Vet News – introducing some of our editors

NewspaperIt is difficult keeping up to date with everything that is topical and of relevance within the animal and veterinary sector, especially in this information-dense age in which we live. Its even harder when you’re trying to keep on top of it all and juggle exams, work experience placements and apply to vet school. That’s where the idea for Vet News came about and the role of Vet News Editors. These young writers-extraordinaire are committed to reviewing the news and to bringing you the very best, most interesting and relevant content each month so that you can remain informed without having to wade through the jungle of info out there. So, without further ado, our very first ‘My Foot In The Door’ Vet News Editors, complete with a short example of their fine work, are:

Pippa Lyon (Horses/ Equine News)

Another year, Another Grand National and after the deaths of two horses on the 4.5 mile steeplechase last year, Aintree introduced a series of new measures to improve the safety of this controversial race. The world famous Grand National has always been known for the challenge it provides for both horse and rider and is no doubt a thrilling spectacle to watch, however over the years its gained a dangerous reputation with rarely over half of the 40 that start the race, crossing the finish line.

This year Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Synchronised fell jumping the formidable Becher’s Brook on the first circuit and then negotiated several more fences before suffering a broken leg. According To Pete was brought down at Becher’s second time round and also had to be euthanized. The drop from iconic Becher’s brooke had been lowered this year but was still a huge 6ft 9ins. Pressure to remove some of these “killer fences” has led to further evaluation of the course and Aintree will be working this year to achieve the right balance of maintaining the highest standards of safety for the horses and participants yet keeping the excitement that the race provides for fans.

We await next year’s National too see if they’ve finally got it right.

Georgie Holliday (Zoo & Exotics News)

Vets at the Royal Veterinary College have become the first team in the UK to successfully remove the pituitary gland of a cat in order to treat feline acromegaly.

Acromegaly is a condition in which the pituitary gland secretes excess growth hormones, leading to slow growing tumours, which can grow for long periods of time before showing
clinical signs. The increased levels of growth hormones can also affect sugar and lipid metabolism and lead to diabetes mellitus. Although the surgical removal of the pituitary gland (or hypophysectomy, to give it its technical name) is a commonplace procedure in humans, the main option available to cats before now has been radiation therapy, which aims to kill the cells producing the excess hormones. The leader of the team, Stijn Niessen, said “The alternative treatment method of radiation therapy might well take too long to take effect and devastating neurological signs might occur due to the pressure
of the pituitary tumour on the surrounding brain. In such cases, hypophysectomy can make an instant difference in relieving that pressure.”

The technique could also be used for many other illnesses, such as Cushing’s disease (a
disease in which the pituitary gland releases too much adrenocorticotropic hormone) and non-functional pituitary tumours.

Ilakiya Guruswamy (Cat & Dog News)

An article was published recently on the MRCVS website highlighting the surge in the popularity of the Pembroke and Cardigan Welsh Corgi. The Kennel Club’s Find a Puppy website has reported that since the start of the year, 8514 people have searched Corgi puppies, a rise of 37% for the Pembroke, and 59% for the Cardigan. This rise in popularity is thought to have been caused by the increased publicity of the royal family, in preparation for the Diamond Jubilee, as it has become well known that Corgis are HM the Queen’s favourite breed. All in all, this sounds great, as Corgis have been on the list of Native Vulnerable Breeds, and the Diamond Jubilee has raised awareness of them. However, reading this article brought to mind another article written years ago about the soaring rat sales after the release of the Pixar animation ‘Ratatouille’. The outcome was predictable. Rats were bought and after realising they are not all as cuddly as they seemed on the big screen, or as easy to look after, many were abandoned.

“This wouldn’t be the first time that Disney’s knack for cuddly anthropomorphism has created a glut of unwanted pets in the real world. When a live-action version of “101 Dalmations” was released in 1996, sales of the film’s namesake dog breed increased dramatically. But, the dogs’ sometimes testy temperament landed many of them back in animal shelters. And in 2003, Pixar’s animated film “Finding Nemo” caused a similar run on clown fish.”
-‘Rat Fad’ SpeigelOnline 11/13/2007

The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee is of course, in no way near the same league as Disney films, but anything in the media that causes hype, and an animal to become ‘fashionable’, should be treated with some caution. All of this makes publicity for animals sound like a bad thing, but it doesn’t have to be, if the husbandry required for said animal also gets the same publicity. And this is where vets come in.

Congratulations to our new Vet News Editors and I personally look forward to working with them to bring you interesting vetty news. If you are interested in becoming a Vet News Editor yourself then you can contact us via the My Foot In The Door website.

Royal Veterinary College Open Day – a student review

Royal Veterinary College, RVCOne of my Vet School readers, Francesca Barker, attended the recent Royal Veterinary College Open Day at their Hawkshead Campus and kindly offered to provide a guest post on her experiences of the day. Thanks Francesca 🙂



“On Saturday 12th May I travelled down, full of anticipation, to Hertfordshire, to attend the Royal Veterinary College open day at its Hawkshead Campus. This would be where a vet student spends their clinical years; pre-clinical years are spent in Camden.  On arrival, I was pleasantly surprised by how the campus appeared, much more modernised than I expected and situated in a breathtakingly open, rural area.

Tours of the campus were being conducted throughout the day by current veterinary students. I visited the Queen Mother Hospital for Animals, which is a small animal referral unit; it was certainly very impressive and students spend some time there when undertaking clinical rotations. After that, we looked around the equine unit which had all the latest equipment such as MRI and CT scanners.

I visited the Structure and Motion Lab which is where research is conducted by PHD students. Whilst, vet students don’t routinely use the facility I was made aware that it can be used if a student opts to explore this field of veterinary science in their research project. This facility contained equipment which had been used by anything from snails, to cheetahs. Also, in the lab was a comparative foot biomechanics exhibition which displayed an elephant’s foot and a horse’s hoof. It was set up to demonstrate how the animals have such differently structured feet and yet both are prone to similar problems such as lameness.

Finally, I paid a visit to the Clinical Skills Lab. This facility is where vet students practice important skills such as suturing and bandaging, in their third and fourth years.  I was told that expert staff are on hand to help with any aspect of clinical skills that a student may be struggling with, which is definitely reassuring. Whilst there, I used a motion sensor haptic cow. This is used to simulate palpitating a cow’s reproductive tract which is necessary to diagnose pregnancy.

All in all I was extremely impressed with the facilities, location and calming atmosphere of the campus. The campus is composed purely of students who are studying something veterinary related, meaning you are constantly absorbing all things veterinary, which is a definite advantage, although some may see it as a drawback. The weather was surprisingly pleasant, but even in the event of a torrential downpour I would have still thoroughly enjoyed my visit. I would certainly recommend any prospective veterinary medicine student to consider applying there, even if it is just to use the haptic cow!

Francesca Barker, Year 12 student at Greenhead College”

I want to be an overseas vet

planet earthYou know how you keep being told that a career in veterinary is a passport to the world? Well, it is true and the fact is that for many of you the idea of working outside of the UK, even if only for a short period of time, will become an increasingly attractive idea, for a range of reasons. I know fellow vets who have opted to work in Australia and New Zealand on a short-term, ‘working holiday’ visa, to those who have navigated the gauntlet of the North American registration system on account of a) wanting to work in what is without dispute the most advanced veterinary market in the world, and/ or b) personal reasons, such as a partner being based over there. Whatever your reasons may end up being, it is important to know what you need to do in advance, especially as the process for being allowed to work as a vet in some countries is not at all straightforward and can take a decent amount of time to complete.

So why would you want to work overseas? Well, I think the answer should really be, “why wouldn’t you?” Life is short, the world is big and yet more accessible than it ever has been before, and we are members of a profession that can, in theory at least, ply our trade and leverage our skills in many locations around the globe. The main reasons I can personally identify for considering even a short foreign period of employment overseas are:

  1. Travel & immersion in different cultures. Working, and by extension, living somewhere is often vastly different to the experience you get when simply visiting somewhere as a tourist. An extended period of stay in one location enables you to fully immerse yourself in the local culture and to really get to know ‘the locals,’ from whom many new and lifelong friends are likely to be made. Travel really does open your eyes and enable you to see things differently, including from a professional perspective, and is reason enough to take the plunge.
  2. A new life. Just because you were born in, grew up in and studied and graduated in the UK doesn’t necessarily mean that you are meant to remain in the UK. I know many friends who went travelling, with every intention of returning permanently to the UK, only to find that they found their true home, the place they felt they belonged, during their trip and subsequently stayed.
  3. Improved salary & other lifestyle considerations. Vet salaries are ok in the UK but they’re better in places such as the US, with the added advantage of pet owners knowing and fully appreciating the full cost of healthcare. Friends of mine who moved to the US make more as vets there than they would have done here in the UK, and claim to enjoy a much higher standard of living in the process. Oh yeah, plus they have the cool additional perk of being referred to as ‘Doctor!’

The list could go on but we have to get onto the detail of how to go about working overseas. The countries I am going to consider here are Australia, New Zealand and the USA. Much of what is included here is based on an excellent post by Zoe Belshaw, of Nottingham University, who is a member of the BVA Overseas Group.

Australian flagAustralia

If you are registered with the RCVS, which you will be if you graduate as a vet in the UK, then you’re sorted. Each state does have it’s own board, which you will need to be registered with in order to practice there, and you are likely to have to apply for a couple of additional licenses: a state radiation license, and a microchip implanter license if working in either Queensland, Victoria or New South Wales.

More info at:

Australasian Veterinary Boards Council

Australian Veterinary Association

New Zealand flagNew Zealand

As in Australia, RCVS registration counts but you do need to be registered with the Veterinary Council of New Zealand and hold a current practicing certificate.

More info at:

Veterinary Council of New Zealand

USA flag United States of America

So you want to work in the US? Sure? Really sure? Because the process is long, tough and far from cheap. My personal recommendation to anyone considering working as a vet in the US is to seriously consider applying and completing the registration process either during your final year (you’re revising hard anyway, right?!) or shortly after graduation. This is for two reasons: a) you’re examined across all of the species and disciplines, meaning that this knowledge is likely to be at its freshest in your mind at the end of vet school, before you head out and specialise as most of us do; and b) you are more likely to be focused on really nailing your application, before you become settled in practice and comfortable with a nice, regular paycheck.

If you graduate from an AVMA-accredited university (Glasgow, Dublin, Edinburgh and RVC) then lucky old you, as you have completed stage 1 and can proceed straight to applying for the NAVLE, which is the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam. Everyone else has to start from stage 1 and follow the whole process through.

If you apply to work in a US university (eg as part of an internship scheme) then you will not need to worry about any of this as you’ll be covered by the university. It does, however, mean that you will not be allowed to do anything of a veterinary nature outside of the university.

Ok, so the process is as follows:

Stage 1: Educational Commission for Foreign Veterinary Graduates certification program

(NB: There is an alternative route, PAVE, run by the American Association of Veterinary State Boards, with the stages appearing to be similar to those below.)

This is comprised of four stages and should, in theory, take no more than 2 years to complete. The stages are:

1. Enrol, provide proof of graduation and pay the registration fee, which is approximately $1000, and is valid for 2 years.

2. Provide proof of your English language ability. This can be in the form of a letter from your secondary school, although it is worth checking regularly as this may be subject to change.

3. Basic Clinical & Scientific Knowledge. This is a 225-question, multiple choice exam (BCSE) testing everything from anatomy, to pathology knowledge, and preventative medicine. There are a number of centres in the UK at which you can apply to sit the exam, and they run at regular times during the year. The cost at the time of writing was about $80 plus an additional $40 for sitting it in the UK. This can be resat as many times as you like, but it will incur an additional charge each time.

4. Clinical Proficiency Examination (CPE). This is a test of hands-on clinical veterinary and medical skills, and is conducted over the course of about three days in the USA. This covers entry-level skills across species and disciplines and is administered at a number of sites across the US, of which you can state a preference but with no guarantee of being booked at that centre. The cost is a whopping $5000, which is non-refundable, and if you fail 4+ out of the 6 sections then you have to resit the lot, otherwise it is possible to resit the individual components at about a $1000 a pop.

Stage 2: North American Veterinary Licensing Examination (NAVLE). This exam consists of 360 MCQ’s and can be sat in the UK between November and December each year, or for a limited period in April, depending on the state that you’ve specifically applied to become registered with. The cost is $550 plus whatever the specific state fee is – you’ll need to check the state fees, requirements and application deadlines independently.

Stage 3: State exams. Some states may require additional exams to be sat before you can be eligible to work in them.

Stage 4: Work Visa Application. Once you have your NAVLE all sorted, your prospective employer will need to apply for a work visa on your behalf through the US Immigration Department. As such, you will need to have a job lined up in the USA and they will need to be willing to fill in several forms on your behalf.

Once all that’s done then you’re ready to hop on a plane and get working in the USA 🙂

There are, of course, other countries that you may wish to work in as a vet and I am sure there will be further posts on these in the future. Please feel free to make suggestions or provide info to this effect. Thanks and happy travelling.

Animal Health Care, Big Apple Style

Animal Medical Center, New YorkIs it possible to mix business and pleasure? Well, yes, I believe it is and I think I managed it during my recent trip to New York. One of the days I spent out there saw me take a break from the usual tourist efforts and instead saw me head east, to 510 East and 62nd Street, in order to visit the Animal Medical Center, one of New York’s most revered veterinary establishments and a world-renowned teaching hospital.

Arranging the visit couldn’t have been easier, with the power of Twitter as a medium for more than just pointless digital static being proven as I managed to make initial contact via the social networking tool. A simple follow-up email later and a tour of the center for the friday of my visit was booked. Simple.

Set within viewing distance of the Queensboro Bridge and the Rockefeller Island Tram, a cable-car connecting Manhattan to Roosevelt Island a short skip across the East River, the building itself doesn’t quite do justice to the state of the art work conducted inside. Still, early twentieth century architecture was what it was and the important thing is that the center has been devoted to advanced treatment, research, education and exemplary veterinary healthcare since 1910, over 100 years, and has grown impressively in that time. Covering eight entire floors of their current building, the main action happens on the second, where clients are registered, patients triaged, including 24/7 emergency provision, and many of the center’s services are provided. The Animal Medical Center has everything, from it’s own on-site pharmacy, to a dedicated emergency ward, state-of-the-art imaging equipment, with everything from echocardiography to digital radiography, to MRI and CT, and beyond. The surgical facilities alone would make any surgeon worth their salt weep with delight and feel convinced that Christmas had come early. All in all, a very impressive set-up and it is little wonder that the Animal Medical Center is the first place vets from around the world think of when planning a trip to NYC.

Animal Medical Center, New YorkEducation is one of the core focuses of the Animal Medical Center and each year they take on a number of veterinary undergraduates and graduates for externships (short placements, normally during university vacations), internships and residencies. The competition is fierce, and the fact that New York is one of the toughest states in which to become registered to work as a vet, comes as little surprise. I had the chance to meet briefly with a German undergraduate who was a week into an externship before returning to complete her studies in Germany. She was incredibly complimentary and enthusiastic about the center and cited the high standard of teaching as being a major draw, something that was exemplified by the evidence I saw of the daily seminars and tutorials that take place.

“So, how do I actually go about working in the states?” Good question. The answer is that the process is neither simple, quick or, by any means, cheap, with the total cost likely to be in the region of $10,000, assuming you pass all of the stages first time. There will be another dedicated post on this subject but in the meantime, this AVS page gives a pretty good overview of the process.

Talking of working overseas, if any students find themselves at the Animal Medical Center and have any inclination to apply to study veterinary in the UK, they now have the advantage of their very own copy of Vet School: My Foot In The Door, which I gifted to the center during my visit.

Just Do It

Do, DoneSometimes there are things you see, hear or read that just chime with you and make you think “yeah, right on!” I saw such a simple thing whilst at The Gadget Show Live when I passed by one computer company’s stand and one of their banners caught my eye.

The message – “Do is two letters away from Done” – just spoke volumes and makes me feel really quite motivated every time I read it. Why? Well, it’s just a simple truth and one that is important and useful to remember.

There are so many things that each of us would like to do, either today, tomorrow, or generally at some point in our lives, yet I daresay that many of us end up feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of certain tasks and the mountain that we may have to face in order to achieve the goals and do the things that we ultimately want to. As such, it is often easier not to start something than it is to “do it” and risk failing in the process. I know as I have been there and done – or rather, not done – that. This is something I have been continuously endeavouring to change by remembering the truth that this slogan conveys.

So, is there something that you really want to do but haven’t gotten round to it yet, for whatever reason? Could the HUGE task or challenge be broken down into more manageable, achieveable little tasks and thus be something you can start to do NOW? I am sure it could so go on, give it a go, surprise yourself and add those last two letters 🙂