Canadian Animal Health Institute

Partners in Food Animal Health

People, the physical environment, nutrition, and animal health products are all involved in keeping animals healthy.  Only healthy animals are allowed to produce food.  The people come easily to mind, like the farmer and the veterinarian, but there are also countless others involved in ensuring the milk, meat and eggs our animals produce that eventually reach our tables is safe.

The FarmerClick to expand

Less than 3% of Canadians are now directly connected to the people who grow our food.  While some may wax nostalgically about “Old McDonald’s Farm”, producing food today is far more like managing a company with many divisions.  Farming the way it was done in the past is not only in a lot of ways inefficient, but not necessarily the best for the animal, the consumer or the environment. 

While the farmer is the first point of contact, interacting with animals multiple times a day, there are a number of individuals (and animal health tools) that assist them in their role. 

The VeterinarianClick to expand

The veterinarian’s expertise in animal health is second to none.  A minimum of seven years of university education is required to achieve the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from one of Canada’s 5 veterinary colleges:

Some may think that the veterinarian’s only job is to help sick animals, nothing however, can be farther from the truth.  A major role of the veterinarian is in helping farmers avoid disease on their farm.  This is known as “Herd Health”.  From an animal health perspective, it involves setting up biosecurity protocols, vaccinating and taking samples of manure, milk or tissue from healthy animals to make sure that there are no animals that may have a sub-clinical disease.  Herd health also involves identifying, segregating and treating sick animals, or removing from the herd entirely, those who have little chance of recovery.

The NutritionistClick to expand

It is just as important for animals to have a well-balanced diet as it is for people.  Therefore, animal nutritionists have made a career out of making sure that our farm animals get all of the necessary nutrients for them to grow and produce safe food.  Highly nutritional diets are developed for each stage of an animal’s production cycle.  For example calves are fed diets high in protein to help them develop strong bones, just like children.  Later on, dairy cows that are ready to give birth to a calf will also have their diet tailored to meet their specific nutritional needs for both mother and calf. 

Sometimes medications are applied to animals’ feed as this is the only way to medicate a large group of animals.  These medications must meet the requirements listed in the “Compendium of Medicated Ingredients Brochure” (CMIB) , a document developed by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.  This Compendium lists only those medicating ingredients allowed by Canadian regulation to be added to livestock feed. This document lists the species of livestock, the level of medication, the directions for feeding and the purpose for which each medicating ingredient may legally be used, as well as the brand of each medicating ingredient that is approved for use in Canada.

The Animal Nutrition Association of Canada (ANAC) represents the companies that manufacture livestock feed in Canada.  They have developed a program that applies the HACCP-based principles developed for human food to animal feed.  Their FeedAssure program is designed to ensure that animal feed contains only those ingredients that should be present are in fact in the feed.

The Animal Health CompanyClick to expand

Have you ever tried to ‘pill a cat’?  Imagine trying to do the same to a cow! Medicating an animal is tricky, and sometimes dangerous.  For that reason, research scientists at animal health companies are continuously seeking ways to medicate animals that is the least invasive and as simple as possible for the owner.

There are a variety of ways to medicate animals including:

  • Injections (needles)
  • Topically (creams or patches)
  • Inhalation (sprays, mists or gases – like anaesthetics)
  • Pills, or liquids
  • In their food or water

There are pros and cons to each technique, with some products being available in more than one format, like having the choice between a pill or an injection.  However, changing this route of administration with some products can result in it having less or worse, having too much effect. 

Compounding is the act of combining or mixing together two or more ingredients (one of which is a drug or pharmacologically active component) to create an end product in a final form that is appropriate for administration.  It should only be done occasionally, if there is no approved medication that can be applied to a specific patient.  More information on the topic of compounding can be found below:

The RegulatorClick to expand

Scientists, veterinarians and policy-makers working in either Health Canada’s Veterinary Drugs Directorate, the Pest Management Review Agency; the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s Canadian Centre for Veterinary Biologics, or the Feeds Division all play a critical role in ensuring that the products available for use by Canadian farmers and veterinarians meet Canada’s stringent standards for safety and efficacy.  Our regulators are responsible for ensuring only those products that are eligible to be sold in Canada are manufactured according to strict good manufacturing practices.

The CAHI brochure here provides a great overview of many of the requirements that a manufacturer must meet in order to be eligible to sell animal health products in Canada.  Only once our regulators are satisfied that these requirements are met, can a manufacturer of an animal medication, biologic, pesticide or feed sell their products into the Canadian marketplace.

The InspectorClick to expand

The duties of the inspector are varied, with different government departments or private industry inspectors employed at all stages of a food animal’s life.  For example, Health Canada and Canadian Food Inspection Agency inspectors conduct audits of warehouse facilities holding animal drugs and biologics to ensure that the facilities meet minimum standards for temperature control, movement of product and security to name just a few.  Commodity quality assurance programs ensure that producers meet specific standards for medication use, with a good example being the poultry industry’s ‘flock sheets’.  These forms are filled out by poultry producers who are required to list any and all medications administered to their flock when they are shipped to the processing plant.  Auditors / inspectors at the processing plant review these sheets to ensure that proper drug with-holding periods (withdrawal periods) are observed to avoid any potential medication residues in the meat.  Veterinarians inspect cattle prior to processing to ensure only products from healthy animals  reach our dinner tables.  Milk samples are taken from each bulk tank before milk is loaded onto a milk truck to again inspect for unwanted residues.  Layer upon layer of inspection is built into the Canadian food system to ensure only the safest, purest products reach Canadian consumers.