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Innovation in animal health – what’s leading the pack?

Dogs on a pebbly beach after a swim

There’s been drastic changes and improvements in the animal health space in the past year. These advances have had far-reaching implications on not only veterinary practices and research but also on the livestock industry and our understanding of animals as a whole.

Let’s that a look at some exciting developments in animal health this year:

Animal welfare

More people own pets than ever before, and they’re spending more on them as well. According to the APPA National Pet Owners Survey, 68% of American households now own a pet, up from 58% in 1988.

The total U.S. pet industry is projected to rise by almost $3 billion to just over $69 billion this year as 60% of U.S. animal health company revenue comes from companion animals, the remaining 40% representing livestock. But owners aren’t just spending on luxuries for their adopted family members, the rise in spending comes in part from the increased longevity as their pets live longer, healthier lives. This can be the result of improved knowledge about their companion animals and tracking.

Livestock health is on the rise as well as new research into emotional states of animals is researched alongside physical health.  Using facial recognition, the development of species-specific grimace scales has allowed researchers at the University of Guelph to evaluate piglet pain using facial expressions following castration and tail docking. The aim of the study was to compare facial expressions in piglets that did and did not receive any form of analgesic or anesthetic

Researchers from Vrije Universiteit Brussel in Belgium and Ruhr-Universitat Bochum in Germany performed another study that shows that humans are able to assess the emotional value in the sounds made by different mammals, reptiles and amphibians.

The team of researchers gathered the voice recordings of a diverse group of nine different species: The black-capped chickadee, hourglass treefrog, American alligator, common raven, giant panda, Barbary macaque and the African bush elephant.

Then, research participants were asked to listen to the recordings and try to identify the emotional state of the animal who made it. To rule out the possibility that certain sounds may be more recognizable by people who speak a certain language, the researchers recruited volunteers who spoke German, English or Mandarin.

The researchers also carried out an acoustic analysis of the sounds on the recordings, comparing the sounds with people’s reactions to them and found that humans use many acoustic clues, such as sound frequency, to understand emotional noises made by other animals.

The findings show that there might be a universal code for the vocal expression and perception of emotions among animals.

The internet of animals

Fitness trackers are now mainstream for pets as owners get used to the advances of internet connected technology for personal tracking for themselves. RFID chip, NFC (near field communication) enabled devices and high-speed internet are growing a market for wearable activity and health monitors in the pet sector.

In livestock, we’re seeing the same trends as monitoring solutions offer robust data analytics that can give producers real-time insights into how and when to intervene in the care of their animals.

Synthetic meats and antibiotics

The livestock sector is moving rapidly to meet the demands for a reduction and/or elimination of the use of antibiotics, and its opening up a whole new market for alternative proteins. So much so that the once niche market, fueled by animal activists has been taken up by major industry players like Tyson and Perdue.

With the human population on the rise, it’s no wonder we’re looking for a diet seeking to replace the labour-intensive farming on pork and beef, even going so far as to explore the insect world, which the Chinese have been savvy to for a very long time. New products like baking flour made of crickets could soon be turning mainstream. But a stop-gap from replacing current proteins with wholly new resources is to tackle the resources that go into meat production in the first place.

The animal feed enzymes industry, which accumulated a revenue of USD$1.1 billion in 2016, is set to surpass USD$2 billion by 2024, according to Global Market Insights, Inc. This industry has a large impact on the environment, which may exceed that of the burning of fossil fuels. It’s been said that a hamburger takes 330 gallons of water to create, but that may no longer be a concern with recent innovations in synthetic meat.

The company  “Memphis Meats” has successfully grown real, authentic tasting meat from animal stem cells. The beef, pork and poultry grown by Memphis Meats provide all the same nutrients and flavor as the meat you get from the supermarket, but without all the unnecessary consequences of the contemporary livestock rearing process.

The animal health industry itself is growing at a rapid pace and is already being valued at the tune of $24 billion with an expected worth of $58.4 billion by 2025. As we can see the industry is booming, and the complex ecosystem of animal health products and services that are evolving around it is dynamic and robust. We can undoubtedly expect to see continued acquisitions and large scale investments that push the expansion of the animal health industry and ecosystem.

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