Yes, we pet owners can push the needle. That is what I learned after during a two day pet expo in Hartford CT. I asked the attendees the following questions.
1)Do you think cats, and dogs should have a health monitoring network for diseases as already exist for humans and other veterinary species?
2)Your veterinarian records data on your pet each time they see you – would you be willing to allow this data to be used anonymously for research to understand animal disease and improve pet treatment?
3) Would you be willing to speak to your veterinarian and encourage them to participate in a pet data network?
Of the 100 random people surveyed, the response was a resounding “yes.” Not to one or two of the questions but to each and every question 100% of the time. In fact most people responded “absolutely.”
Most were baffled that such a network did not already exist, baffled because life saving data was slipping through our fingers. I pointed to my visual aid, a map of Connecticut that showed random dots that represented veterinary practices in CT, then, I showed them the same map where those dots were linked into a network. “Isn’t it about time we connect the dots?” I asked. Once again, the response from pet owners was “of course, it makes perfect sense.”
The concept made so much sense, that I flew to the UK in September 2018 and met with the architects of a small animal data network that was established ten long years ago at the University of Liverpool. We in the USA, are a decade behind the UK in our search for better treatment options and drug development for our pets. I believe that there are a number of reasons for this: the competitive nature of business and academia in the United States, the naïve notion that the federal government will not only take active interest but will fund such a program, and a lack of attention given to the consumers of veterinary services, i.e. the pet owner. We are the major beneficiaries of a veterinary data network and yet we have not been included in the conversation.
Pet owners we are the great and very necessary component if a network is ever to be established. Every single time our pet see’s the veterinarian wonderful information is siloed rather than joining a thousand other medical records that might point to a trend, a new treatment or stave off an outbreak. For the first time in US history our veterinary professionals could see the “big picture” and get out in front of problems using real time data. Pet owners if we put our minds to it we can facilitate the collection, analysis and sharing of critical information that can help veterinarians, laboratories, and researchers. Without our help and our demand for 21st century technology this will never come to fruition. How sad, because data saves lives.