Written by Jory Gomes ’18
In conversations about health and wellness, we tend to focus entirely on one subject: humans. We are obsessed with our own health and wellness—so much so that we often forget how the health of the creatures around us affect our own well-being. This is a concept that Jenni Heid ‘18 is quite familiar with. Heid, who will be going to The Ohio State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine to earn her Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine, is naturally passionate about animal health and the ways other species impact humans.
When asked about veterinary care and how it impacts human health, Heid said that there are two main ways animal health impacts human health—disease prevention and companion care.
Disease prevention is something that we often equate with vaccinations and horror movie scenes with doctors from the CDC wearing yellow hazmat suits to work on cures during a zombie outbreak. In reality, many public health professionals with varying backgrounds work in disease prevention—and veterinarians are an often overlooked part of disease prevention.
In conversation, Heid explained that “zoonotic diseases can be passed from pets to humans, especially to children, and veterinary doctors serve as the first line of defense for the transmission of those diseases.” She added that “proper veterinary care can reduce the transmission of those diseases, keeping your family and community healthy.”
Heid used the example of leptospirosis, which is “a bacterial disease transmitted through the urine of wildlife and barnyard animals, that can be picked up by dogs then transferred to humans through mucous membranes or open cuts.” She referenced a CDC report that stated “200+ annual cases reported by CDC in the US.” She furthered her explanation by saying “this number seems pretty low, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a threat—it means current standards of veterinary care are working!” Veterinarians vaccinate for leptospirosis along with rabies a number of other disease not only for the health of the animals, but for the health of the humans they surround.
Now, it’s important to remember that companion care is important as well. There is a tendency for people to think of animals as “just the dog” or “just the cat,” but in reality our furry friends are more than just animals. For some people, pets are full-fledged members of the family, and as a future veterinarian, Heid says that it’s important to remember that pets are family members to people, not “just an animal.”
To further her point, Heid discussed all of the possible health effects that pet ownership has shown in studies: lower blood pressure, reduced anxiety, improved sense of companionship, and much more. For these reasons, many animals can be registered emotional support animals, working with people who have anxiety issues, or post-traumatic stress disorder. In this respect, animals are integral to our own health, says Heid. She also touched on the fact that animals can be service animals to those with epilepsy, diabetes, and other conditions—so it follows that the health of those animals is linked to the health of the human they serve.
Heid also pointed out that people put a lot of money into their pets. And veterinarians have lots of new technologies and new innovations for pet care, but sometimes the amount of knowledge veterinarians have is under appreciated because they treat all species while provide the types of care that humans receive—doing checkups, surgeries, disease care, etc.—without all the tools that traditional doctors are commonly granted.
Despite some of the ways veterinary care is overlooked, Heid is steadfast in her career choice. She said that “it’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do, and maybe that’s a stereotypical answer… but once i looked into veterinary school, I realized just how many pathways there are and how the vet world is a world of opportunity.” She furthered this by saying that “there are so many ways to specialize and I want to work with exotic animals and conservation eventually, so I’m excited to see how my love of animals early on in life is going to transfer into a career in conservation not only because of my future education at tOSU, but because of the great education I’ve received at Hiram the past four years.”