Tis the Interview Season

Vet with radiograph and catOkay, so your applications have been submitted on time and you’ve been anxiously waiting to hear from the vet schools, a wait that feels like an eternity. Why do the vet schools even bother to interview applicants when a lot of other courses simply allocate places based on UCAS applications and test results? The main reason is that training a vet is a long and costly process, with the vet schools, and profession, very anxious to ensure that the considerable investment that is made in such training is directed to the best candidates and that their students are going to a) finish the course and qualify as a veterinarian, and b) represent a suitable fit for the unique culture of the vet school itself.

Although every vet school achieves the same in terms of training new vets, they each have their own styles of teaching and unique culture which makes attending each one a distinct experience, in much the same way that different companies have their own ‘culture.’ The vet schools will be asking themselves whether you, as an individual, are likely to enjoy their school’s vet school experience and ultimately benefit from the training. I am sure that you would agree that spending many thousands of pounds on someone without a face-to-face meeting seems like quite a risky move so it seems only right that the vet schools take as much care as possible in choosing their new intake.

If you are fortunate enough to receive an invitation to interview then the first thing to do is massively congratulate yourself as it is a huge achievement in itself. Admissions tutors receive applications, read them and then make a decision as to whether your application is of sufficient interest to take it further, moving you closer to the coveted prize of a place, or to say no, in which case you’ll receive a rejection. As such, an interview invite is a sign that they are very interested in you and that they can see sufficient potential in you as a future vet to spend the time and effort getting to know you better. Loads of applicants fail to make it past the initial application stage so an interview invitation is definately a cause for celebration.

How do I interview well?

The main answer to this question, like most, is to practice. There are very few times when practice does not make perfect and interviews are no exception. Now of course you can’t accurately predict what will happen on the day or what the interviewers will ask so there is little point trying to do so. What you can do, however, is prepare to be a confident, well informed, communicative candidate who oozes with motivation, passion and an obvious burning desire to study veterinary at the university you are fortunate enough to be invited to an interview at. The vet schools are not looking for students who already know everything there is to know about animals and veterinary science – if they filled places with such candidates then there would be little need for vets schools at all. What they are looking for are the kind of students we have already discussed and it is these aforementioned qualities that you should be aiming to project on the day.

Interviewing, or indeed presenting, well is a product of a number of complimentary factors that ultimately work together to give the desired impression to your audience. The key factor is preparation.


Do you simply turn up to an important exam and sit it without any form of preparation? If you do and you do well then congratulations as you are a very rare breed. If, however, you are like the vast majority of us mere mortals then I strongly suspect the answer is “of course not!” You revise and you practice past papers. This is to a) ensure that you understand and can recall the important information that may well be required in the exam, and b) to familiarise yourself with the format, length and pressure of the exam. This latter exercise is effectively desensitisation at work, as you gradually reduce your initial, automatic, and ultimately unhelpful and damaging, response to a stressful situation. If you did go into an exam without any prior knowledge of the format then chances are that you would spend most of your time getting flustered about how long you had to answer the questions, the fact that you didn’t have access to textbooks, and the general stress of being in an unfamiliar situation. This would clearly detract from the important task of getting on and understanding the questions and writing sensible answers in the time allotted. This is no different to an interview and going into one without any level of prior preparation and ‘desensitisation’ will likely lead to you feeling anxious from the moment you enter, with the result likely to be a horribly stressful experience. But how exactly can you prepare well for an interview, and specifically a vet school interview. Well, read on and we shall learn.

The Early Bird Catches The Worm

There is little point in starting your preparation the evening before your interview. This is akin to cramming for an exam: pointless and just results in misery for all concerned. You know that you’re going to apply to vet school. You also know that the interviews tend to start around November and run through until about March. I would personally start thinking and planning my approach to interviews in August, or at least September, before you have even sent off your application. Just the very act of thinking about an upcoming event gets all of your subconscious neurones firing away and before you know it you’ll be able to draw up a winning ‘how to be awesome at interviews’ plan in time for the ‘season.’ The sooner you start thinking about the interviews then the more time you will have to find out the format, and practice using this knowledge, request references if you haven’t already got them, start reading around relevant subjects and generally morphing into an interview King or Queen.

Which Vet Schools?

There is no point spending precious time practicing for multiple, short interviews if you are not applying to Liverpool, so consider which of the vet schools you are applying to and tailor the specifics of your preparation to them. Much of your preparation, such as background reading, and getting used to being questioned in formal settings, will be the same regardless of which vet schools you apply to but there are some subtle differences that it is important to be aware of when preparing yourself. After all, time is a precious commodity to a prospective vet student.

Any Useful Contacts?

Do you know anyone who is either studying at or has previously applied and been interviewed at the vet schools that you’re planning on applying to? If so then why not get in touch and ask if they would be willing to give you some helpful insight into that school’s interview, including any questions that might have been asked. There is no guarantee that the same questions will be asked of you but it can be useful to get a sense of the type of questions that might crop up during your interview.

Be Informed

As a future veterinary professional it will be expected that you are taking an active interest in what is happening to affect the profession, and to have an awareness of issues and news of relevance. A classic example would be the whole issue surrounding TB and badgers, which you would be mad not to have some knowledge of before heading to a vet school interview. Talk to vets, vet students, farmers, animal owners and anyone else who you consider to be involved in caring for animals. What issues are they talking about and consider to be important? Chances are that the same issues will be the ones on the minds of the interview panel. Try and get hold of copies of publications such as Vet Times, which most vets will gladly put aside for you once they’ve read their copy, as these are the very best source of up to the minute industry news and comment. You certainly don’t have to go as far as keeping press clippings but making a few notes on a few relevant issues might not be a bad idea. If anything, they may well serve as a useful refresher before the interview itself.

Statement – Know It!

Its not at all uncommon for an interview to be guided by what’s written in your statement. After all, this is the first place that the vet schools get to find out something about you and so it is perfectly natural that it should act as a launchpad for further questioning. It may seem like a stupidly obvious thing to say but it is so important that you know your statement like the back of your hand, as any discrepency between what you have written and what you then say in an interview will come across poorly. Read your statement through and internalise it until you are virtually dreaming about it at night.

Mock Interviews

Much as a mock exam allows you to get used to exam conditions, identify areas for improvement and generally get better at taking exams, mock interviews do the same for your interview success. Ensure that you manage to do at least one mock interview as I guarantee that you will realise the benefits. It is important with any mock that you recreate as best you can the actual scenario that you are practicing for, including the sense of formality that an interview has. It is only by repeatedly putting yourself in conditions which accurately mirror the real one that you will start to develop the skills and familiarity with the format that will enable you to focus your mind on the aspects of the activity that are going to enable you to excel, rather than worrying about the minor details over which you have no control.

No Friends or Family

As we are aiming to recreate as closely as possible the setting of a real interview, there is little to no point asking your parents, friends or siblings to conduct a mock interview with you as you are obviously on familiar and friendly terms with them, meaning that you won’t feel that sense of formality and seriousness that the real interview will have and so won’t be able to desensitise yourself to the pressure and anxiety of such a setting. Rather, ask your school if they can help by arranging a mock interview with a member of staff who you might not be too familiar with, or perhaps a school governor. Schools will often have links with local business people, including veterinarians, and so may be able to ask such professionals if they would be willing to conduct a mock interview with you. The result is that a) you will likely find yourself doing your mock interview(s) somewhere far more formal, and realistic, than at home, and b) will take the exercise as seriously as you would the real interview, something that is less likely if your best mate or mum was the interviewer. The feedback you receive from an unfamiliar, professional interviewer is also likely to be far more honest and constructive than that which would come from friends, who are naturally going to want to make you feel good about yourself. It is, however, really vital that you get to identify those things that you did particularly well, and this need less attention and development, and, more importantly, those things that require work and that you can improve on before your actual interviews commence. If possible, try and arrange for your mock to be conducted by more than one person as this will more accurately mirror the real scenario and also result in feedback from more than one person, which is always handy.

Dress Like You Mean It

Would you turn up to your vet school interview in a pair of jeans and T-shirt? No, of course not, so why not extend the principle of a mock to your dress as well by going along dressed for the occasion. The point of everything we do with mock interviews is to make sure you feel as comfortable and relaxed as you can come the big day, and to prepare your mind fully for the event. Anchoring is a term used to describe a process by which our mind forms a link between verbal cues, physical objects, and other such triggers, and our emotional state and subconscious mind. So by practicing your interview technique, including recreating such factors as what you wear, your mind will anchor the feeling of confidence, knowledge and ability that you will develop through practice to such factors as your dress. The result is that when you put on the same sort of clothes on interview day, your mind will automatically switch itself to the same state that it developed during your mocks, and you are far more likely to stride into your interview feeling the same sense of confidence and preparedness, with positive results.

As for dress code, I am sure you can probably guess for yourself but a general guide would be to encourage the following:

Males – a smart, well fitting suit with creaseless/ ironed shirt, or smart pair of trousers, such as Chinos, with a similarly smart shirt. The issue of whether to wear a tie is down to personal preference in my opinion and is not compulsory. Smart, clean shoes are essential to finish off the interview look.

Females – there is perhaps a little more choice and flexibility for you, from the option of a simple yet smart skirt – no mini skirts, as we don’t want the interviewers having heart attacks – and blouse, to the classic trouser suit, which can be worn with either a blouse or appropriately smart top. Needless to say, anything too low-cut or that otherwise exposes too much flesh should be avoided. A basic rule  is to say that if your gran would approve then you’re probably on the right track. Smart shoes, as above, will finish the look.

Timing & Location

Once you have confirmed someone to conduct your mock interview, you’ll need someplace to be interviewed. This will probably be an office or classroom at school or, if with a local professional, at their place of work. Confirm the date, time and location of the interview and ensure you arrive nice and early, as you would on the actual interview, with time to sit quietly outside the room before being called in. Try and stick to the interview being no more than twenty minutes, as is likely to be the case with actual vet school interviews, although it is not a major issue if it does run over as all it will do is provide extra feedback.

If your school, or the person who has agreed to interview you, is not familiar with the format of veterinary interviews or would find it helpful to have access to a list of suitable questions, then get in touch via Facebook or Twitter and let me know.

Film Yourself

I am sure that like most people the idea of seeing yourself on video is beyond awkward and you’d rather not even contemplate the idea. It is, however, an excellent way of rapidly improving your interview skills and I urge you to overcome your concerns and fire up the camera. By filming and then reviewing your mock interviews, you will be able to see every aspect of your performance, from how you entered to how quickly and clearly you speak, to whether or not you have any potentially irritating tics, such as toe tapping or drumming your fingers on the table, which you might never have been aware that you even did. I firmly believe that reviewing video of your mock interviews is one of the most powerful tools in helping you to ace your vet school interviews, so go on, become a star.

Keep checking the Vet School Success Facebook page, sign up for the newsletter and follow Chris on Twitter (@thenerdyvet) for more interview advice and help.

South African Safari

A month volunteering at a vet project in Limpopo, South Africa

Russ Fleming in South AfricaRussell Kelaart

Firstly, I would like to encourage everyone reading this to take a gap year.  There were various reasons for me taking a gap year, primarily to gain more work experience in preparation for veterinary medicine applications to university.  It is my goal to become a wildlife vet in African conservation, and undertaking work experience in this field has been extremely beneficial.  It has enabled me to participate in the work that I would be doing as a vet, it was able to make contacts there, and I have learnt a great deal not only about the work but also South Africa and life in general.  I also made some amazing friends.  Having paid for the entire trip myself and for a short time living on my own out there I have gained that much more independence.

“It was the best month of my life.”

I travelled with a company called the African Conservation Experience.  They support select conservation projects by sending volunteers, and volunteers pay them indirectly via ACE.

My project is listed under Phola Veterinary Experience and is located at a small frontier town called Alldays in Limpopo province.  80% of our time was spent the vet Dr. Dup Du Plessis who runs the recently built clinic in the town.  Nearly all of this time was spent out in the field on game farms, the rest of the time (generally weekends) was spent at the local game farm were we slept in tents out in the bush where the night sky was always dark enough to see the Milky Way.

With the vet day to day operations consisted largely of animal capture.  We would draw up a dart for the animal, then dart it, follow it until it went down, get it on a stretcher if we had to move it, and then wake it up.  Depending on the circumstance this entire process could take anything from 7 minutes to half an hour.  When using anaesthetics such as etorphine, animals lose their ability to regulate their temperature so it was of paramount importance that we got the job done as quickly and efficiently as possible when most days it was nearly 35*C.  We soon became an efficient team in the process of game capture.

At our first capture Dup said “We don’t go around bushes, we go through bushes.”  At first I thought he was joking but in that kind of environment there is not the time or space for anything between 6 and 18 people to walk around a Winter Thorn Bush or the aptly named “Stay a while” thorn bush.  Dragging a male Waterbuck 100m to the transport “bakkie” through dense scrub can be interesting to say the least.  At times we were aided by “pangas” or machetes, other times we just ploughed through.

A bakkie is a pick-up truck, in which we travelled everywhere.  Getting to drive a Toyota Hilux through the African bush at night on my own was an experience I will never forget!  Given that there was often not enough space in the cab extra passengers rode on the back everywhere.  And depending on who was driving you could sometimes find yourself temporarily suspended in the air over a particularly rough track.

Generally we were safety conscious and took all the precautions we could, but you can never really fully predict animals.  Having worked with lions, rhinos and crocodiles most people are surprised to hear that I would consider the most dangerous animal there the buffalo.  One day we darted 38 to draw bloods to test for Bovine Tuberculosis.  Nervous creatures at the best of times they were becoming increasingly skittish as we removed completed individuals out of the temporary holding pen and back onto the reserve via a partition through the pen.  After a buffalo had gone down the rest of the herd would be moved into the other half of the pen by the tractor and the owner’s bakkie.  It was a huge operation, but was running smoothly.

One went down near the corner.  Needing a new needle and shoulder to draw blood for samples I was to go and get them – they were outside the pen the other side of the gate.  The small remainder of the herd had been driven to the other side so thinking we were alone the owner, Jaque, and I went to open the gate in the corner.  Reaching the gate Dup screams.  Turning, we face a buffalo cow that has been separated from her calf.  We are cornered.  She charges.  Jaque grabs her horns to push her out of the corner, having none of it she easily flicks him back tearing a huge whole across his shirt.   For some reason she suddenly turns around and runs off.  With Jaque on the floor against the wall I am assuming the worst but he shouts to get up on the fence.  Somehow he follows, just before the buffalo returns to have another go, eyeing us above her on the fence.  The rest of the team manage to get her out.  Unbelievably, Jaque is asking if I am OK!  I reply yes then tentatively ask him if he is.  I cannot believe he is still breathing, let alone climbing the 4m fence.  By some extraordinary stroke of luck he is largely unscathed with only a substantial bruise.

After, as the adrenaline rush hits I can only laugh.  I laugh with the workers as they ask me what I saw in that corner. With a wry smile Dup says “It’s funny now,” then shakes his head in disbelief.  He seems more relieved than I.  Later he tells the anecdote of how the same situation occurred but where the gate was locked and he watched another vet have his heart and rib cage gored out by a buffalo.  Over the next few weeks he reminds me every now and then about how lucky I was, and how I probably don’t fully appreciate what peril I was actually in.  It is funny how an incident that lasted no longer than 5 seconds stays with you.

“Some people would say it’s strange that I can’t imagine anything better than doing this for the rest of my life.”

LionessDespite the large amounts of exhilarating buffalo work the real highlight of my trip was getting to work with a lioness.  Due to a land dispute on a huge game farm she was being kept in temporary accommodation with her ‘husband’ and her son.  In such a limited abode any family pride structure had broken down and being the little one she was on the receiving end of frequent altercations.  She was limping badly, but more worryingly her right ear was torn and badly infected.  We darted her then others in 4x4s drove the male lions as far away as they could within the confines of this camp.  Monitoring vitals is crucial, as it’s the first indicator that something’s going wrong.

Listening to her heartbeat was an experience I will never forget.

Pet Sitters in France

18 Alpacas, 12 Cats, 6 Dogs and 2 Turtles Later

James with Alpaca
James with one of the eldest of the Alpacas, Jessica.

Last July my partner (Jemma) and I set off on an adventure to go off and live in France. Since then, we’ve had the pleasure of looking after all of the animals mentioned in the title and no doubt there are plenty more opportunities on their way, although I’m not sure if alpacas will ever crop up again.

Don’t think I’m writing this to make you jealous about all of the wine and cheese I’m eating; cheese-envy is completely natural and something that can’t be avoided. I’m writing this because it recently occurred to me that what I’m doing (as someone who isn’t a vet or has any intention of becoming one) could be a fantastic opportunity for anyone who did want to become a vet.

So what am I doing?

I’m housesitting. Basically when pet owners go away they need someone to look after their pets. They then post an advert on a housesitting website like Trusted Housesitters. As a housesitter I keep an eye on their list of housesitting jobs and whenever one pops up, bingo, I apply. I don’t get paid for housesitting (although some people do charge for their housesitting services) instead I use it as a source of free accommodation to travel.

Why it might be useful for you

Looking after animals and practicing as a vet are obviously two completely different things, however the first reason it might be of interest to you is that as a vet, you’re likely to be an animal lover like myself. If you are looking after people’s pets might have an appeal for the sole reason that you like animals.

Secondly, as a student you’ve probably got ambitions to travel. No I’m not saying that housesitting will add to your CV, but I think should you decide to take a year out, having spent that year looking after other people’s animals rather than say working in a bar in Melbourne will do more for your CV.

Working with alpacas, which admittedly was a housesitting rarity and might be more common on a wwoofing  website, also gave us several weeks of daily herd animal experience, something that’s often hard to come by.

What kind of experience can I expect?

Before we started out as housesitters, we expected most housesitting jobs to mean walking the dog and feeding the cat, but we’ve found an increasing number of the pets that we’ve looked after have needed medication and treatment. We’ve worked with cats that have needed pills and syrups at specific times throughout the day and alpacas that have needed cream rubbed on their testicles (not my favourite experience) or infections cleaned out (which we actually worked alongside a vet to do). It’s not something we mind doing, but no doubt most pet owners are cautious leaving that kind of responsibility in the hands of just anyone; as a veterinary student or graduate you would no doubt be welcomed with open arms by pet owners whose animals were in these kinds of conditions.

Just a thought.


Vet Lessons

Various chocolateMany of you found discussing a real veterinary clinical case interesting last month and so here’s a seasonal problem that we get faced with pretty much every year during the festive period: chocolate toxicity. Some of you may already be aware of the fact that chocolate is actually toxic to dogs, but for lots of people, clients included, this is something that they have no idea about.

Dogs being dogs will generally eat anything and everything, and with lots of advent calendars and selection boxes around in December, it is more likely that they will eat chocolate and get into trouble. So, get your teeth around this case and help reduce the number of dogs we see on Christmas Day 🙂

This month’s festive topic is….

Chocolate Toxicity

Virtually every Christmas, and Easter for that matter, we get phone calls from worried owners who report that their dogs have managed to devour a load of chocolate, either as a result of being typical dogs and seeking out food, or by inadvertantly being fed the stuff by a well meaning individual, normally a child who thinks its fun to share their chocolate with the family dog. It is not a great surprise to learn that the vast majority of these cases I have seen are Labrador Retrievers, such is their almost manic love of food.

Now we all know that chocolate can be bad for our waistlines but the thought of one of our favourite treats actually being toxic seems like a completely alien concept. The reason chocolate is of concern in dogs is due to a substance called theobromine, which is a natural component of chocolate, with dark chocolate containing more than milk and white chocolate. Theobromine is actually toxic to humans, if consumed in large enough quantities, but it is the fact that dogs metabolise it much slower than humans which makes it significantly more likely that we see signs of toxicity in them.

The clinical signs associated with chocolate toxicity generally include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, collapse, seizure, abnormal heart rate and rhythm, and increased urination. When we get calls from owners who say their dog has eaten chocolate the main questions we ask, before advising them to head straight down to the clinic, include:

  1. How much, in terms of total weight, of the chocolate do they believe their dog ate? This helps us to determine whether the amount of chocolate, and thus theobromine, is considered to be at toxic levels.
  2. What type of chocolate was it and what is the percentage of cocoa contained (eg 70%). Darker chocolate contains more cocoa, and thus theobromine, than milk chocolate. Knowing the percentage of cocoa and the amount of chocolate eaten allows us to accurately determine whether toxic levels have been consumed. This relies on us also knowing the dog’s bodyweight, which we double check when they come in to see the vet.

Some of the dogs we see who have eaten chocolate will be bright as buttons, whilst others will come in collapsed and showing obvious clinical signs of poisoning. These dogs are usually the ones who have either eaten chocolate several hours before, and so had time to absorb the theobromine and develop signs associated with it, or who have eaten very large quantities recently. I normally perform a clinical exam on the patient, take a fuller history from the owner, confirm the answers to the questions above and ask to see the packet of the chocolate, assuming the owner has brought it with them, which you should really ask them to do. I then weigh the dog and give the Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS) a call, as they are a fantastic source of advice and guidance on currently known toxic doses of various substances and advice on ideal management and treatment.

If the dog has eaten chocolate less than 2 hours before we see them then we make them sick, usually by giving an injection of apomorphine, which is a powerful emetic (makes animals vomit). This often works within five minutes of giving it and the result is usually a nice, sticky, sweet-smelling pile of vomit for all to enjoy – lovely part of the job!

If it has been over 2 hours since ingestion then it is often too late to make them vomit, as most of the chocolate will have been digested and the theobromine absorbed. Whether our patients are made to throw up or not, we usually take a blood sample to check the dog’s kidney parameters, as the kidneys can be affected by theobromine. We then start the dog on a drip, to keep the dog well hydrated and help flush the kidneys through. If the dog will eat, which many will, then we start feeding them bland food with activated charcoal in it every few hours. The charcoal acts to bind and absorb any chocolate still in the dog’s intestines and prevent it being absorbed into the blood. We continue with this measure until we see the dog passing black charcoal in it’s faeces. Sometimes the toxic effects of theobromine can take up to 72 hours, or 3 days, to show and so we usually keep the dog on fluids for at least 24 hours, but often longer, and recheck the kidney values regularly, in case we see any evidence of late kidney effects. As a result, the cost of treating a case of chocolate toxicity can be very high, something that pet owners may have trouble appreciating and understanding, especially when what they can see is an apparently fit and healthy dog.

If there are any other, more serious signs associated with chocolate toxicity, such as seizuring, then we deal with those. These measures may well include:

  • Vomiting & Diarrhoea – we give gastro-protectants (medicines which help reduce acid production in the stomach and protect the lining of the intestines), anti-emetics (medicines to prevent the dog feeling nauseous and throwing up). We may also offer kaolin-based gels, which help to reduce diarrhoea and make the stools firmer.
  • Cardiac (heart) arrhythmias – we monitor the dog’s heart rate and rhythm with an ECG and give medication to correct any abnormal rhythms if they occur.
  • Seizures – giving anti-seizure medication, such as barbiturates (eg diazepam) is the method for dealing with seizures.

Assuming that the patient responds well to treatment, and we catch the case early enough, then they often make a full recovery and can be sent home. It is vital that the owners are well educated about the dangers of chocolate in dogs in order to significantly reduce the chances of toxicity happening again.

London Vet Show – Buzzing!

LVS 2012, Main ExhibitionI love vet congresses and see them always remaining an important part of our professional lives, not only in terms of CPD, which I actually think is probably delivered more effectively now through other mediums, especially online methods, but more in terms of the fact that they provide the single best way of bringing vets, and those involved in delivering veterinary services, together under one roof. The advantages of this were evident during the two days of the London Vet Show, held at London Olympia in Kensington, at which I had the pleasure of meeting up with loads of friends, from both former and current jobs, vet school and industry contacts. There is no other way that you would expect to just be able to bump into someone whom you might not have seen for five years and for it to feel as though you were still at vet school. I think most vets would agree that the best bit about congresses such as LVS is the social aspect.

It wasn’t all hanging out with friends and flexing my social muscles though, with lots to achieve during the two days, including gathering research and images for an article I have been working on for the veterinary press, discuss careers issues with members of the veterinary profession, and expanding my veterinary knowledge by attending lectures. Perhaps it would be easier to give you an insight into a vet congress by guiding you through my two days…


Day 1: Hypercalcaemia & Competition Marathon

  • An early start for an early train for an early arrival in London. Clutching my pass I entered the impressive, expansive, timeless space of Olympia in London and en-route to my first lecture of the day was immediately distracted by an exciting new piece of technology: a simple to use ECG (VetCor) that reads out on an iPhone or iPod Touch and was as simple to use as can be. Definitely one for the blog! Getting through the exhibition hall, which is huge and packed full of various stands ranging from the big pet food and drug companies, to small independent suppliers of a range of services and products, to veterinary groups and specialists, is difficult without being drawn into perusing the stands or stopping to talk to those you know. I definitely needed to keep focused on my aim of getting into my first lecture of the day, on calcium disorders in animals, and made it into the huge lecture area to take up a seat, funnily enough, next to an old friend from Bristol Vet School.


  • An excellent lecture during which I learn’t a good couple of nuggets of clinically relevant information which I can take back to my day to day work as a vet. Right, time for a coffee with another vet school friend.


  • Another lecture to attend, although I quickly realise that it is not the one I thought it was going to be and turns out not to be too interesting. Still, it is a good opportunity to fill out all of the various competition slips in the congress handbook in preparation to hand them in at the various company stands and hopefully win some cool prizes, with the chances of securing an iPad appearing pretty good on account of virtually every stand offering one as a prize! The London Vet Show does offer delegates some pretty amazing chances to win great prizes, with the main prize for collecting a variety of stamps from across a range of exhibiting companies being a safari in Africa, organised by the awesome team at The Worldwide Veterinary Service, WVS.


  • The next few hours are a blur of competition entering, discussing new developments in veterinary and the various products and services on offer, including some very interesting new tech, and just hanging out with friends over lunch. Tickets to the London Vet Show include a bag containing an official show guide, including synopses of the lectures, and important show information, the aforementioned competition slips and lunch is included as well, which we collected from the centre of the beautiful main Olympia hall, where the exhibition was taking place.


  • If I had been more organised and booked in advance then I would have spent the afternoon attending one of the practical sessions delivered by veterinary specialists Dick White Referrals. As it turned out, these sessions proved to be very popular and so were booked up early. As useful as lectures can be, I definitely feel that practical CPD is the most useful as a lot of what we do in our jobs as vets is very practical in nature and I am sure you can all appreciate how much more effective it is to learn to do something by, well, actually doing it. Still, maybe next year.


  • An afternoon lecture on feline triaditis, which I found myself watching from a very comfortable reclined position on the floor, due to the fact that the big lecture room was packed. I must admit that it was very tempting to catch a few Z’s during the lecture – not a comment on the interest level but more a reflection of the fact that I had just had lunch and found myself in a very comfortable position laying on the floor watching the lecture on one of the many video screens around the room.


  • Another round of exhibition touring before attending a small Cuban cocktail party being hosted by a referral centre and yet more catching up with former lecturers and friends. A decent warm up to another drinks reception at the nearby Hilton, hosted by webinar provider, The Webinar Vet, complete with pizza, meaning that dinner was sorted 🙂


  • Quick drop off of bags at my (over-priced, yet conveniently located) hotel and it was off out into Kensington to find a pub for a few drinks and a good evening of chatting with a good friend. Lots of delegates were at the Vets Now party, which was the official party of the show, and saw the guests entertained in dazzling fashion by, amongst other treats, a fire-eating display. We vets sure do know how to party!


  • Not enough sleep before getting to do it all over again….


Day 2: Tech & Vet Education

  • Its always a good idea to fuel up well at breakfast when attending any vet shows, as there is a lot of walking around to do and you sure do need the energy. All fuelled up, it was straight back into research for the article and meetings with vets involved in the new book I am working on.


  • The first talk of the day for me was a small group session with Noel Fitzpatrick, of Fitzpatrick Referrals, during which we spent a good hour learning about elbow dysplasia and the exciting new developments in veterinary orthopaedics. I am always amazed at what is now possible, and pioneering vets like Noel continue to push the boundaries.


  • The next lecture was unfortunately so popular that I was not able to even get into the hall and so it was back to the exhibition for some more perusing and research.


  • Lunch with a friend and a really good discussion about veterinary education and the future of the profession. We both agreed that the next ten years are going to be very interesting in terms of the anticipated changes in the veterinary labour market.


  • As much as my mind was willing and I had every intention of attending another lecture, the fact is I still had so much to do in the main exhibition, with the rest of the afternoon involving tying off loose ends and bringing the two days to a close.


  • A cheeky curry and a few pints with some vet school friends before getting the wrong train home and a later than expected return!

As you can see, veterinary congresses are a really great way to pack in a range of CPD opportunities, including some practicals, whilst also offering one of the best ways to catch up with all those friends from vet school and the wider profession who you may not have seen since the previous year. Yet another good year and looking forward to the next one.

Vet News

NewspaperThis time of year is always super busy for prospective vets, with preparations for interviews in full swing. As such, many of our Vet News Editors have taken a bit of a sabbatical to focus on their interviews. We all wish them the best of luck and look forward to their articles next month. Having said this, one of our editors, Emma, has dug deep and in spite of preparing for an interview on Friday has written a great article on efforts to encourage farmers to scan their ewes.


Farmers encouraged to scan ewes

Emma Plowright (Farm News Editor)

lambsIn early lambing flocks in the Midlands and northern England, pregnancy tests have revealed greater than normal numbers of barren ewes. This has been a cause for concern among farmers with many worrying that Schmallenberg virus is responsible for the figures. Experts have however urged that farmers do not panic as there are many possible explanations.  

One of these is that the recent incredibly wet weather has led to compromised nutrition. Poor nutrition in sheep can lead to subfertility or infertility. Naturally, this means that a ewe is more likely to be barren.  Thinner ewes produce fewer eggs and are more likely to reabsorb an embryo if fertilisation does occur.

Liz Genever from EBLEX is encouraging farmers to scan their ewes 75-85 days after tupping. This way, if ewes are barren, there is still a time to tup again. She highlighted the fact that it is the length of the days which determines the ewes’ fertility. As we get deeper in to winter, the chances of getting ewes into lamb decreases.  She advises that up until mid-December, there is still a chance to get the barren ewes into lamb whilst after Christmas she believes it to be very unlikely. Where large numbers of ewes are not in lamb, there will be economic consequences for the farmers involved.

The normal barren rate on a sheep farm is around 4-5%. When farmers notice that rates are higher than this, Genever advises that they should contact their vet immediately. Blood tests can then be carried out to see if the ewes have been exposed to an abortion agent. In this way, the cause of the problem can be understood and approached appropriately. Toxoplasmosis, for example, is a major cause of early embryo loss in sheep and blood tests can confirm its presence in a flock.