CSU vets tracking animal health

Tuesday 6 Sep 2016

Charles Sturt University (CSU) scientists are lending their expertise to a new national project to collect information about the health of dogs, cats and wildlife across Australia.

Known as Veterinary Companion Animal Surveillance System or VetCompass, the voluntary project will collect data on animal health from veterinary practices to allow further studies into the frequency and risk of disease in the Australian animal population.

VetCompass is led by the University of Sydney in collaboration with the Royal Veterinary College in the United Kingdom (UK) and the six other Australian universities involved in educating veterinary scientists, including CSU.

Professor Shane Raidal and Dr Martin Combs (pictured left) from the School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences at CSU in Wagga Wagga are two of the project's chief investigators.

Dr Combs said, "When pet owners take their dog or cat to the vet, we'd like them to ask their vet to opt-in to VetCompass.

"The clinical records of animals, such as gender, age, breed and health problems, are extracted from veterinary practices using the VetCompass software and collated in a central database for research.

"Each animal is given a unique code to allow researchers to follow an animal or treatment over time, but the animal owner and the pet cannot be identified. The only owner information collected is a postcode."

Professor Raidal hopes the system can be used to better understand disease patterns in wildlife,

"Injured or sick wild animal are often taken to local vets but the information on why they go to vets is often hard to collate.

"VetCompass provide an important way to aid the collection of information on what diseases are affecting native animals," Professor Raidal said.

CSU will also be involved in research into the use of antibiotics and the prevalence of antibiotic resistance in companion animals.

Dr Combs said, "We are all familiar with the overuse of antibiotic and the risk of multi-resistant 'superbugs' with humans. 

"Companion animals also take antibiotics and can carry resistant bacteria. There is also the potential they can spread them to people.

"At this stage we know very little about the scale of this problem. VetCompass has the potential to help answer some of these questions."

All research conducted using this system will be freely available on the VetCompass website, to ensure that the entire community benefits from the project.

VetCompass was initially established in the UK in 2009 by the University of Sydney's Professor Paul McGreevy. It grew to involve more than 450 clinics and 4 million animals. Research projects in the UK have targeted pet disorders such as kidney disease, epilepsy, pyoderma or skin infection and cancer.

VetCompass is a voluntary project relying on the support of Australian veterinarians and pet owners.

Further information about VetCompass, is available at vetcompass.com.au. Veterinarians can register their interest in signing-up by emailing vetcompass@sydney.edu.au.

VetCompass is funded by an Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities Grant.


Media contact: Fiona Halloran and Emily Malone , (02) 6933 2207

Media Note:

Dr Martin Combs, from the School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences at CSU in Wagga Wagga, is available for interview from 1pm on Wednesday 7 September. Contact CSU Media.

For interviews with University of Sydney's Professor Paul McGreevy, contact Media Relations Adviser Ms Vivienne Reiner on (02) 9351 2390, 0438 021 390 or email vivienne.reiner@sydney.edu.au