Vet News – Your Monthly Digest

Vet NewsSo, 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.

We like to think that you’re finding this feature helpful, interesting and also fun, so feel free to let us know here or on our Facebook page.

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.

Your Editors:

Hannah Johnstone (FARM)

ElsdeVrijer_Vet News Farm EditorEls de Vrijer (FARM) – “Hi everyone, my name is Els, I’m 17 years old, and am hoping to apply for Vet School this September. I live in Norfolk and I’ve spent several weeks seeing large animal practice. It is definitely the most exciting but also challenging type of veterinary work, and certainly one which is constantly in the news. My favorite type of farm work is lambing, and the first lamb I ever brought to this world had the Schmallenberg virus, which was very eye-opening. I am a keen horse rider but also love walking my Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, called ‘Mac’ on the beach.”
Emma Plowright (FARM)
Pippa Lyons, Vet News, Horse EditorPippa Lyon (HORSES) – “I’m 17 years of age and live in London. I own a horse, rescue dog and chickens. When I am not writing for Vet News I enjoy horse riding and listening to music.”
Georgie Holiday (ZOO & EXOTICS)

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)

badgerLast 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)

CowLiver 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)

HorsesSummer 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:

Acute laminitis
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.

Chronic laminitis
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.

LorisRecently, the International Animal Rescue (or IAR) has been focussing efforts to bring an end to the trading of a particular animal- the loris.

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)

CatSeveral 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.

Vet Work Experience – Top Tips

Vet School, My Foot In The DoorGaining an insight into the actual day-to-day business of being a vet is a vitally important part of helping you decide for sure if a veterinary career is the right path for you, and many of you will be actively engaged in arranging and attending placements over the course of the year. What follows here is, hopefully, a few helpful bits of advice that will help you to maximise the success of any placements you go on.
This assumes that you have already managed to secure a placement. In which case, nice one! That is the hardest bit so you have done well. Now is the time to really go in and impress the placement/ vets with your enthusiasm, interest and helpfulness. Make sure that when you leave they’re falling over themselves to write you a glowing reference!
Vet surgeon, Vet School, My Foot In The Door
1. Confirm – About a week before you are due to start, contact the organiser to confirm all the arrangements (date, time, place and whether there are any bits of information, clothing or equipment that you should bring with you). This shows superb organisational skills and is sure to impress. A polite phone call is probably the safest bet. Otherwise, a short email with a polite follow-up phone call after a few days if you haven’t had a response will be just as effective.
2. Do your homework – Have you looked at the practice/ company’s website? I often think of work experience placements in the same way I would a job interview – I want to impress. One of the best ways of doing this is to be completely familiar with exactly what the practice/ company does and who everyone is. Most places now have very informative websites, including staff profiles. Get familar with who you are likely to see and what the practice does and offers clients, and you will instantly feel more at ease on day one.
3. Read ‘Vet School’ – Have you read ‘Vet School’? This might seem like a blatant plug (which it is) but there is a serious point. I have talked about many of the things you would expect to see whilst on placement, such as vaccinations, and so being familiarised with information like this will not do you any harm at all. As in all things in life, preparation is the key to success so get reading 🙂
Vet with rabbit, Vet School, My Foot In The DoorDURING:
1. Leave plenty of time – Arrive on time, or a little early to provide plenty of time to report in at reception. Vet clinics are often at their busiest first thing in the morning so arriving in plenty of time means that your placement organiser can get you initiated and familarised with the practice and facilities before the day goes crazy!
2. Relax – Vets and everyone who works with them are generally a very friendly bunch who enjoy having work-experience students around. We completely appreciate that you will be nervous and so will do our best to ask you questions and just generally ease you into your time with us. However, it is very difficult to remain enthusiastic if you just freeze up, stand quietly in a corner and say or do nothing. You will need to be a little pro-active, be fully prepared and enthusiastic to pitch in and help where requested – in fact, asking how you can help, especially the nurses, will endear you completely to the practice. You will be expected to help with many of the less glamorous aspects of life in a vet practice, and indeed any placement, such as cleaning and showing anything other than willingness to help out will not go down well. My biggest tip is to get on the good side of the nurses. They do an exceptional job and are vital to the work a vet does. If they like you then your time will be blissful! Do not be afraid to ask questions even if you think it is an obvious or silly question. There is no such thing as a silly question (not strictly true but you know what I mean). Vets and nurses love to tell you about what they’re doing so feel free to ask.
3. Watch & Learn – Even if there are times when it seems a bit quieter, or there aren’t any super-exciting operations going on, you will still be able to learn a lot about being a vet from careful observation. How do they talk with clients and other team members? What do they do when they’re not consulting or operating? These are also great times to be able to talk with them about their jobs, training and careers and are likely to offer the greatest insight into what it means to be a vet. Use such opportunities to their fullest as you’ll be amazed at how quickly your time will pass.
4. If in doubt, ask – Hopefully it is needless to say but it is important that you do not do or touch anything (including animals) unless directed or given permission to. This is for your own safety as we deal, on a daily basis, with potentially dangerous substances and drugs, radiation, and animals who are unpredictable, usually scared and therefore at risk of reacting in a manner that is out of character. The last thing we want is for you to get bitten or injured in any way. We also have a lot of very expensive ‘toys’, such as endoscopes, which even the vets can be a little wary of touching for fear of breaking them! If in doubt always ask – you’ll never get into trouble for clarifying but you might if you make assumptions and accidentally break something.
5. Keep a placement journal – Keep some basic notes during your placement. There is no need to write a thesis or to record every single thing you see or hear but a few notes on anything you find interesting will help you make sense of the placement, and provide a useful memory jog when it comes to preparing for your personal statement or interviews.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Again, I am sure this is needless to say but during your placements you will privy to confidential information about clients’ pets and their care. No personal or confidential information should ever leave the practice and please, please think carefully before posting anything relating to your placement on social networks. We’ve all been there – you absent-mindedly post a comment or photo due to being caught up in the enthusiasm of the moment and don’t realise that you might be posting sensitive or confidential info.
6. Have fun! Vets, nurses and everyone who works with them are, on the whole, really nice, down-to-earth, fun loving professionals and enjoy having enthusiastic people around.
Vet with lamb, Vet School, My Foot In The DoorAFTER:
1. Thank the placement – This doesn’t have to be expressed in the form of cakes or biscuits, although vets do respond very favourably to such gestures, and a simple letter and/ or card will go down very favourably. It is also smart career planning as you will be far more memorable and considered in a very positive light should you wish to arrange another placement in the future. If you are keen to organise another placement then say so and offer some dates that you are interested in. Popular practices get booked up a long time in advance so think ahead and make your life a little easier.
2. Ask for a reference – Ask for a written reference as soon as your placement is finished, or even near the end of it. Do not do what most people do and wait until you start to write your personal statement or prepare for interviews, which may be many months or even years after your placement. I personally have trouble remembering some of the animals who I have literally just seen so being expected to remember anything even remotely helpful about a work-experience student months after they were in is impossibly optimistic. You want a reference to be specific to you and highlight your unique, personal traits and awesomeness. If the placement organiser can’t remember you, or has since left the practice, then the best you might be able to hope for is a generic, bland “they were here” type of reference, which adds nothing to your overall bid to secure a place at vet school. One student we had recently had the foresight to ask about a reference on their final day of the placement – such a great idea and the result was they walked away with an absolutely glowing reference, completely tailored to him as a person.
Good luck with your placements and, as ever, let us know how you get on and feel free to ask any questions.

Bristol Vet School Open Day – Student Account

Bristol University, Wills Memorial BuildingJune 28th 2012 saw Bristol Vet School open it’s doors to prospective new vet students, enabling them to take a look around the impressive facilities and get a feel for what it would be like to be a vet student at what is an awesome university (NB: I am obviously massively biased owing to the fact that I am a graduate of Bristol – awesome place 🙂 ).

Vet School reader and future vet Natasha Clark went along for the day and has been kind enough to write a review of her experiences. Thanks Natasha 🙂

“It got off to a disappointing start when I got an email through last week saying there had been an over-booking error for Langford and that parents couldn’t travel to Langford and see the facilities it had to offer, only prospective students could travel alone by the buses the University provided. This was a shame because I had previously visited Langford with Vetquest and told my mum about it so, naturally she wanted to have a look at the fantastic facilities it had to offer. 

When we arrived we were greeted very friendly by staff who pointed us in the right direction, the whole day was very well presented and organised. The talks and lectures were explained well and any questions I had were answered clearly and in depth. The facilities they provide are excellent! I was very impressed especially by the Equine and small animal hospital/practice facilities at Langford.

Everybody from the veterinary science department was really friendly and fell over themselves to make you feel welcome and at home. 

I enjoyed my time at Bristol University and Langford House, the whole day gave an insight to what the university has to offer (and I love it!). Bristol will defiantly be going on my UCAS application!!”