Pet health has become increasingly central to people’s lives, reflecting a greater interest in the well-being and care of those now considered by many to be full-fledged members of their families.
Increasing attention to animal welfare has driven the evolution of the concept of animal health within the field of veterinary medicine. This has led to an expansion of its scope: from a primary interest in the care of sick animals to offering a wide range of services, products and treatments aimed at ensuring a healthy, happy and long-lived life for our pets.
What trends can we expect in the upcoming years?
The (near) future of veterinary medicine
Modern technologies, combined with advances in our understanding of animal health, now allow us to provide companion animals with care that was unthinkable a few decades ago.
New trends are emerging in the world of veterinary medicine that are increasingly significant:
- Telemedicine: providing medical care to animal patients at a distance, from teleconsultations to diagnosis and treatment of certain conditions. Thanks to telemedicine, owners can receive medical advice from the comfort of their own homes while veterinarians can provide care to those pets unable or having difficulty leaving the house.
- Personalized medicine: i.e., the tailoring of medical treatment to the unique needs of each animal. Thanks to genetic testing, we can now identify the conditions to which each pet is predisposed, working at the prevention level even before treatment. With personalized medicine, veterinarians are able to provide more effective treatments and ensure better outcomes.
- Artificial Intelligence: with the help of AI, healthcare professionals can analyze large amounts of data to identify patterns, make more informed decisions, and develop new and more effective medicines. AI can also be used to create innovative diagnostic tools and treatments, helping to improve treatment outcomes.
The introduction of these new technologies is also helping the pharmaceutical industry overcome what has always been the biggest challenges in veterinary drug development, approval and distribution.
Insight into veterinary drugs
Veterinary drug development can present some unique challenges compared to human drug development that stem from various considerations related to market characteristics and the nature of pets themselves.
New technologies and the growing interest in animal health are helping scientists to overcome these difficulties, but at present they still need to be considered at all stages of veterinary drug development. The main complexities are:
- Differences in species, weight, and size: domestic animals differ in a wide range of physiological and metabolic characteristics. This requires a customized approach in drug development for different species, which can increase the complexity of research and clinical trials. In addition, differences in size and weights among species affect the optimal dose of each drug. Studies must consider these variations to ensure that the therapy is safe and effective across the animal’s size range.
- Limited patient population: clinical trials for veterinary drugs may find it difficult to recruit enough patients, especially for rare diseases or less common species. Animals cannot communicate symptoms directly so accurate diagnosis is more complex than in humans. These limitations make the evaluation of drug efficacy and safety even more difficult.
- Administration and acceptance: delivering medication to pets can be a daunting task, especially when they are small in size. In the developmental stage, the administration method must also be kept in mind so that it is practical and well accepted by adults and puppies.
Another aspect to consider is the profitability of veterinary drugs: the development, registration, and production costs of these drugs can be significant, but profitability is not always at the level of human drugs. However, this seems to be changing.
The animal health market
The size of the global animal health market has been estimated at $58.66 billion in 2022 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 8.8 percent from 2023 to 2030. Factors driving market growth include increased animal-facing health spending, increasing focus on zoonoses (infectious diseases transmitted from animals to humans), key company initiatives, and humanization of pets.
In 2022, The pharmaceutical segment dominated the animal health market, with a revenue share over 40%. It is estimated that it will maintain its dominance for the foreseeable future as well, thanks to steady advances in veterinary drugs, the considerable increase in pet ownership that occurred during the Covid-19 pandemic, and the promise of extending the life expectancy of their pets.