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By Sarah Evers Conrad, The Horse, September 9, 2016.

Studying diseases across species can benefit horses as well as people —

Similarities between veterinary medicine and human medicine abound, particularly when it comes to horses. Horses, after all, suffer from many of the same conditions people do: cardiovascular disease, salmonellosis, Lyme disease, joint disease, the eye disease uveitis, tendon issues, and cancers such as melanoma. The two species also exhibit similar clinical signs, even though the root conditions can be different. For example, equine grass sickness and Alzheimer’s; self-mutilation in horses and cutting disorders in humans; foal rejection in mares and postpartum depression in women; equine metabolic syndrome in horses and diabetes in people; and asthma in humans versus what was classically called heaves in horses.

Enter the “One Health” movement, which has evolved over the years to mean “one medicine for all” and involves the collaboration of more than 850 physicians, osteopaths, veterinarians, nurses, dentists, health officials, behaviorists, and environmental and other scientists.

Craig Carter, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVPM, DSNAP, is the director of the University of Kentucky’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, as well as a visiting professor in the school’s College of Public Health, in Lexington. As such, he researches and teaches One Health principles.

Carter says human and equine organ systems are quite comparable, having similar functions, but disease processes can affect those systems differently, creating distinct clinical signs. 

One of Carter’s roles as the new president of the American Veterinary Epidemiology Society (AVES) is to help people recognize One Health as an emerging field in the allied health professions—currently he estimates only 20-25% of veterinarians have bought into the One Health movement. The mission of AVES is to advance the field of veterinary epidemiology and public health to help improve the quality of life for all people and animals through science-based One Health principles.