The Five Domains are five groups of things animal guardians need to consider when thinking about good animal welfare. The Five Domains are an updated version of the Five Freedoms model. They are an important part of the Animal Welfare Act 1999.
The four domains of health, behaviour, nutrition and environment are the areas in which we, as animal guardians, can take positive action to ensure they are of a high standard.
These domains all impact on the overall mental wellbeing (the fifth domain) of an animal's welfare.
As responsible animal guardians, the goal is to ensure animals have more positive experiences, helping them to have a life worth living.
The Five Domains of animal welfare was developed in New Zealand and goes beyond the Five Freedoms. The Five Domains and the Five Freedoms contain essentially the same five elements, however, the Five Domains have a great focus on the mental wellbeing (feelings) of an animal and acknowledges that these can be both positive and negative.
The Five Domains are essential to animal welfare. These consist of:
Just like it is for us, a complete and balanced diet is one of the most important factors in ensuring healthy growth and development and maintaining overall good health of your animals.
The proper amount of food and balance of nutrients is essential when feeding your animals. Just like us, animals need a certain combination of protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals and water every day in order to grow, develop and stay healthy and strong.
Eating should be an enjoyable experience for animals, this includes offering a variety of textures, tastes and smells.
If animals are being fed processed food such as dry food or pellets, it is important to follow the recommended daily amounts provided on the packet labels. Just as there are underweight animals, there are many overweight animals whose bodies work extra hard to stay alive. Deposits of fat make it hard for the animals’ blood to flow efficiently. As a result, the supply of oxygen to the animals’ muscles and organs is reduced and their bodies no longer function well. The animals live in pain and discomfort and their life expectancy is shortened.
Keeping your animals active and at a healthy weight will increase their lifespan and the time you get to spend together. Different animals have different nutritional requirements. It's always wise to discuss the best diet for each of your animals with your veterinarian. Ensuring you are giving your animals the right food, in the right amounts will help to keep your animals in good health.
Just like us, animals need fresh water available at all times. Water allows an animal’s body to function properly and to deliver important nutrients throughout their system.
Water helps an animal stay hydrated and controls their body temperature, especially on hot days. Water must be fresh. If it has been sitting around for a while, water gathers germs and parasites that may be harmful. Remember to refresh animals’ water bowls at least twice a day. Never allow water bowls to remain empty, freeze or get too hot.
Don’t forget to also clean your animal’s water containers every day.
All animals should live in an appropriate environment. The conditions and surroundings given to an animal contribute to their overall wellbeing. By providing an animal with shelter, a comfortable resting area and a large, safe space to express natural behaviours, you are helping that animal to remain healthy and happy.
Just like people, animals need places where they are sheltered from wind, rain and hot sun. Some animals, such as guinea pigs and rabbits, also need shelter to protect them from predators like cats and dogs. Enclosures, kennels, hutches, houses and aviaries provide shelter for our pets while barns, stables and sheds protect farm animals.
If an animal’s shelter is also their home, it must be as comfortable as possible. It must also be as large as possible, with attached areas for exercise and opportunities to express natural behaviours. Bedding within the shelter should always be soft, warm, dry and cleaned regularly. An animal's environment needs to be interesting, enriched, and safe.
All animals should be entitled to immediate veterinary attention when they are sick or injured. To avoid unnecessary suffering, animals should be taken to a veterinary clinic when sick or injured and treated accordingly. In most cases, unnecessary pain and injury can be prevented through regular visits to a veterinarian.
Just like when we visit the hospital or dentist, for many animals, a visit to a veterinary clinic can sometimes be a little bit scary. Regardless of how enjoyable or not the experience is, animals should visit a veterinarian at least once a year for a health check-up and vaccinations against a range of infectious diseases. Ensuring your companion receives preventative medical care is part of being a responsible animal guardian. It is essential to ensuring your animal has good health.
Good health means gentle, careful handling, the rapid diagnoses of disease and injury, space and opportunity to enjoy physical activity and natural behaviours, and keeping a healthy weight.
If animals show any signs of pain, injury or ill health, it is important they receive veterinary care immediately. An indication that an animal may be ill could include:
Vets can also advise on how to prevent and rid animals of fleas and worms. Fleas are small, biting, blood sucking insects that cause animals to scratch. If they are not removed, the animals may suffer from an irritating skin condition. Very young animals such as puppies and kittens, and elderly pets can become anemic and even die from flea infestations that are left untreated.
Roundworms, tapeworms and hookworms are parasites that live in the digestive system, arteries and heart of an animal. Infestations of worms can be fatal. A number of treatments are available; a veterinarian will recommend the most suitable treatment for your companion animal and give you advice on scheduling these treatments regularly so these parasites don't become a problem.
All animals should be able to express their natural behaviours. Behaviour refers to the way an animal acts. An important type of behaviour that an animal expresses are those that are instinctive (what they would typically do in the wild). Enough space, proper shelter and housing, as well as company of the animal's own kind, encourages the expression of natural behaviours.
Exercise keeps animals healthy and alert, just like it does for you. Blood flow is increased during exercise, clearing arteries and veins and transporting oxygen and nutrients around the body.
Exercise keeps muscles strong, allows better digestion of food and heightens an animal’s senses. Energy that has been stored as fat can also be used up during exercise - this helps to prevent animals from becoming overweight.
Expressing natural behaviour is not only about an animal exercising their body, it is also about an animal exercising their mind. During exercise, new sights, sounds, smells and tastes can be discovered; unknown paths, trees and tunnels can be explored and new animals may be encountered - these experiences are very important for an animal’s physical and mental well-being.
Imagine if you spent your entire life alone, locked in a big room. You had food, water, a warm cosy bed and once a day you were let out for 30 minutes to run around, but that was all. You had no friends, no toys, no TV, no books, no phone, no internet. What would or could you do for the rest of the day? How do you think you would feel?
Most people would experience loneliness, boredom, frustration, sadness, anger and depression. Animals are likely to feel the same way too. Animal guardians must meet their companion animal’s environmental and behavioural needs – this includes providing mental and physical enrichment.
Animal enrichment is about designing and creating interesting enclosures, and providing activities that create a more stimulating environment for an animal. Enrichment should enable them to express as many of their natural behaviours, such as exploration, foraging, locomotion (movement), social interaction, manipulating objects or simply playing, as often as they choose.
Good enrichment is safe, fun, challenging and time consuming.
Be sure to check out the Things to Make or Do section for examples of some awesome DIY enrichment toys!
There are many natural behaviours that animals will express when they have companions of their own kind such as grooming, playing, and cuddling. Even with lots of human contact, many animals need to live with a compatible companion. Without a friend to carry-out these natural behaviours, an animal can become frustrated, bored, and lonely. They can even develop abnormal behaviours if left without company and nothing to do for long periods.
No one understands an animal quite like a member of their own species! When animals have companions of their own kind with which they can express these natural behaviours, it helps them to feel safe, happy, and content.
Get to know your animal and their companionship needs so that you can help them express their natural behaviours.
Positive mental experiences means having positive feelings and experiences. These include experiences of comfort, pleasure, interest, confidence and a sense of control.
The four domains of health, behaviour, nutrition and environment all impact on the overall mental wellbeing (feelings) of an animal. For example: