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Veterinary Medicine in Cuba: Limited Drug Access & Emphasis on Care

Jesús María Moreno Lazo, Dr. M.V., Ambulatory Clinic, Pinar del Río, Cuba

March 2017

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Veterinary Medicine in Cuba: Limited Drug Access & Emphasis on Care

The Ambulatory Clinic in Pinar del Río is committed to its outpatient clinic and its mission to provide evidence-based quality care for its patients.

In Cuba, veterinary teams work to foster strong relationships with clients and patients, and the value society places on animal well-being has increased. Still, significant challenges remain.

Improved Services, Increased Ownership

Ambulatory (ie, mobile) veterinarians play an important role in educating clients as well as providing care to companion animals and livestock. Following Cuban concepts of universal healthcare, the Ambulatory Clinic practices veterinary medicine by being as close as possible to the population. Veterinarians move to communities and rural areas independent of the small-scale clinics that exist in municipalities in order to provide veterinary care to patients outside of urban areas. This increased access to animal healthcare has resulted in more people owning both companion animals and livestock animals.

Frequent Illnesses & Services

Because of Cuba's tropical climate, parasitic diseases and dermatoses are common. Among the most common parasitic diseases are infections from roundworms and tapeworms, while common dermatoses include lesions caused by insects and fungi, as well as other pyodermas caused by bacteria.

The most common services provided include antiparasitic treatments, vaccinations, minor surgeries, neonatal delivery, and hygiene recommendations to pet owners and breeders. Spay and neuter operations are frequently performed on dogs and cats; these procedures are often offered without charge, as they are supported by animal-protection groups that conduct spay-neuter campaigns.

Rabies vaccinations are also often free, especially for dogs; a vaccination campaign is coordinated with zoologists from the Ministry of Public Health.

Veterinary Drug Access

A significant challenge to veterinary practice in Cuba is restricted access to veterinary medicines that cannot be imported, including many antibiotics, parasiticides, and vaccines. Alternative medications, such as natural medicine or products or Cuban biotechnology, are often used in place of drugs that cannot be obtained. The trade and importation blockade limits access not only to veterinary drugs, but also to diagnostic tools and state-of-the-art technology; thus, there are limits on what veterinary surgeries can be done.

Veterinary Education & History

The School of Veterinary Medicine of Havana was founded in 1907, but by 1959, only 848 people had graduated.1 After the Cuban Revolution, veterinary studies gained priority, with special attention given to the control of infectious and contagious diseases of animals. Important social and economic changes at that time—such as free access to education—benefited veterinary medicine and led to industry growth.

There are now colleges and technical institutes that offer instruction in veterinary medicine in several Cuban provinces. By 2013, a total of 6618 veterinarians graduated, including 700 professionals from 72 countries that received free scholarships from the Cuban government.1

With more educated and experienced veterinary professionals-as well as the adoption of new ethical principles such as an emphasis on preventive medicine (eg, vaccinations)-Cuba has entered a new era of health for all animals. The value placed on animal welfare has increased, and a bill supporting animal protection and welfare is slated for discussion in the Cuban Parliament. With a wide network of clinics, care is available for animals in urban, suburban, and rural areas.

Overall, the next steps towards better veterinary care in Cuba is to perfect care-based systems by continually improving veterinary teams as a whole.


For global readers, a calculator to convert laboratory values, dosages, and other measurements to SI units can be found here.

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This article is published as part of the Global Edition of Clinician's Brief. Through partnership with the World Small Animal Veterinary Association, the Global Edition provides educational resources to practitioners around the world.

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