Cultural awareness for veterinary clinicians

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


Veterinarians work with culturally diverse clients, health care teams, and communities. Cultural competence is thus important in order to effectively deliver animal services. Cultural perspectives can influence client–practitioner relationships, thus impacting animal health and welfare. The U.S. is home to more immigrants than any other country – more than 45 million people, according to the latest Census estimates. This amounts to 14% of the population.

Throughout history, humans have had complex relationships with animals that have been shaped by their cultural practices and beliefs, ranging from close partnerships to exploitative practices. In this libguide, we will explore the different ways that culture has shaped human-animal relationships and what veterinarians should know in order to maximize client satisfaction when treating animals owned by different groups.

In many cultures, animals have been seen as spiritual beings that are connected to the natural world. For example, in many Native American cultures, animals were viewed as sacred beings with their own unique powers and personalities. Similarly, in many African cultures, animals were seen as important symbols of strength and wisdom. In other cultures, animals have been seen as valuable resources to be exploited for their meat, milk, fur, and other materials. Similarly, in many Asian cultures, animals like cows, pigs, and chickens were domesticated and raised for food and other resources.

Across all cultures, there has been increased concern for the way that humans treat animals. There is also growing awareness of the negative impact that human practices such as factory farming or animal testing have on animal populations and the environment. As a result, many people are now advocating for more humane and sustainable practices that take into account the welfare of animals.

Pet ownership in the United States differs among racial and ethnic groups. The highest rate of pet ownership overall in 2016 was seen among White households (64.7%), with Latino/Hispanic (61.4%) households next. The lowest rate was found among African-American households (36.9%).


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  • Gongora J, van Gelderen I, Vost M, Zaki S, Sutherland S, Pye M, Quain A, Taylor R. Cultural Competence Is Everyone's Business: Embedding Cultural Competence in Curriculum Frameworks to Advance Veterinary Education. 2023. Journal of Veterinary Medical Education: 50(1):1-14.
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Last Updated: Apr 24, 2023 11:27 AM