Cultural awareness for veterinary clinicians

This guide is designed to help veterinary clinicians to consider cultural differences in clients

Asian Indian

According to an analysis of 2021 American Community Survey data, there are now 2.7 million Indian immigrants living in the U.S. The number of Minnesotans with roots in India is now ~34K.

Both Hindu and Buddhists believe that humans, animals, and birds are on the same plane of existence, sharing cycles of reincarnation. Both wild and domesticated animals play a prominent role in religious expression.

Elephants are highly visible throughout India for their religious and cultural symbolism and are also used as working animals and tourist attractions. Hindus worship Lord Ganesha who is depicted with an elephant head and represents success and education. Elephants are also represented as vahana, or vehicles of the gods. Not all elephants are kept in ethical conditions in India.

Few animals represent the conflict between religious iconography and everyday Indian reality more than the humble cow. The cow is revered in Hinduism as representing the mother goddess who gives life. Cows are banned from slaughter in many Indian States and ‘sacred cows’ wander around unfenced in both the cities and countryside. Like the cow, the monkey is ubiquitous in urban India and presents similar challenges for public safety. The monkey is depicted in the Hindu god Hanuman, the god of power and strength. Devout Hindus leave food out for monkeys at temples where they congregate.

Dogs have an ambivalent status in Indian culture. They were one of the first animals to be domesticated, since when they have been a regular companion of man. On the other hand, they are often viewed as an unclean creature that should not be kept in homes. In the streets of Indian cities, there are an estimated 15.3 million stray dogs according to the federal government, and the public do not usually treat them in a friendly way. Due to that large population, 25,000–30,000 humans have died from rabies since 1985 in India. Statistics on the rate of pet ownership of dogs in India are difficult to locate. It appears that while it has slowly grown more acceptable to own dogs as companions, more dog ownership has been attributed to male dogs used for home defense. One source estimated that almost 6 in 10 Indian households now have a pet, with dogs and cats being the most popular. They estimated 28 million dogs in 2021 and 3 million cats were considered pets in India.


  • Kamińska-Jones, D. Multiple roles of dogs in India – culture, art and the colonial context. 2020. Art of the Orient. 9: 66-94.
  • Corfmat J, Gibson A, Mellanby R, Watson W, Appupillai M, Yale G, Gamble L, Mazeri S. Community attitudes and perceptions towards free-roaming dogs in Goa, India. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science
Last Updated: Apr 24, 2023 11:27 AM