So, what has caught the eyes of our intrepid veterinary reporters this month? They have taken time out from their hectic schedules of revision, exams and preparing applications for vet school to scour the veterinary press and bring you a bite-sized, easily digestible account of some of the interesting stories of interest to vets in June.
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Right, over to our Vet News Editors, including a couple of new names to add to the growing roster of awesomeness that is the Vet News Editors team.
Hannah Johnstone (FARM)
Ilakiya Guruswamy (CATS & DOGS) – “Just someone who after going through phases of wanting to be a crocodile, Eliza Thornberry, a member of the Bomb Disposal Unit, an X-(wo)man, and an alpaca farmer, has decided to try and pursue a career in Veterinary Medicine.”
Badger culls in the West of England: will they go ahead?
Els de Vrijer (Vet News Editor, Farm)
Last month, environment secretary Caroline Spelman stated she was still “reasonably confident” that the two proposed pilot badger culls, planned for this autumn, would still go ahead, despite legal action taken against the government’s plans by The Badger Trust. The government has introduced the scheme in an attempt to kick start the eradication of bovine tuberculosis in England. The pilot scheme will allow farmers in West Gloucestershire and West Somerset to cull any badgers crossing their land.
These plans have come under speculation following the failure of a similar scheme in Wales, where a planned cull in Pembrokeshire was withdrawn following widespread opposition from members of the public. Sadly there is still a constant battle between farmers and wildlife lovers all over the U.K; 2010 saw the forced slaughter of over 25,000 cattle – some carriers, but many “at risk” – clearly a devastating loss for many cattle farmers. Recently, there have been several anti-cull protests in West Gloucestershire, even with celebrities getting involved, such as Brian May, from the band “Queen”. He believes, like the Welsh government, that vaccination against bTB is a definite option, but others, like DEFRA, state that useable vaccines for the disease are “years away”. The Welsh government science advisor recently resigned after the Welsh government reversed their plans for the badger cull, as he felt he “wasn’t confident” that a vaccination programme would be successful.
There is no research yet which is extensive enough to provide a clear answer to the divided opinion about the management and treatment of bovine tuberculosis, but the government hopes that the pilot culls will give clear answers about the extent to which badgers are responsible for transmission of it. What is currently unknown is whether the judicial review of the environment secretary’s decision will lead to a halt to the plans, or whether thousands of farmers and the veterinary profession will finally get some answers to this very serious animal health issue.
Liver Fluke in Cattle
Emma Plowright (Vet News Editor, Farm)
Liver fluke is common in the UK but recent figures from the food standards agency have revealed a trend : the number of cases continues to rise year after year. Although this increase was just half a per cent between 2010 and 2011, the number is three times what it was in 2001.
Fasciola hepatica is the parasite responsible for the disease. In the liver of the host, it produces eggs which are passed out in the host’s faeces. These then hatch into larvae which infect a certain type snail and develop into cercaria. These leave the snail and move out on to the grass, where they remain. They are then easily ingested by grazing cattle and the cycle begins again. Infestation with fluke has many negative effects including loss of appetite and subsequent weight loss, poor milk yield and greater susceptibility to other infection. As a result, the disease leads to decreased profits for farmers. If the number of cases continues to follow the same pattern, the effect on the farming industry will be even greater.
The wetter than average weather during April may have contributed to a recent increase in the number of snails, and therefore cases of the disease, but the figures clearly show a more general increase over the past 10 years.
Money over Welfare
Hannah Johnstone (Vet News Editor, Farm)
Everyone loves to win, but when farmers carry out udder gluing in a bid to win, people are beginning to question whether this is just taking things too far, after all farmers are supposed to have a duty of care with regard to their animals.
Udder gluing is when farmers pump gas into a cows udder before sealing with superglue, this supposedly creates a ‘full’ udder illusion as milk and gas is unable to escape. When showing cows at auction the full udder is now a well-known attribute and criteria that the cows must meet. A champion can fetch up to £100,000 meaning competition is growing at a ferocious rate however the welfare of animals is decreasing as a result. It is thought that the cows are being left in this state for up to 24 hours and it has been proven to cause severe pain and discomfort to these ‘prize’ cows. Government deputy chief vet, Alick Simmons stated: “This practice is totally unacceptable and has serious welfare implications for the animals. Farmers clearly have a duty of care for their animals but vets, too, need to make sure that they take action where they see this practice taking place.”
Due to numerous complaints the RSPCA are now involved with this growing issue and animals entered into auctions will now be checked over for any signs of artificial inflation. As well as the RSPCA the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) are also involved and will be acting against any breaches of the new welfare laws, anyone proved guilty will be imprisoned for up to six months or fined up to £5,000 and banned from keeping animals. Although no one has yet been prosecuted The Royal Association of British Dairy Farmer (RABDF) implemented a rule banning the sealing of teats at a show in Birmingham last September.
British Veterinary Association (BVA) president Carl Padgett quoted: “in order to prevent the pumping it will require a change of mind set”, he also questioned “why cows have to show huge udders to be champions.” Carl Padgett is currently arranging meetings with breeders and show organisers in order to discuss the possibility of ultrasound scanning the cows entered into each show. Many different people and organisations are now recognising this as a “serious problem” as described by farm vet David Martin after a BVA conference.
Udder gluing is an issue that originated from America and previous attempts have been made to prevent it, this disturbing practice is on a growing increase and something needs to be done sooner rather than later to save animals suffering. It is a topic that has caused masses of controversy throughout the farming community.
Pippa Lyon (Vet News Editor, Horses)
Summer has finally arrived, and the sunny weather combined with A LOT of rain has led to lush green grass growing in pasture all around Britain. This has triggered a sharp rise in the laminitis cases.
Laminitis is a painful disease which affects horses’ feet causing severe lameness and if left untreated can be fatal. Unfortunately, no one is sure on the cause of laminitis, but high intake of sugar and starch in grass, stress and obesity are all thought to be linked. There are two main types of laminitis in horses:
A horse may suddenly develop symptoms such as not being able to walk or stand up; they will be visibly lame and will commonly stand with the weight on the back feet to remove pressure from the front.
This generally occurs when the horse has previously had the disease and is showing on-going symptoms. If left, it can cause the pedal bone to rotate in the hoof leading to permanent damage.
Both types of laminitis are considered serious and vets may bandage frog supports onto the hooves to reduce pressure as well as administering pain relief. In bad cases, X-rays may be taken and vets must work with farriers to provide shoes to try and realign the pedal bone.
As with many diseases prevention is better than cure and horse owners should be encouraged to monitor their horse’s diets and restrict grazing if necessary.
Illegal Pet Trade Could Lead to Extinction
Georgie Holiday (Vet News Editor, Zoo & Exotics)
The illegal pet trade has been a problem in animal conservation for hundreds of years, having been a reason for the loss of countless animal species in the wild.
What is a loris? Relatives of lemurs and bush-babies, lorises are mammals found in the tropical rainforests of Southeast Asia. There are countless laws protecting the lorises- with fines of $10,000 and even prison sentences- but, despite this, the poaching of the animals for illegal trade has boomed over the past decade.
Lorises are venomous, so you wouldn’t initially think they would make great pets. However, the hunters use clippers or pliers to cut out the poisonous teeth, leading to trauma and even death. This also means that the lorises cannot feed themselves if they are ever reintroduced into the wild.
Two years ago, two hunted lorises which still had their teeth were rescued by the IAR and had radio collars fitted before they were released. Today the lorises can still be traced and have found to be sleeping with wild lorises and grooming each other, proving the success of rehabilitation if the teeth are still intact. However, it is estimated that 76% of the lorises in captivity are not this lucky.
The IAR have launched a social awareness campaign which outlines the dangers and problems locals are causing by buying the animals at the market- namely, the likely extinction of lorises in the wild. Since 2011, this campaign has entered local media and is definitely raising awareness, although the market still exists and thrives.
Managing Pain in Cats
(Summary of the article ‘Clinical use of methadone in cats, Part One’, published in the May 14th issue of the Veterinary Times)
Ilakiya Guruswamy (Vet News Editor, Cats & Dogs)
Several surveys indicate that pain in cats has been largely under-treated in clinical practice throughout Europe, compared to dogs. There are several reasons for this;
· Difficulty in actually recognising pain
· A lack of licensed analgesic drugs
· A concern about the side effects of commonly used analgesic drugs
· A lack of information specific to cats
· Difficulty in medicating cats
The reasons for treating pain involve not only ethical issues, but also the fact that left untreated, pain can cause several pathophysiological disorders. In humans, it is understood that the consequences of these disorders can delay recovery from surgery, and increase the risk of postoperative complications. The pain can cause changes in the sensory processing in the central and peripheral nervous systems, which can be identified by the occurrence of primary and secondary hyperalgesia [an increased response to a painful stimulus], allodynia [a painful response to a normally harmless stimulus], and spontaneous pain. Once these changes in sensory processing take place, it is much more difficult to manage the pain effectively.
Drugs known as opioids, are known as the most effective pain killers in humans, and for cats. In the past, practitioners have been reluctant to use opoids in cats, for fear of opoid-induced excitement, or ‘opoid-mania’. This is a misconception based on very old data, which relate to the administration of very high doses of morphine, a magnitude higher than clinically recommended doses in cats.
Opoids form the backbone of preoperative analgesia regimens in cats. With the appropriate use of the drugs, euphoria in cats is produced, with a lot of purring, rolling, rubbing, and kneading with forepaws. Opoids also increase the effects of sedatives (acepromazine, alpha2-agonists, and benzodiazephines), allowing the use of lower doses of sedatives prior to surgery.