.
Most common diseases
Because pets are better looked after and have a greater quality of life, there has been an increase in geriatric and chronic diseases such as diabetes, osteoarthritis and cancer. In contrast, classic infectious diseases such as distemper have decreased, mainly due to prevention through vaccination.
Of all ages, gender and social class, but all have in common the desire to do the best for their pets. There is no doubt that there has been a very significant change over recent years: vets are better prepared and society as well, so ultimately the animal benefits.
Effects of the recession
In an economic but not emotional sense. Owners continue to bring their pets to the vet even if it means having to make financial sacrifices to prioritise their health and care.
The number of vets and centres dedicated to small animals has grown exponentially because pet numbers have grown and more and more owners are willing to care for their pets as if they are another member of the family. In recent years, the number of specialist veterinary centres has also grown – a trend that shows what the future no doubt holds for the sector.
Problems with vets
The most significant problem is the massification of professionals due to the lack of foresight and planning of veterinary studies: there are numerous veterinary schools in Spain and many graduates have great difficulty entering the job market. Another problem is the lack of regulation and recognition of the specialisation and illegal practice.
Research is being carried out into molecular genetic diagnostic tests and prospective multicentre studies are being undertaken into disease treatments.
Importance of the Conference
It is one of the most important conferences in Europe and the world with a scientific programme that boasts the best national and international speakers. As veterinary medicine is constantly evolving with new diagnostic techniques and treatments, this is an annual event that veterinary surgeons specialising in small and exotic animals should not miss.