Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica and BioMed Central.

Open Access Highly Accessed Review

The conceptualisation of health and disease in veterinary medicine

Stefan Gunnarsson

Author Affiliations

Section of Animal Hygiene, Department of Animal Environment and Health, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), P.O. Box 234, S-532 23 Skara, Sweden

Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica 2006, 48:20  doi:10.1186/1751-0147-48-20

Published: 7 November 2006

Abstract

Background

The concept of health, as well as the concept of disease, is central in veterinary medicine. However, the definitions "health" and "disease" are not generally acknowledged by veterinarians. The aim of this study was to examine how the concepts "health" and "disease" are defined in veterinary textbooks.

Methods

Veterinary textbooks in several disciplines were investigated, but only textbooks with explicit definitions of the concepts were selected for examination.

Results

Eighty out of the 500 relevant books within veterinary medicine were written for non-veterinarians. Eight percent of the books had an explicit definition of health and/or disease. More frequently, textbooks written for non veterinarians did have definitions of health or disease, compared to textbooks written for professionals. A division of health definitions in five different categories was suggested, namely:

1. Health as normality, 2. Health as biological function, 3. Health as homeostasis, 4. Health as physical and psychological well-being and 5. Health as productivity including reproduction.

Conclusion

Few veterinary textbooks had any health or disease definition at all. Furthermore, explicit definitions of health stated by the authors seemed to have little impact on how health and disease are handled within the profession. Veterinary medicine would probably gain from theoretical discussions about health and disease.