Edinburgh secures World One Health Congress

Event will showcase city’s collective of research institutes

The prestigious World One Health Congress in 2020 will be held in Edinburgh, the University of Edinburgh has confirmed.

The announcement follows a successful competitive bid by the University’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies and The Roslin Institute. As well as delivering some £3.3m into the local economy, the event is set to reinforce Edinburgh’s position as a world leader in medical health and expertise.

“We are thrilled to host the Sixth World One Health Congress in Edinburgh in 2020, welcoming international health scientists and professionals, opinion leaders and policymakers from the One Health community to Scotland’s capital” commented Professor Anna Meredith of the Roslin Institute.

“As a global-facing university, we have vibrant One Health and global health partnerships nationally and internationally, and we look forward to showcasing the work of Scotland’s world-leading collective of research institutes, and engaging with other stakeholders to improve the health of people, animals and the environment.”

Dr Neil Anderson, also of The Roslin Institute, added: “The implementation of One Health requires a paradigm shift in how we manage the health of people, animals, plants and the ecosystems which support them. The conference will provide an ideal platform to discuss the practical implementation of One Health across the research, policy and practice arenas.”

One Health is a growing international movement that recognises human health is connected to the health of animals and the environment. By bringing together various disciplines, it aims to enhance understanding of and preparedness for current and future outbreaks of infectious diseases.

The Congress, which is expected to attract around 2,000 participants, will take place on 15-18 June 2020 at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre.

BVA calls for changes to Pet Travel Scheme

BVA calls for changes to Pet Travel Scheme

Series of recommendations to protect UK from exotic diseases

As the UK prepares for Brexit, the BVA is calling for a series of measures to prevent exotic and zoonotic diseases - including rabies - from entering the country.

BVA has published a Pet Travel policy, which includes 15 recommendations, including a plea to extend the post-rabies vaccination waiting time to 12 weeks. It is hoped this would minimise the risk of rabies entering the UK, whilst reducing the illegal trade in puppies.

Other recommendations in the policy include:
  • compulsory tick and tapeworm treatment for all cats and dogs travelling under the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS)
  • shortening the tapeworm treatment window from 24-120 hours, to 24-48 hours before entry from infected countries
  • restricting the number of animals that can travel under PETS to five per non-commercial consignment, rather than five per person
  • improving enforcement services and surveillance at entry points to the UK.

BVA is also recommending restrictions on the movement of stray dogs from countries that are endemic for diseases that are not currently endemic in the UK, including brucellosis, babesiosis and leishmaniasis. There should also be mandatory testing for such diseases before stray dogs can travel to the UK.

The Pet Travel Scheme made pet transport between the UK and other EU countries easier and more cost effective, but it has raised serious concerns about the risk of disease being brought to the UK via travelling pets or ’trojan’ rescue dogs. BVA said prospective pet owners should be encouraged to rehome dogs from UK rehoming charities, rather than overseas.

Vets and animal welfare charities are also concerned about the illegal importation of puppies through abuse of the non-commercial pet travel requirements.  

BVA president John Fishwick said: “Whatever agreement we reach with the EU, it is essential that the movement of animals doesn’t translate into the free movement of disease.

“The increase in cases of non-endemic diseases such as babesiosis is of real concern to vets, which is why we are calling on the government to strengthen existing pet travel legislation as well as enforcement for the sake of animal and human health in the UK.”

BC to acquire VetPartners

BC to acquire VetPartners

Equity firm will support group's plans for growth

Private equity company BC Partners has reached an agreement to acquire a majority stake in VetPartners.

In a press release, the firm - which owns the UK restaurant chain, Côte - said the agreement had been reached with funds managed by the Ares Management Credit Group, August Equity and co-investors.

Whilst financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed, the sale is estimated to be in the region of £700 million. It will see Ares reinvest alongside BC Partners and the management team, led by CEO Jo Malone, who will also invest in the company.

The VetPartners group is one of the UK’s leading operators of small animal, mixed and equine veterinary practices. With more than 310 veterinary clinics across the UK, the company provides services to pets, equine and production animals.

BC Partners and Ares said they will support CEO Jo Malone’s plans for growth, which include increasing the VetPartners customer base, acquiring new veterinary practices and expanding internationally.

BC Partners managing partner Jean-Baptiste Wautier commented: “We have tremendous respect for Jo and her team and what they have achieved so far. VetPartners is a unique business whose rapid growth in recent years is a clear indication of the future potential for the company.

“We look forward to partnering with Jo, her team and Ares to help VetPartners pursue an ambitious growth strategy, fuelled by organic growth, M&A and the opportunity to expand into new geographies in Europe.”

VetPartners CEO Jo Malone said: “We are thrilled that BC Partners are supporting us during the next phase of our growth. They bring experience, knowledge and renewed enthusiasm for the ongoing growth of our company.”

Restrictions on flunixin relaxed

Restrictions on flunixin relaxed

Short-term access restored for non-food producing horses 

The Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) has temporarily relaxed the restrictions that were recently imposed on the equine painkiller flunixin.

VMD has allowed the release of stock from manufacturers, which will restore short-term access to this medicine, for use in non-food producing horses.

Medicines for food-producing animals that contain the excipient diethanolamine (DEA) were recently suspended by the VMD. The decision was made following a scientific opinion from the European Medicines Agency, which highlighted concerns that there may be a risk to humans.

Among other products, flunixin 50mg/ml solution for injection was suspended, prompting concern among vets about the potential future lack of this drug for intravenous use in non-food producing horses. VMD said it is investigating potential ways to maintain the availability of injectable flunixin for use in these horses.

Commenting on the relaxation of the restrictions, BEVA president Jon Pycock said: “It remains a concern to BEVA that this mechanism was not put in place before the suspension of flunixin was imposed.

“Contrary to assertions by the VMD, wholesalers were unable to meet the demands of the veterinary profession and clinical use of this medicine was disrupted within 24 hours of the VMD’s initial announcement.

“We are surprised by the Regulator’s lack of awareness of availability in the supply chain and question why there was no consultation with the veterinary sector before the suspension was enacted. The VMD has been aware of this issue since March 2018 and it appears that no contingency was put in place to consider the animal welfare impact of this decision until it was too late.”

Tim Mair, BEVA junior vice president and specialist in equine surgery added: “Flunixin is a unique medicine in managing pain and sepsis in horses with colic. The VMD appeared to believe that this medicine could be substituted for other veterinary medicines and this is simply not the case.

“The release of stock from manufacturers is a short-term solution and, looking forward, we would like assurances that the VMD will fast track applications for the modification of product licenses to ensure that equine vets have continued access to these products.”

Stocks of flunixin held by manufacturers will be distributed with a caution letter, which explains the restricted use of the product.

BEVA is reminding all equine vets to check the horse’s food chain status when using the product - either by examining the paper passport or the recently launched chip checker on the Central Equine Database website.

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Light news

Koala joins passengers aboard flight to Scotland

Koala joins passengers aboard flight to Scotland

Tanami joins conservation breeding programme at Edinburgh Zoo

An unlikely passenger joined travellers aboard a plane destined for Edinburgh last week.

Nineteen-month-old Queensland koala Tanami had his own seat on the flight from Germany, to join Scotland’s only koalas as part of a conservation breeding programme.

“Koalas are very sensitive animals, so special care needs to be taken when transporting them,” explained Darren McGarry, head of living collections at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo. “They travel in the plane’s cabin and not in the hold so keepers can easily make sure everything’s okay during the flight.”

Tanami travelled more than 700 miles from Duisburg Zoo, one of the largest zoological gardens in Germany. He is swapping place with Edinburgh Zoo’s young male koala, Toorie, who will be making the return flight to Duisburg Zoo later this week.

“We welcome passengers from all over the world to Edinburgh Airport but not all of them are as special or as cute as a koala!” said Gordon Dewar, chief executive of Edinburgh Airport. “It was quite exciting to have Tanami arriving here and he joins a list of famous animals who have touched down here to make Edinburgh Zoo their new home.”

Once a common sight throughout the eucalyptus forests of Eastern Australia, the koala is now listed as ‘vulnerable’ on the ICUN Red List of Threatened Species. Current threats include continued habitat destruction, fragmentation and modification, which makes them vulnerable to predators and vehicle strikes.

Besides being members of the managed breeding programme for Queensland koalas, RZSS Edinburgh Zoo makes regular contributions to support conservation projects in Australia that help rehabilitate sick and injured koalas. It said that visitors can look forward to seeing Tanami in the coming months.

Image (C) RZSS Ediburgh Zoo

ISFM announces first veterinary nurse conference

ISFM announces first veterinary nurse conference

Event offers more than five hours of CPD

The International Society of Feline Medicine (ISFM) - the veterinary division of International Cat Care - has announced its first annual conference dedicated to veterinary nurses. The day offers an opportunity to meet up with colleagues and enjoy more than five hours of stimulating CPD.

The conference is being held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Stratford-Upon-Avon, on Saturday 15 September 2018. Tickets are £95 per person and include lunch, coffee breaks, downloadable proceedings and CPD certificate. For details and to book your place visit www.eventbrite.co.uk

BEVA and BSAVA agree Congress collaboration

BEVA and BSAVA agree Congress collaboration

Members to receive discounted tickets for annual Congresses

Veterinary membership associations BEVA and BSAVA have joined forces to give members discounted attendance to their two annual congresses.

Under the new agreement, BSAVA mixed practitioners will receive a 30 per cent discount on standard tickets for BEVA Congress (12th – 15th September 2018) and BEVA members will receive the BSAVA membership discount for BSAVA Congress (4th -7th April 2019).

BSAVA head of Congress, Angharad Belcher said: “As both Congresses continue to evolve, BSAVA and BEVA are working together to provide unrivalled opportunities for the whole profession to be inspired, demonstrating that we are one community whose impact on animal and human health is immense.”

Rare pine marten spotted in Kielder Forest

Rare pine marten spotted in Kielder Forest

Animal captured by cameras set up to monitor red squirrels

A rare pine marten has been spotted in Northumberland’s Kielder Forest for the first time in more than 90 years.

The weasel-like mammal was captured by cameras set up to monitor red squirrels in a remote area of Kielder Water and Forest Park.

Earlier this year, ecologists captured what is thought to be the first ever footage of a pine marten in Northumberland. However, this is the first time that one has been spotted inside the forest since it was planted in 1926.

John Hartshorn, who has been helping with the squirrel surveys, discovered the footage:

"This July I have caught some excellent pictures of red squirrels but also an unexpected visitor - a pine marten, sitting on top of one of the squirrel feeders,” he said. “This was most unexpected but I now have both still pictures and a short piece of video firmly placing pine marten in Kielder Water & Forest Park.”

Pine martens were once common throughout the UK, but habitat clearance and persecution have led to a dramatic decline in their numbers.

Forestry Commission ecologist Tom Dearnley said: “As the forest nears 100 years in age, it is increasingly being colonised by rare and protected species. Pine marten returning to England, over the Scottish border, have been anticipated for some time and we are delighted to see photographic evidence of their return, a great endorsement of how we manage public forests.”

Simon O’Hare, project manager for Red Squirrels Northern England at Northumberland Wildlife Trust added: “It is well documented that grey squirrels out-compete red squirrels for food and also pass on a deadly virus, squirrel pox, to reds: this is one of the main reasons that the species is under threat.

“The natural return of pine martens in areas of northern England is an exciting prospect, as it could have a knock-on effect by suppressing grey numbers, allowing native red squirrels to prosper once again in our woodlands.”

New whole blood test for toxoplasmosis

New whole blood test for toxoplasmosis

Test could improve maternal-child health outcomes

A new low-cost whole blood test for toxoplasmosis has been developed by researchers at the University of Chicago.

In the study, researchers tested 205 people known to be infected with toxoplasmosis, including pregnant women. The blood was tested using reference tests, standard serum tests and the new whole-blood point of care (POC), obtained by finger stick.

They found that the whole blood test had a 100 per cent agreement with conventional testing and proved highly sensitive (100 per cent) and specific (100 per cent).  The scores also held true for women with lower levels of anti-Toxoplasma antibodies.

"Our work establishes a new point of care test in the outpatient setting at very low cost enabling diagnosis and prompt treatment for toxoplasma infections acquired for the first time during pregnancy,” the authors note.  

“This enables life, sight and cognition saving treatments. If combined with multiplexed testing for other congenital infections and markers associated with premature birth, it will markedly improve maternal-child outcomes and save lives."

Toxoplasmosis is a disease caused by the parasite Toxoplasma gondii. The parasite can be found in undercooked contaminated meat or in the faeces of infected cats.

Transmission of toxoplasmosis from a mother to her unborn child can result in severe congenital problems and fetal death. As such, testing for the parasitic infection during pregnancy is critical.

Current tests for toxoplasmosis are serum tests, which require blood samples to be processed using infrastructure and technology. This can be prohibitive, however, in developing countries and unaffordable in developed countries like the United States.

The study, Rapid, inexpensive, fingerstick, whole-blood, sensitive, specific, point-of-care test for anti-Toxoplasma antibodies, is published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases.

Neonicotinoid replacement may also harm bees - study

Neonicotinoid replacement may also harm bees - study

Researchers call for a thorough assessment

A neonicotinoid pesticide replacement may have similar harmful effects on bees, according to research by the University of London.

The study, published in the journal Nature, found that sulfoximine-based insecticides have ‘severe sub-lethal effects on bumblebee colonies’. It notes that bees exposed to the sulfoxaflor during the growth phase 'produced significantly fewer workers, and consequently fewer offspring'.

‘Our results caution against the use of sulfoximines as a direct replacement for neonicotinoids,’ the researchers conclude. ‘To avoid continuing cycles of novel pesticide release and removal, with concomitant impacts on the environment, a broad evidence base needs to be assessed prior to the development of policy and regulation.’

Sulfoximine-based insecticides have a different chemical structure to neonicotinoids and have been viewed as a possible replacement. Approved for use in China, Canada and Australia, they kill pests by disrupting their nervous system.

Researchers are now urging regulators to look at the non-lethal effects of sulfoximines on bees before issuing a licence for new products. Speaking to BBC News, Dr Ellouise Leadbeater of Royal Holloway, University of London, said:

"Our study highlights that stressors that do not directly kill bees can still have damaging effects further down the line because the health of the colony depends on the health of its workforce."

Neonicotinoids are one of the most widely-used insecticides. But growing evidence shows they are harmful to bees and other pollinators.  

In the EU, all outdoor use of three neonicotinoids (clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam) is prohibited and only allowed in permanent greenhouses where no contact with bees is expected. 

Funding boost for foot-and-mouth vaccine consortium

Funding boost for foot-and-mouth vaccine consortium

Investment marks the final step in bringing an affordable vaccine to market 

An international foot-and-mouth (FMD) vaccine research and development consortium has been awarded more than £3 million of funding from the Wellcome Trust to produce a more affordable and effective vaccine.

The consortium, led by The Pirbright Institute, will use the funding to build on initial research and answer remaining product development challenges. Welcoming the news, Dr Bryan Charleston of the Pirbright Institute said:

“This represents the final step in being able to bring an affordable and effective FMD vaccine to the market that does not require special facilities to produce, is less reliant on a cold chain, and so will transform the livelihood of those farmers in the poorest areas of the world who depend on their livestock for food and economic security.”

FMD is one of the most economically important infectious diseases of livestock across the world, affecting sheep, goats, pigs and other cloven-footed animals.

Initial research into a new vaccine to protect against the disease showed that virus-like particle (VLP) copies of FMD, grown in insect cells, were effective in protecting cattle against four serotypes of the disease. Researchers say the new research aims to translate these findings into a commercially viable vaccine that is effective against multiple strains of FMDV.

Consortium member Ian Jones, professor of virology at the University of Reading, said: “I am very grateful to the Wellcome Trust for their continued support of our research aimed at making vaccination against foot-and-mouth disease virus far more widespread. The basic science has progressed well but there is still a gap in making its manufacture a practical reality, which this funding should allow us to bridge.

“The principles we learn could also benefit other vaccines made in a similar way, for both animal and human disease.”

RSPCA highlights plight of black cats

RSPCA highlights plight of black cats

Pet owners urged to look beyond coat colour

On Black Cat Appreciation Day (17 August), the RSPCA is urging people to look beyond an animal’s appearance and understand that coat colour makes no difference to how much love they have to give.

RSPCA cat behaviour and welfare expert Sam Watson said: “All cats are individuals with their own quirks and personality, so I recommend people try to look beyond their colour to find the right match for them.

“At the RSPCA we care for all animals and believe each one deserves a second chance at happiness. If anyone is looking to become a cat owner we would urge them to adopt a rescue cat as there are so many that need loving homes.”

Rehoming figures published by the RSPCA show that black and black and white cats are seen more often in their centres than any other colour. Black cats
are also most overlooked, taking on average 30 days to find a new home, compared to an average of 19 days for ginger cats.

The charity believes it could be because black cats are more common, but also that ginger and tabby cats are seen as more unusual or different.

'Zombie' gene may protect elephants from cancer

'Zombie' gene may protect elephants from cancer

Gene returns to life and kills cells with damaged DNA

A ‘zombie’ gene inherent in elephants may help to protect them against cancer, according to new research.

Humans and animals have one copy of the master suppressor gene, p53. The gene allows the body to recognise un-repaired DNA damage, a precursor of cancer, and causes those damaged cells to die.

But researchers at the Universities of Chicago and Utah recently found that elephants have 20 copies of p53. This makes their cells far more sensitive to damaged DNA and therefore quicker to die.

Now, new research reported in the journal Cell Reports details the second element of this process: an anti-cancer gene that can return from the dead.

“Genes duplicate all the time,” said Vincent Lynch, assistant professor of human genetics at the University of Chicago and the study’s senior author. “Sometimes they make mistakes, producing non-functional versions known as pseudogenes. We often refer to these dismissively as dead genes.”

While studying p53 in elephants, Lynch and his team discovered a former pseudogene - leukaemia inhibitory factor 6 (LIF6) - that had, by some means, evolved a new on-switch.

LIF6, which had returned from the dead, had become a valuable working gene. When activated by p53, its function is to respond to damaged DNA by killing the cell.

The LIF6 gene makes a protein that goes to the mitochondria, the cell’s main energy source. That protein pokes holes in the mitochondria, causing the cell to die.

“Hence, zombie,” said Lynch. “This dead gene came back to life. When it gets turned on by damaged DNA, it kills that cell, quickly. This is beneficial because it acts in response to genetic mistakes, errors made when the DNA is being repaired. Getting rid of that cell can prevent subsequent cancer.”

The researchers note that exactly how LIF6 triggers apoptosis remains unclear and will be the focus of future studies.

Unlucky Blue seeks forever home

Unlucky Blue seeks forever home

Lurcher has been overlooked by over 3,000 potential owners

An RSPCA centre in Suffolk has launched an appeal to re-home one of its longest-standing residents.

Four-year old Blue first came into the centre’s care in May 2017 as his previous owner was not able to look after him. The lurcher was re-homed the following month, but sadly his owners struggled to handle him and he returned to the RSPCA in November.

Since November, RSPCA’s Suffolk East and Ipswich Branch has had more than 3,000 visitors through its doors. However, not one other person has expressed an interest in reserving Blue, and staff are baffled as to why this could be.

“If you want a dog to go and sit and have a cuddle with all the staff here go and sit with Blue. He is a real favourite for all of us - we absolutely adore him and just want to see him settle into a long term home,” said centre manager Zoe Barrett.

“I am a trained photographer and have taken pictures of Blue to try to help him find a home, he has been the cover photo on our Facebook page for months and has been advertised in our local media but still no one comes forward.”

She added: “We’ve tried to enlist the help of other animal centres so new people can see Blue but everywhere is so full that hasn’t worked either. He is a gorgeous dog I know there will be someone out there for him, there always is, but we just need that special person to come forward.”

Blue has a strong chase instinct, so would be best suited to an experienced lurcher owner. For more information visit https://ipswich-rspca.org.uk/dogs/blue-2/

Final call for BVA Electoral College nominations

Final call for BVA Electoral College nominations

Elected member will help select future president and officers

The BVA has put out a final call for nominations for one new member to join the BVA Electoral College.

The organisation is encouraging anyone with a passion to promote the value of the veterinary profession to apply for the role and help select members for election to officer status.

“The Electoral College plays a crucial role in ensuring that BVA fulfils its mission to be the leading body representing, supporting and championing BVA members and the whole UK veterinary profession,” said BVA president John Fishwick.

"I would encourage anyone with a passion to promote the value of the veterinary profession, and who is seeking a fulfilling role, to apply. Help ensure BVA continues to be a strong voice for our profession.”

The BVA Electoral College assesses nominations and formally selects members to officer status. The three elected BVA members work with BVA officers, a past president and a board chair to evaluate nominations and applications for the role of BVA junior vice president.

The elected members also carry out a skills gap analysis within the officer team for the following year. They ensure that BVA’s process for selecting and electing its officer team is open, fair and robust.

Nominations are open to all BVA members who are veterinary surgeons, excluding BVA past presidents and serving division and Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) officers.  

Members are elected to serve on the Electoral College for three years and are then eligible to stand for a second three-year term. Applicants must be available to attend the Electoral College meeting on 6 February 2019.

For more details and link to the application form, visit: www.bva.co.uk

Litter plea as hedgehog gets stuck in plastic ring

Litter plea as hedgehog gets stuck in plastic ring

RSPCA officer responds to call in Leighton Buzzard 

The RSPCA is calling on the public to properly discard litter after a hedgehog became stuck in a plastic ring.

RSPCA officer Rachel Edwards responded to a call in Leighton Buzzard last week (6 August), where she found a hoglet with a hosepipe ring around its neck.

“The poor little hoglet had somehow managed to get the ring wedged around his neck,” said Rachel. “It was really tight and was digging into his flesh. He was gasping for air so it was obviously affecting his breathing.”

Rachel discovered the hoglet in a compost bag with two adults and two other babies.

“I’m not sure how the hog managed to end up with the hosepipe washer ring stuck around his neck but I knew I needed to get it off him” she added. "Luckily, I was able to pick the hoglet up and carefully cut the washer from his neck using a pair of pliers.”

Rachel checked the hoglet over and, other than an indentation where the ring had been pressing on his spines, he was otherwise fine. To avoid further stress, she decided to release the hoglet and his family back into the undergrowth.

The RSPCA receives around 14 calls a day relating to animals affected by litter. But because many injured wild animals are never found, the charity says the actual figure of litter injuries is much higher than currently known.

It is now urging the public to tidy away any potentially hazardous objects such as netting and to properly discard of litter in a bid to keep wildlife safe. Anyone who finds an animal in distress should contact the RSPCA’s 24-hour emergency line on 0300 1234 999.

Image (C) RSPCA

Charity launches 'look before you lock' campaign

Charity launches 'look before you lock' campaign

Public urged to check outbuildings for missing moggies

A campaign calling on people to check their sheds and garages before locking them has been launched by Cats Protection.

The Look Before You Lock campaign comes in response to a rise in missing cat reports during the last month. Cats Protection said that its information line handled around 250 calls in July, a 60 per cent increase on the monthly average.

Behavioural manager Nicky Trevorrow attributed the rise to the recent spell of hot weather.

“The tendency for cats to wander further away from home when the weather is warm explains why there has been an increase in reports of missing cats during this recent heat wave,” she said.
 
“They are notoriously curious creatures that like to investigate their surroundings and unfortunately this can result in them getting trapped in outbuildings. And because cats won’t always meow for attention if they are afraid, the risk is they go unnoticed so we’re asking people to have a really good check before locking up, particularly if you are aware of any cats missing in your area.”

Owner Molly Rayment from St Alban knows all-too-well the heartbreak a missing pet can cause. When her cat Wispa disappeared in May she feared the worst, as it was very unlike the moggy to be gone for more than a few hours.

Molly searched the local area, posted on social media, contacted vets and charities, but to no avail. After 20 days, however, she received a call from one of her neighbours to say they had found a cat in their garage.

Molly rushed over and, as soon as she opened the garage door, knew it was Wispa inside. She was shocked by the terrible state she was in.

“She was desperately dirty and thin. I think she must have been living off of rainwater that had leaked in and maybe some insects or mice,” she said.

A trip to the vets revealed that Wispa weighed just 1.9kg - 2kg less than her normal healthy weight - and the vet said she wouldn't have survived another couple of days. Thankfully, she is now on the road to recovery and enjoying lots of fuss and cuddles.

For more information about Cats Protection's Look Before Your Lock campaign, including a downloadable door hanger, visit https://www.cats.org.uk/check-your-shed

Image (C) Cats Protection

Cats Protection names new chief executive

Cats Protection names new chief executive

RSPCA vet James Yeates begins new role in November

Leading feline welfare charity Cats Protection has announced the appointment of James Yeates as its new chief executive.

James is chief veterinary officer at the RSPCA and will commence his new role on Thursday, 1 November. His work will involve leading efforts to expand the charity’s rehoming, neutering and advocacy work.

Commenting on his appointment, James said: “It is a great opportunity to join such an amazing organisation as Cats Protection and also a profound honour to join with such inspiring people – volunteers and staff. To be part of that is such a privilege.”

James has extensive experience in ensuring the welfare of all animals. He is a qualified vet, with degrees in veterinary science and bioethics, as well as a PhD.

He is also an RCVS registered specialist in animal welfare, science, ethics and law, and a diplomat of the RCVS and the European College of Animal Welfare and Behavioural Medicine.

Linda Upson, Cats Protection’s chairman of trustees, said: "I am delighted that we are welcoming James to Cats Protection. His extensive knowledge of the animal welfare sector, coupled with his love of cats, will make him a great addition to our existing senior management team.

“I am looking forward to working with him in the coming years as he leads the charity forward to fulfil our vision where every cat is treated with kindness and an understanding of its needs."

Image (C) Cats Protection

New DNA testing scheme for beagles

New DNA testing scheme for beagles

Breeders urged to test for Lafora’s disease 

A new DNA testing scheme for Lafora’s disease in beagles has been approved by the Kennel Club.

In a press release, the Kennel Club said the scheme will give breeders the information they need to avoid producing puppies that may otherwise have been affected by this condition.

‘To find out which laboratories the Kennel Club is able to record results from, and which labs will send results direct to the Kennel Club, please refer to the worldwide DNA testing list at www.thekennelclub.org.uk/worldwide-dna-tests,’ it said.

‘Results issued after 1st August 2018 must contain at least two forms of identification on the DNA result certificate – it will be mandatory to include the dog’s microchip or tattoo number along with either the dog’s registered name or registered number.

‘Any test results that do not carry these identifying features will not be accepted.’

Lafora’s disease is an inherited condition that causes effects similar to epilepsy. Affected dogs normally show signs of the condition at around five to seven years of age, and the condition may progress slowly over many years.

Initial signs in affected dogs are shuddering or jerking which may be triggered by flickering lights, loud noises or sudden movements. As the disease advances, dogs can lose control of movement and develop blindness and dementia.

Because Lafora’s disease is an inherited condition, a dog that inherits just one copy of the abnormal gene (either from its mother or father) will have no signs of the disease. However, it will be a carrier and may pass the gene on to any offspring. 

Tail docking in pigs causes long-term pain

Tail docking in pigs causes long-term pain

Study identifies nerve pain in stump up to four months after procedure

Tail docking may be a cause of long-term pain in pigs, a new study has concluded.

Presenting findings at the UFAW Animal Welfare Conference in Newcastle, Dr Dale Sandercock from Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), said:
“Tail amputation causes acute and sustained changes in peripheral somatosensory nerve function involving inflammatory and neuropathic pain pathways which have implications for pig welfare.”

Tail docking is often used to control the problem of tail biting, an abnormal behaviour that is caused by stress, illness, poor air quality or competition for food and water. However, concerns about docking being a long-term cause of pain have existed for some time.

In a bid to reduce tail biting and docking in pigs, scientists from eight countries launched the research project FareWellDock. The aim of which is to yield new information about tail docking and stimulate development towards a total ban in the EU.

One of the teams involved in the project is SRUC’s Animal and Veterinary Science Research Group who, in this latest study, worked with researchers at Newcastle University.

In the study, researchers looked at the activity of genes in the nerves of the tail stump.
They found that it was possible to detect changes in genes associated with pain signals four months after the procedure, even if it was carried out under anaesthetic

The FareWellDock project is being carried out in the UK, France, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and the USA. Led by the University of Helsinki, it forms part of an initiative to increase cooperation of national research programmes on the health and welfare of farm animals.

 

Mass whale stranding due to environmental factors

Mass whale stranding due to environmental factors

Event in North Sea saw the deaths of 30 sperm whales

A mass mortality event of sperm whales in 2016 was most likely due to a combination of several complex environmental factors, researchers have concluded.

In early 2016, 30 sperm whales became stranded across five countries over a period of six weeks. The whales had entered the North Sea - a known hotspot for strandings as water becomes progressively shallower.

In the study, teams of scientists from across Europe examined 27 of the stranded sperm whales. The animals were all young, subadult males between the ages of 10 and 16 years old. Dietary analysis showed they had likely foraged for the last time in Norwegian waters, at least 1300 kilometres away.

Writing the journal PLOS One, lead author Lonneke IJsseldijk from
Utrecht University said: “We found no evidence of manmade trauma nor was there evidence of significant levels of chemical pollution.

“In nine examined whales, marine debris (plastic) was also found, but had not caused obstructions of the gastrointestinal tract or starvation and were deemed to be of secondary importance. Marine earthquakes, harmful algal blooms and changes in sea surface temperature were also considered as possible drivers of the series of strandings but were ruled out.”

Scientists still do not know why the whales entered the North Sea because there is a lack of information about what time they swam into the region. They typically inhabit much deeper waters and the North Sea is a highly unusual area for them.

Furthermore, the sperm whales’ main prey - Boreoatlantic armhole squid - does not live in the North Sea, meaning they were unable to feed in this region.  Researchers say the North Sea can, therefore, be considered to act as an effective trap for sperm whales, and once they enter the area they are at significant risk of stranding and death.

“Although it was impossible to conclusively establish a reason for the animal’s entry into the North Sea region, we’ve still been able to learn a significant amount from this study, one of the most extensive investigations of a sperm whale mortality event that has taken place,” continued IJsseldijk.

“This work also highlights the importance of multidisciplinary and collaborative investigations when dealing with transboundary events such as this one.”

Warning over risk to horses from plastic granulate

Warning over risk to horses from plastic granulate

Substance being sold as an alternative surface for centres 

Horses and riders could be at risk from plastic granulate being sold as an alternative surface for equestrian centres in Yorkshire, the Environment Agency (EA) has warned.

The substance is a waste material derived from recycling cable sheathing and Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE). EA says some waste producers and brokers are marketing it as a base material for horse maneges and track surfaces.

However, no legal route is available for its use in this context, unless an Environmental Permit is acquired.

Some plastic granulate may be cross-contaminated with non-plastic elements, such as metal fragments and glass, meaning surfaces containing these could be harmful to horses and riders.

Plastics in these substances can also contain Persistent Organic Pollutants, phthalates and lead stearate. Weathering may cause these to be leached into the environment, potentially contaminating land and ground water.

EA officer Greg Deakin urged people with equestrian facilities to carefully consider the use of this material.

“It might be offered free of charge or for a small delivery fee,” he explained, “but it is an offence under the Environmental Permitting Regulations to use this waste without appropriate environmental controls.

“If you’re found to have plastic granulate waste deposited on your land without the appropriate Environmental Permit awarded by the Environment Agency, you could be fined and be liable for the cost of its disposal.”

EA is advising people to contact them if they are approached and offered this material, if they do not have a suitable Environmental Permit. Tel: 03708 506 506 and ask to speak to your local waste team, or email the details to enquiries@environment-agency.gov.uk

Novel method for less invasive foot-and-mouth testing

Novel method for less invasive foot-and-mouth testing

Study highlights potential of analysing milk from storage tanks

A novel, less-invasive method of carrying out testing for foot-and-mouth-disease virus (FMDV) has been developed by researchers at The Pirbright Institute.

Writing in the journal Veterinary Methodology, researchers describe the technique, which involves using milk from bulk tanks or milk tanks. Their results suggest that testing milk samples could aid disease surveillance before and after disease outbreaks.

Foot-and-mouth disease costs an estimated US $11 billion per year in direct losses and vaccinations. When outbreaks occur in countries that are usually FMDV-free, the impact is particularly devastating.

Control of FDMV is reliant on the rapid and accurate detection of the virus. Current tests often use blood or tissue samples, which can be invasive and require the expertise of an animal health professional.

Researchers say the new method could be applied to disease surveillance in dairy herds, as testing of milk tanker samples could be sensitive enough to identify an infected cow in herds of up to 1000 individuals.

The test produces a result in as little as four hours and can identify the virus up to 28 days after the animal becomes infected - far longer than what is afforded by traditional methods. Researchers say this makes it a promising surveillance tool for use during potential outbreaks in FMDV-free countries.

Sampling from milk storage tanks also eliminates the need to test animals individually and does not require a veterinary surgeon to be called out for sampling. As such, this reduces the cost of testing and prevents animals from getting stressed.

“Milk is already used as a surveillance tool for a number of diseases, such as bovine viral diarrhoea and brucellosis, so it makes sense to investigate this approach for the detection of FMDV,” said Bryony Armson, first author of the research. “We were able to detect virus in milk from FMD infected cows during a real outbreak, and virus could be detected for a longer period in milk than in serum.

“We have also shown this FMD detection method can detect the virus in dilutions equivalent to those that would be present in bulk milk storage, highlighting the potential for milk to be used as a surveillance sample.”

The study was conducted with partners at the USDA Animal Plant Health Inspection Service Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory, USA. 

Image (C) The Pirbright Institute