Australia is set to have its first veterinary disease database that could change more than just the lives of animals across the nation. The project, VetCompass Australia, launched with cooperation between The University of Sydney and the Royal Veterinary College in the United Kingdom will track diseases and disorders of Australian pets over time.
The new database is set to fill a large gap of knowledge that researchers say could leave Australia in the lurch if left untraced. By tracking companion animals health and welfare doctors may be able to prevent or more easily manage disease outbreaks. The project is also set to trace how different conditions affect different breeds and will record behavioural data.
“The reason we need something like VetCompass in Australia is because we have to get a grip on what animals are presenting in clinic with and what treatments actually work,” project leader Professor Paul McGreevy told the ABC.
“Unfortunately companion animal science—the study of cats and dogs—is very poorly funded so this is the very best way to get some serious research done.”
Vets will be able to upload data straight from their veterinary clinics regarding a patient’s disease or disorder, their diagnosis and treatment as well as breed, sex, age.
Prof McGreevy is hopeful the database will help keep pets “under surveillance” by monitoring both disease and practice aspects that could help halt disease outbreaks.
“In the awful event of rabies coming into this country, a surveillance system like this could actually act as a sentinel,” he said.
“If we program the software the right way, clusters of animals with neurological signs could set off alarm bells.”
VetCompass has been running successfully in the UK since 2009, recording four million animals last year.
Michael Hayward from Gungahlin Veterinary Hospital in Canberra, who has already signed up for VetCompass, said the database would offer owners better information on the effects of diseases and disorders on their pets. He also said the database could be used for disease comparisons with VetCompass UK or other databases overseas.
“We have a suspicion we see diseases more frequently like orthopaedic diseases and other metabolic diseases … because we have a different genetic pool of animals here,” Hayward told the ABC.
“Vets will be able to give better advice to clients and prospective animal owners about what conditions their chosen animal might be at risk for, what conditions to use when choosing a particular pet or show animal.
“As we learn which treatments are more successful, then we can employ more effective treatment strategies.”
Though no official launch date has been set 270 vets have already registered, sign up details can be found here.