Happy World Veterinary Day! This day was created to celebrate the work of veterinarians worldwide. When the general public thinks of veterinarians they likely see an image of a veterinarian treating a pet. In addition to caring for dogs, cats, and other pets there are many other types of veterinarians. For example, just as in human medicine, veterinarians may specialize in internal medicine, surgery, cardiology, or another specialty. There are also veterinarians that work in industry, pharmaceutical development, new product development, and research. Some veterinarians play a vital role in food safety. Of course, the type of veterinarian I am most familiar with is a zoo and aquatic veterinarian – like me! Being an aquatic animal veterinarian is exciting and challenging as there is much less information about aquatic animal health compared with small animal medicine. In my job I get to be creative and come up with new ideas for treating stingrays, fish, sea stars, and other aquatic animals.
This year’s theme for World Veterinary Day is “Environmental protection for improving animal and human health.” As veterinarians we are very familiar with the phrase “One Health.” The idea of “One Health” is that animals and humans are inextricably connected such that the health of one affects the health of the other. In aquatic ecosystems, marine mammals are often referred to as sentinel species for human and ocean health. This means when dolphins become ill due to pollution, harmful algal blooms, a new virus, or other diseases it serves as a warning that the water may be unhealthy, and that human health may also be negatively affected. Unfortunately, we are all familiar with the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. This virus is a great example of how animal health can greatly impact human health. Public health veterinarians often encounter a new disease prior to it becoming a problem in the human population. Regardless of the type of medicine a veterinarian practices, every veterinarian has a responsibility to report new disease outbreaks to minimize their spread and the effects on the human population.
In celebration of World Veterinary Day thank your veterinarian for all that they do and consider donating to your favorite zoo or aquarium because even though they can’t host visitors right now veterinarians and other zoo and aquatic staff are all still working to keep the animals happy and healthy.
Alexa Delaune, DVM
About the Author: Dr. Alexa Delaune obtained her DVM and certificates in aquatic animal medicine and international medicine from the University of Florida in 2010. Following veterinary school she completed a one year, small animal rotating internship in private practice. In 2011 she began working at the Georgia Aquarium as a veterinary intern. After completing her internship she was kept on staff and completed a fellowship and was then hired as an associate veterinarian. In 2016 she was promoted to senior associate veterinarian, a position she held until October 2019. At Georgia Aquarium she was co-leader of the student externship program, taught classes and labs in the AQUAVET III program, and became a co-leader for the AZA SAFE sharks and rays blood project. Dr. Delaune is currently the Vice President of Veterinary Services at Mississippi Aquarium where she is creating the veterinary program for the Mississippi Aquarium which is scheduled to open in 2020.