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Common feed supplement strengthens chicken bones

Researchers assess the effects of betaine on egg-laying hens.

Adding a common feed supplement to a chicken's diet can help to improve bone strength, according to new research.

The study by the University of Edinburgh's Roslin Institute found that betaine – a widely used feed additive in pig, poultry and fish production – can improve bone quality in egg-laying hens that are at risk of osteoporosis.

A related study by Roslin also found that selection for hens with an adaption to store calcium - a process known as mineralisation of the medullary bone - could also improve bone quality.

The timing of puberty may also play a role in bone strength, the second study suggests. Researchers say the findings, published in British Poultry Science, could aid poultry producers in deciding which animals to breed.

Maisarah Maidin from the Roslin Institute explained: “Our results demonstrated that adding betaine to the diet of laying hens makes their bones stronger, therefore improving animal welfare of these food-producing animals.”

In the study, researchers fed chickens one of four diets containing different amounts of dietary betaine until they stopped laying eggs. Bone and blood samples were analysed at various stages throughout the process.

The team found that the addition of dietary betaine improved bone strength in laying hens. They also noted that egg quality and production were unaffected by the dietary treatments.

Dr Natasha Whenham, research and development manager at AB Vista, which funded the study, said: “The performance benefits of using betaine as a feed additive in poultry diets are thought to be well known. 
However, understanding how this additive can be used to alleviate welfare concerns in laying hens through improved bone quality, without affecting egg quality or production, is an exciting development and extends benefits of betaine further.”

Lucy Cooke revealed as BSAVA keynote speaker

Lucy Cooke revealed as BSAVA keynote speaker

Celebrated researcher will give light-hearted insight into her recent work.

Award-winning zoologist, wildlife presenter and best-selling author Lucy Cooke has been announced as the third keynote speaker at BSAVA Virtual Congress, taking place 25 – 27 March 2021.

Lucy Cooke studied evolution and animal behaviour under Richard Dawkins at New College Oxford, going on to earn a Masters in zoology. She received a coveted Panda Award for her work as a writer/producer on Meet the Sloths, a series of viral videos that spawned a major 13-part series for Animal Planet.

She also founded the Sloth Appreciation Society, which now has over 10,000 members worldwide, and produced two best-selling books of her sloth photographs.

“I understand that the vet profession is now almost 80 per cent female so I thought it would be fun to give you a sneak preview of the content of my new book on female animals.” Said Ms Cooke.

“[Recent studies have] shown that being female covers a diverse range of physiology and behaviours - dominance, aggression, promiscuity, competitiveness - but also how females exert as much, if not more, influence on the path of evolution.”

Ms Cooke will also be highlighting her studies and subsequent fascination with sloths, animals that she believes we can learn a lot from.

“People think they are lazy and inferior animals - that have somehow escaped the rigours of natural selection.” She said, “They are actually incredibly successful - ancient creatures that have survived in one shape or another for around 60 million years precisely because they are slow. They are energy saving icons and have much to teach us about sustainable living.”

Lucy Cooke's keynote speech will take place at BSAVA Congress on Thursday morning.

“We are thrilled to welcome Lucy to her first ever BSAVA Congress,” said BSAVA president Ian Ramsey. “Her admirable research and literally slothful experiences together with her captivating talent for storytelling and humour, are sure to make this keynote presentation one of the highlights of the event.”

Image (c) BSAVA.

BVA Live postponed until 2022

BVA Live postponed until 2022

Inaugural event will now take place 23-24 June 2022.

BVA Live, which was scheduled for 24-25 June 2021, has been postponed until June 2022, organisers BVA and CloserStill Media have confirmed

The event was set to be the first BVA standalone conference for eight years, catering for 1,500 veterinary professionals, veterinary suppliers and vendors. It will now take place 23-24 June 2022. 

BVA president James Russell said: “We’ve always taken a safety-first approach to our planning, and so we’ve taken the responsible decision to postpone the inaugural BVA Live event. We want our new venture to be a fantastic experience for everyone so you can get the most out of coming together as a veterinary community to learn, network, and socialise. 

“With more time to plan, we’re looking forward to an even better BVA Live in 2022 and can’t wait to welcome you to Birmingham next June.”

Rob Chapman, managing director of CloserStill’s veterinary portfolio, added: “The reception we've received from the veterinary sector for BVA Live was overwhelmingly positive so clearly, when we do run in 2022, this is going to be a special event. Postponing it was not the news we wanted to share, however it is the right decision given the circumstances. 

“The Government’s roadmap announcement was bittersweet news for us. Although we’ve had to delay BVA Live, it has given us huge confidence for the London Vet Show, which will run this 11-12 November at the ExCeL, London. So, there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

Dogs Trust shares ongoing struggles of COVID-19

Dogs Trust shares ongoing struggles of COVID-19

Heart-breaking recordings reveal the pain of owners having to give up their dog in lockdown.

Dogs Trust has released heart-breaking recordings of real phone calls from owners having to give up their dogs because of COVID-19.

The recordings form part of the charity's Change the Tale campaign, which encourages owners to seek help if they are struggling to care for their dog in the fallout from the pandemic. 

It comes as figures released by Dogs Trust show there has been a 41 per cent rise in web traffic to its 'Giving up your Dog' page over the last six months. 

In one recording, a woman shares the pain of giving up her dog having lost her job and home. Other callers cite the burden of house evictions, increased working hours and financial difficulties.

Dogs Trust is sharing the recordings via radio and video adverts (see below) highlighting the ongoing struggles of the pandemic. The adverts encourage people to Change the Tale for dogs affected by COVID-19 and seek help if they can no longer care for their pet.

Dogs Trust chief executive, Owen Sharp, commented: “We know that the pandemic and its economic repercussions will have devastating effects on some people’s lives and their ability to care for their pets.

"When people take on the responsibilities of dog ownership, they do so with the best intentions to care for them long-term. But as the calls to Dogs Trust show, in these extraordinary times, circumstances can change in a heartbeat, leaving owners with incredibly tough decisions to make."

Dogs Trust provides support for owners without a home and offers a unique fostering service for owners experiencing domestic abuse. It has produced online videos helping owners tackle behaviours resulting from lockdown, such as separation anxiety. 

The charity also offers the Canine Care Card, which guarantees that if an owner passes away or becomes unwell, their dog will be cared for by Dogs Trust.

Mr Sharp added: “It is heart-breaking to hear someone having to choose between a roof over their head or their dog, and we’d like to thank the people who made these calls for allowing us to share their story and for coming to us in their time of need.

"Unfortunately, we believe the worst is yet to come and we expect many more calls like this as the pandemic fallout continues - and we will do all we can to help those in need of our support.”

If you or someone you know are struggling and need advice on giving up your dog, or if you would like to donate to Dogs Trust, visit dogstrust.org.uk

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Larry the Downing Street cat celebrates ten years at Number 10

Larry the Downing Street cat celebrates ten years at Number 10

Beloved Battersea rescue cat has fans across the globe.

Monday 15 February marks ten years since 10 Downing Street's resident cat Larry took on the role as 'chief mouser to the cabinet office'.

The fourteen-year-old tabby was brought into a Battersea rescue centre in 2011, before moving to Downing Street the next month. He has since been a trusted companion to three Prime Ministers and has gained a huge following on social media.

“It seems like only yesterday that Larry came to our cattery as a stray in need of a home,” said Battersea’s head of catteries and feline welfare, Lindsey Quinlan. “I don’t think anyone back then could have imagined just how incredible his life would turn out to be.”

She continued: “Throughout his time at Number 10, Larry has proven himself to not only be a brilliant ambassador for Battersea, but also demonstrated to millions of people around the world how incredible rescue cats are.”

Larry has been the subject of numerous viral photos and videos over the years. When Barack Obama visited Downing Street, he quickly bonded with Larry and photos of the then President of the United States spending time with the cat were shared worldwide.

In 2018, the scene of a Number 10 guard letting Larry into the building after he was caught in a downpour quickly went viral after it was captured in the background of several live news reports.

A Number 10 spokesperson said: “A much beloved member of the Number 10 team, Larry plays a vital role as chief mouser and in delighting staff and the public alike with his playful antics.

“We’re proud to support Battersea and other animal welfare organisations in their mission to ensure our furry friends have a loving and safe home.”

Images (c) Press Association and Justin Ng.

WellVet launches spring series of wellbeing talks

WellVet launches spring series of wellbeing talks

Presentations will be hosted by leading coaching professionals.

A new spring series of wellbeing talks designed to tackle some of the issues faced in veterinary practices is launching on Saturday (27 February).

Hosted by WellVet and Boehringer Ingelheim, the emphasis will be on simple, practical tips to improve personal and team wellbeing.

Six 30-minute presentations will be hosted by leading coaching professionals, including Libby Kemkaran, Adrian Nelson-Pratt and occupational psychologist professor Elinor O'Connor.

The events will be streamed live on the WellVet Facebook page and can be watched back at any time. For more information, visit wellvet.co.uk

Survey seeks farmers' views on sheep worrying

Survey seeks farmers' views on sheep worrying

Results will inform policy direction on the subject.

The National Sheep Association has launched a new survey to gather farmers' experiences of sheep worrying.

The survey, which is available to complete online, consists of a series of questions about victims' experience of sheep worrying, from the most common injuries caused by dog attacks to the impact of lockdown.

Results will inform policy direction on the subject, the NSA said, on an issue that has seen a growing case in numbers and severity over the past year.

NSA chief executive Phil Stocker comments: “For many years NSA has been engaged in trying to highlight the serious issue of sheep worrying attacks by dogs. This has seen NSA involved in many discussions with rural police forces, animal welfare charities, the veterinary sector and of course Government as we have, alongside others, called for changes in legislation to protect sheep farmers and their stock.
 
“To facilitate this work NSA is appealing to all sheep farmers in the UK to supply the most up to date information and experiences they may have had with attacks on their flocks in this survey.”

Online discussion to tackle endometriosis

Online discussion to tackle endometriosis

“There are so many of us suffering silently” - Chloe Hannigan, VetYogi

The hidden pain of endometriosis and the effect it can have on professional life is set to be explored in an online discussion, hosted by Veterinary Women.

Coinciding with Endometriosis Awareness Week (1-7 March), the online talk will also tackle other taboo topics affecting women, such as smear tests and hormonal mood swings.

Endometriosis is a painful, often unrecognised, condition, in which the tissue lining the womb spreads to other places, such as the fallopian tubes and ovaries. The condition can affect women of any age, causing pelvic pain and fertility problems.

The event builds on the success of Veterinary Women's health month series in October 2020. VetYogi Chloe Hannigan, who will be leading the discussion, said she felt compelled to share her experiences after hearing from other women in the veterinary profession. 

“The bravery of my friends and colleagues opening up to share their experiences of subjects as personal as infertility and breast cancer really struck a chord with me,” she said. “There are so many of us suffering silently, feeling we have to just soldier on and keep things to ourselves. But talking and sharing opens the door to empathy, understanding and can lead to practical measures to improve our working lives.”

She added: “I have found my yoga practice hugely beneficial to managing my symptoms – both mentally and physically – and I want others to know there are things we can do to help ourselves and each other.“

Liz Barton, editor of Veterinary Woman, said: “Having seen the overwhelming response to the health month discussions, and the magnitude of the impact of menopause highlighted in our recent report, I now want to see the development of practical tools to help women and practices to support happier and healthier working life. 

“I appreciate these topics aren’t easy to bring up – especially in practice. We hope that by starting the conversation it can be talking point for others who are struggling. We want to make it ‘okay to say’, and ensure the awareness and tools are there so when individuals do speak up, it is met with understanding and the willingness and ability to help.”

The event takes place on the Veterinary Woman Facebook page at 8 pm on Wednesday 17 March. Companies and organisations wishing to support this work should contact liz@veterinarywoman.co.uk

RVC named top vet school in QS World University Rankings

RVC named top vet school in QS World University Rankings

University achieves perfect score in academic reputation indicator.

The Royal Veterinary College (RVC) has achieved the number one ranking among veterinary schools in the 2021 QS World University Rankings.

The rankings, compiled by QS Quacquarelli Symonds, provide comparative analysis on the performance of 14,435 individual university programs at 1,452 universities around the world. The rankings are determined by a range of criteria, including academic reputation, research impact, number of citations, employer reputation and the h-index.

For the second year running, the RVC maintained a perfect score for the academic reputation indicator (100). It also saw improvements across every single category, scoring 98.9 in citations per paper and raising its h-index score to 97.5. Rankings for employer reputation also increased by 29 per cent since 2020, with the RVC now scoring 83.3.

Professor Stuart Reid, principal of the RVC, said: “Last year, we made a commitment to redouble our efforts in seeking to regain the top spot in the QS rankings, and I am delighted that we have achieved it.

“This would be remarkable in normal times but, in the context of COVID-19, it is all the more so and a real tribute to the whole RVC community. It is the result of enormous efforts made by all RVC staff and students, and I could not be prouder to be principal of the RVC.

“The QS rankings are important for our reputation and international standings. With so many outstanding veterinary schools worldwide and with peer recognition one of the metrics, it is particularly pleasing to be first amongst equals.”

Jack Moran, public relations executive at QS Quacquarelli Symonds said: “With the sentiments of 5,000 employers in the sector – those that specifically seek to hire Veterinary Science graduates – contributing to this ranking, the results serve to offer independent verification from hiring managers about the enduring quality of the RVC’s graduates.”

VetPartners acquires Pet Cremation Services

VetPartners acquires Pet Cremation Services

Family-run business has cremation sites across the UK.

Well-known pet cremation company Pet Cremation Services has joined VetPartners as part of the York-based veterinary group's ongoing expansion.

Based in Guilsborough, Northamptonshire, Pet Cremation Services (PCS) provides a cremation service for the clients of UK veterinary practices. It works directly with bereaved pet owners, allowing them to attend the cremation, and also delivers bereavement training for veterinary professionals through its company, Compassion Understood.

PCS was established more than 30 years ago. In 2015 the business was able to grow from nine sites to 14 operational crematoria, from Cornwall to Ayrshire, operated by more than 150 employees.

Glenn Tuck, the original founder and managing director of the family-run business, will continue in this role and has welcomed the acquisition as an opportunity for PCS to expand its services.

He said: “PCS was looking for the right partners who fitted our vision and our beliefs, and we believe VetPartners shares our values. With their involvement, we hope to extend our offering.”

VetPartners CEO Jo Malone said: “Being able to provide quality care for pet owners at this painful time is such a vital part of what our practices offer, so it was a natural decision to want to be part of that service more closely. We are looking forward to continuing the progression of PCS and the end-of-life care it provides."

The acquisition of PCS marks further expansion by VetPartners, which also has a small animal veterinary nursing school, an equine nursing school, laboratories, research dairy and locum agency.

Image (c) Pet Cremation Services.

Kennel Club appoints new genetics research manager

Kennel Club appoints new genetics research manager

Dr Joanna J. Ilska specialises in prediction of breeding values for complex traits.

The Kennel Club has announced that quantitative geneticist Dr Joanna J. Ilska has joined the organisation as its new genetics research manager. She replaces Dr Tom Lewis who has moved on to work with Guide Dogs for the Blind.

Joanna was born in Poland and has lived in the UK for 15 years. In 2008, she completed a BSc in Applied Biosciences (Animal Science). She then achieved a Masters in Quantitative Genetics and Genome Analysis at the University of Edinburgh in 2009.

In 2014 she completed her PhD in genomic prediction of breeding values in broiler chickens at the Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh. She then went on to work as a research fellow on a range of projects. She specialises in the prediction of breeding values for complex traits, using large scale genomic data such as whole genome sequences.

Currently, Joanna lives in Edinburgh with another Russian black terrier. She has a keen interest in obedience and nosework and was even part of a team representing Scotland in the Inter-regional Obedience competition at Crufts 2013.

Bill Lambert, head of health and welfare at The Kennel Club, said: “We are delighted to welcome Joanna to The Kennel Club.

“With her academic and professional background in quantitative genetics and knowledge of prediction of breeding values for complex traits, coupled with her hands-on involvement as a pedigree dog owner, we feel confident that Joanna will be a great asset to The Kennel Club as well as to the wider dog world.”

Image (c) The Kennel Club.

BVA welcomes Trade and Agriculture report

BVA welcomes Trade and Agriculture report

Report outlines recommendations to safeguard UK's high animal welfare standards.

BVA president James Russell has welcomed the publication of a Trade and Agriculture Commission (TAC) report, which sets out 22 recommendations for liberalising UK trade policy while safeguarding animal welfare standards.

The TAC was launched in July after concerns raised by the BVA and others that sub-standard food imports could undermine the UK's high animal welfare and environmental standards.

The UK government will now review the recommendations, and BVA is calling for clarity on how they will be implemented in time to influence current negotiations. 

BVA president James Russell said: “The Commission was given a very difficult task and we welcome the recommendations made today which set out a sensible short- and long-term approach to safeguarding the UK’s high animal welfare and environmental standards in future trade deals.

“The Commission rightly recognises that UK consumers care about how their food is produced and they expect the food they buy to meet UK standards.”

He added: “In the short term, the Commission recommends that tariff-free access to the UK market within FTAs should only be granted to those goods that meet our standards. This is a good first step and it’s essential that the Government commits to this approach in the current trade negotiations. 

“But the Commission also recognises that we must go further. We support the call for the UK Government to lobby internationally through the World Trade Organization for reform of global standards with a view to introducing trade restrictions on welfare grounds.

“The UK has an opportunity to lead on the raising of standards internationally. We can, and should be, assertive in spreading animal welfare norms through trade deals and in international forums, drawing on veterinary expertise.”

Hartpury welcomes birth of 'one-in-a-million' quintuplet lambs

Hartpury welcomes birth of 'one-in-a-million' quintuplet lambs

Extremely rare litter marks a memorable lambing season.

Staff and students at Hartpury University and College were astounded when one of the institution's 650 ewes gave birth to quintuplet lambs at the on-site commercial farm in Gloucestershire.

Farm manager Andrew Eastabrook has worked in farming for 14 years. He said: “In all my years working in agriculture I’ve never come across a set of quintuplet lambs – it’s very special indeed.

“Apparently the chances of a ewe giving birth to quintuplets are a million to one, and it’s even rarer for them to be born alive and well.”

Scans carried out on the mother during pregnancy showed that it was carrying four lambs – a rarity in itself, as ewes typically have a maximum of three lambs at once.

When the mother eventually gave birth to just three lambs staff assumed the scans must have been wrong and moved the animal into a separate pen to rest.

“When we came back 35 minutes later to check on [the mother's] welfare, there were another two lambs – we were literally counting sheep!” Said Mr Eastabrook.

All five lambs are healthy, weighing roughly 3.5kg each. Three of them have stayed with their mother, which is also doing well, but the other two are now with foster mothers to ensure that they get enough milk.

Mr Eastabrook concluded: “We’re keeping a close eye on them, as we do with all our animals, but they’ve settled in well and are obviously completely unaware of the excitement that their arrival has created.”

Image (c) Hartpury.

Study reveals dog breeds most at risk of anal sac disorders

Study reveals dog breeds most at risk of anal sac disorders

Findings provide guidance for more targeted work on risk factors and treatments.

The frequency and treatment of anal sac disorders in dogs have been explored in a first-of-its-kind study led by the Royal Veterinary College (RVC).

Published in the journal Veterinary Record, the VetCompass™ study aims to correct the lack of evidence-based information on the epidemiology and clinical management of non-neoplastic anal sac disorders (ASD). In particular, it focuses on identifying dog breeds with an increased or reduced risk of this often-neglected syndrome.

It reveals that the breeds at most risk of an anal sac disorder are the Cavalier King Charles spaniel, King Charles spaniel and cockapoo. Conversely, dogs at reduced risk are larger breeds, such as the boxer, German shepherd and lurcher. 

Interestingly, the study found that brachycephalic breeds such as Shih-Tzu are 2.6 times more likely to develop an anal sac disorder compared to long-faced dogs, such as Border collies. Dachshund-types and Poodle-types also both had increased risk of anal sac disease. 

Researchers hope their results will fill knowledge gaps and guide research into anal sac disorders, helping breeders, owners and veterinary practice alike.

Study author Dr Dan O’Neill, a senior lecturer in companion animal epidemiology at the RVC, said: “During two decades in first opinion practice, anal sac problems in dogs were a routine daily presentation for me. However, when I searched the literature to find evidence on the best way to treat these dogs or even on which breeds were at most risk, there was almost no information available.

"It seemed back then that only problems that were severe enough to be referred to universities in large numbers were researched. As a result, vets in first opinion practice generally had to work out for themselves what seemed to be the best treatment in these cases. It is refreshing now to see research on common problems in dogs under first opinion veterinary care being reported. Owners and vets need this evidence vitally.”

In the study, researchers identified 2,372 anal sac disorder cases from a population of 104,212 dogs attending VetCompass™ practices during 2013. Other key findings include: 

  • anal sac disorders affected 4.4 per cent of dogs
  • the risks of anal sac problems were higher in older dogs
  • insured dogs were 1.53 times more likely to have anal sac problems diagnosed than uninsured dogs
  • 20 per cent of dogs with anal sac problems were prescribed antimicrobials, while 12 per cent were given pain relief
  • anal sacs were surgically removed in under one per cent of affected dogs.
  • dietary change was recommended in 8.18 per cent of cases, with weight loss recommended in 1.14 per cent of cases. 

Study co-author Dr Anke Hendricks, associate professor of veterinary dermatology at the RVC, commented: “Our understanding and management of anal sac disorders has not fundamentally changed since the 1970s, and there is still a lot we do not understand.

"By confirming the significance of anal sac problems in primary care practice in the modern dog population, this study now provides guidance for more targeted work on types of anal sac disorders, risk factors and best treatment practice.”

Large graphic (C) RVC's VetCompass programme

Metabolic testing could improve fertility in beef herds - study

Metabolic testing could improve fertility in beef herds - study

Researchers assess nutrition status in suckler cows before and after calving.

Researchers at Scotland's Rural College (SRUC) have found that metabolic profile testing could improve calving performance in beef cattle

Metabolic profile (MP) testing is commonly used in dairy herds to investigate the nutritional status of pre-calving and early lactation cows, but its uptake among beef producers has been slow.

In the study, researchers found the MP testing can highlight nutritional issues in beef cattle that could affect calving performance, milk production and fertility. They also found the tool can help to identify management issues, such as inadequate feed space.

The study was led by SAC Consulting, part of SRUC, over 12 months at farms in Angus and Fife. Researchers tested 180 cows around one month before and calving to assess nutritional status. The cows were also given a body condition score.

They found that a third of cows were deficient in magnesium pre-calving - a significant finding, given that low magnesium levels can impact slow calving and, potentially, the health of the calf.
The team also found that a quarter of cows were deficient in magnesium post-calving - an issue that can increase the risk of grass staggers disease.

“Another finding was that over half the cows were short of rumen-available protein in the ration pre-calving which, if left uncorrected, may impact colostrum quality and milk production,” explained SAC consulting nutritionist Karen Stewart.

“The study also highlighted energy deficiencies and, with corrective action, helped to safeguard calving performance and getting cows back in calf. In some cases, the ration looked ideal on paper and was based on silage analysis, but feed access issues, weather and other environmental factors negatively affected the animal’s nutritional status."

She added that trace elements and other major minerals, except magnesium, were not deficient, and cows were generally well supplemented.

Almost 4,000 dangerous wild animals are being kept privately in the UK

Almost 4,000 dangerous wild animals are being kept privately in the UK

Lions, primates and elephants among 'pet' animals revealed in survey.

A new survey by Born Free has found that nearly 4,000 dangerous wild animals are being kept privately in the UK. The charity is calling on the government to review licencing laws immediately in order to protect the welfare of these animals.

Currently, under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976, anyone in Britain can keep a dangerous wild animal as long as they obtain a licence from their local authority.

Born Free investigated the number of Dangerous Wild Animal (DWA) Act licences granted by local authorities across England, Scotland and Wales, and the variety of species being privately kept.

Findings highlighted that in 2020, a total of 210 DWA licences were granted for the private ownership of 3,951 wild animals including:

  • 320 wild cats including lions, tigers, leopards pumas and cheetahs
  • 274 primates including more than 150 lemurs
  • 158 crocodilians
  • 508 venomous snakes
  • 332 scorpions
  • 106 venomous lizards
  • two elephants.

Other species being kept as pets or in private collections in the UK include zebras, camels, hyena, wolves, and otters. Additionally, Born Free believes that many additional dangerous wild animals are being kept without a licence.

Although the DWA requires the applicant to demonstrate that their animals are properly contained to prevent escape, Born Free states that very little to ensure the welfare of the animals or the protection of the owner or anyone else visiting the property.

Veterinary surgeon Dr Mark Jones, who is also Born Free’s head of policy, said: “The UK likes to claim to be at the forefront of efforts to protect nature and improve the welfare of animals, yet our legislation governing the keeping of and trade in exotic pets is woefully outdated.

“The Dangerous Wild Animals Act should be overhauled as a matter of urgency, to phase out the private keeping of, and trade in, those species that clearly don’t belong in people’s homes.”

Dogs Trust Worldwide awards funding to support Thai neutering programme

Dogs Trust Worldwide awards funding to support Thai neutering programme

Charity aims to neuter 80 per cent of Bangkok street dogs.

Dogs Trust Worldwide has announced that it will support Thailand-based charity Soi Dog Foundation by providing funding to cover half of the costs of its ambitious campaign to neuter 80 per cent of street dogs in Greater Bangkok.

Soi Dog Foundation's neutering programme is thought to be the largest campaign of its kind on the planet. The charity has neutered 250,000 dogs in Bangkok alone since 2016.

Dogs Trust Worldwide was set up in 2016 in order to support animal health and welfare initiatives overseas. It has supported Soi Dog Foundation's work since then through its International Grants Programme.

This latest round of funding represents 50 per cent of what is required for the Catch Neuter Vaccinate Return (CNVR) project, which focuses on street dogs in the Thai capital city.

Karen Reed from Dogs Trust Worldwide said: “Soi Dog is a fantastically-run charity doing amazing work, and we are extremely happy to continue to partner with them, as they continue their aim to neuter 80 per cent of street dogs in Greater Bangkok.

“What they have accomplished so far is an astonishing achievement and has dramatically changed the lives of street dogs for the better in the country.”

Dogs Trust Worldwide has now opened applications for other well-governed and well-planned projects taking place outside of the UK to apply for grants.

The charity is accepting applications for innovative projects that contribute towards encouraging responsible dog ownership or humane management of dog populations. It states that all projects must be sustainable and make a measurable difference.

The deadline for submitting applications for the next round of international grants is Monday 10 May, 2021.

For more information please visit the Dogs Trust Worldwide website.

Images (c) Soi Dog Foundation.

Vets urged to share their experiences of strangles

Vets urged to share their experiences of strangles

Profession urged to speak out as part of Strangles Awareness Week 2021. 

Equine organisations are calling on vets to share their experiences of strangles in a bid to help those struggling financially and emotionally with the disease.

The call comes as part of Strangle Awareness Week 2021 (3-9 May), a national week of action encouraging horse owners, yard managers, equine professionals and vets to speak out about the condition and promote support for people who may be suffering in silence. 

A recent online survey of yard managers identified fear as one of the main barriers to talking about the disease. Seventy-five per cent of respondents said speaking out about strangles could ultimately affect the reputation of their business. 

Sadly, this fear of speaking out only allows strangles -  the most prevalent equine disease in the UK - to spread. Organisers behind Strangles Awareness Week hope that by encouraging others to talk about their experiences, more people will gain the confidence to seek help and advice.

Strangles Awareness Week is a joint effort between the British Horse Society, Intervacc, Keeping Britain’s Horses Healthy, Redwings Horse Sanctuary, Scotland’s Rural College’s Premium Assured Strangles Scheme (PASS), Surveillance of Equine Strangles (SES), The (Dick) Royal School of Veterinary Studies and World Horse Welfare.

Through social media, last year's event reached a half-a-million people, garnering support from vet practices across the UK, who engaged with and shared posts with their clients. This year, organisers hope even more people will get involved. 

Dave Rendle, BEVA junior vice president and chair of the BEVA health and medicines committee, said: “Strangles should be easy to control. With a little more understanding of the disease, we could make massive strides to protect our horses and prevent the disease spreading. Every horse owner should spare an hour or two to tune into Strangles Awareness Week.”

Besides practical information, this year's event will include an informative series of podcasts featuring figures from across the equestrian community. The figures will share their experiences of strangles and encourage others to talk about its prevention and management. 

Vet practices wishing to get involved can apply for free resources, including an editable presentation to host to clients during the week, either online or in-person depending on COVID-19 restrictions. 

Andie McPherson, Redwings’ campaigns manager, said: “When people hear of a Strangles outbreak in their area, we want the first reaction to be one of support, not judgement. Strangles can happen to any horse yet sadly there is still so much stigma attached to it which stops people speaking out and allows the disease to continue to spread. 

“As a trusted source of advice and information for horse owners, the Week aims to equip vets with additional tools to help them give the vital support their clients need and maximise their influence to prompt more conversations about Strangles.”

More information about this year's event will be available soon. To find out ways your veterinary practice can get involved, email campaigns@redwings.co.uk

Canine cancer and neurology specialist scoops prestigious award

Canine cancer and neurology specialist scoops prestigious award

Dr Elizabeth Boudreau named WSAVA Future Leader.

Canine cancer and neurology specialist Dr Elizabeth Boudreau is set to receive the prestigious 2021 WSAVA Future Leader Award.

Dr Boudreau, an assistant of small animal neurology at Text A&M University, will receive the honour in recognition of her contribution to research and her role as an educator. 

WSAVA's Future Leader Award acknowledges the work of a veterinary surgeon who has graduated within the last 10 years, has a strong record in community service and plays an active role in counting education.

Professor Jonathan Levine, head of small animal clinical sciences at Texas A&M University, who nominated Dr Boudreau, said: “Dr Boudreau is one of the most promising early-stage clinician-scientists working to define canine glioma. She is also an outstanding clinician and educator. Her accomplishments, considering her career stage, are stellar.”

Dr Boudreau’s work focusses on the biology of canine brain tumours and, more specifically, how genetic and immunological features connect with therapeutics. 

She is currently conducting trials with the MD Anderson Cancer Center, examining immunotherapies for glioma in dogs with naturally occurring disease. Her aim is to speed-up effective therapeutics to canine and human patients, which are commercially and biologically viable.

Alongside her research, Dr Boudreau has also received awards for her teaching. She leads the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM) neurology residency training program at Texas A&M University and has been invited by ACVIM to present on teaching methodologies. 

RCVS vet renewal fees may be paid in instalments this year

RCVS vet renewal fees may be paid in instalments this year

College allows split payments in response to ongoing pandemic.

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) has announced that it is allowing UK-practising veterinary surgeons to pay their annual renewal fee in instalments again this year, in response to the ongoing pandemic.

The annual renewal fee is required in order for veterinary surgeons to remain on the Register. Those wishing to make the full payment should do so on or before 30 April 2021, but this year the RCVS is also allowing veterinary surgeons to pay the fee in three instalments.

UK-practising veterinary surgeons who wish to pay using this method should make the first payment on or before 30 April, the second payment should then be made on or before 30 September, and the third on or before 31 December.

Any veterinary surgeons who do not pay either the full fee or the first instalment on or before 31 May 2021 will be removed from the Register. They will then need to pay an additional restoration fee as well as the registration fees if they want to be restored.

Professor Susan Dawson, RCVS treasurer, said: “Due to the ongoing disruption to the profession because of the lockdown, we are glad to say that RCVS Council has again approved the ability for members of the profession to pay their fee in instalments and therefore spread the cost during this already difficult year.

“We would like to remind members of the profession that the option to pay in instalments is only available to UK-practising veterinary surgeons. For any UK-practising veterinary surgeons who have a Direct Debit set up but who wish to pay by instalments, please make sure to cancel your Direct Debit as soon as possible.”

Anyone with any questions regarding completing the annual renewal, or concerns about paying the fee, should contact the Registration Department on registration@rcvs.org.uk

Scottish SPCA shares story of youngest badger ever in its care

Scottish SPCA shares story of youngest badger ever in its care

Two-week old Lavender rescued on Valentine’s Day.

The Scottish SPCA is currently caring for a two-week-old badger cub that was found in woodland near Inverness on Valentine’s day.

A member of the public contacted the Scottish SPCA after finding the tiny cub. It is suspected that the female infant was dragged away from her sett by another animal.

The badger, who has been named Lavender, is now being hand-reared by wildlife care assistant April Sorley at the charity's National Wildlife Rescue Centre.

At 12 weeks the cub will be weaned, and then in the autumn she will be released with other badger cubs in the charity’s care.

Ms Sorley said: “We believe Lavender is the youngest badger cub to ever be cared for at our National Wildlife Rescue Centre. When she arrived she was smaller than my hand and weighed just 250g, although she’s getting bigger every day!

“She is bottle feeding well, and has doubled her weight since she arrived which we’re so pleased about. As of today she weighs 575g.

She went on to add that the Scottish SPCA typical sees badgers come into its care around April, when the young are old enough to venture out of their sett and explore their surroundings.

If a member of the public finds a wild animal in need of help, the Scottish SPCA encourages them to contact its animal helpline on 03000 999 999.

Images (c) Scottish SPCA.

Researchers discover new gene defect that affects muzzle length in dogs

Researchers discover new gene defect that affects muzzle length in dogs

DLV2 variant may also affect development of the heart.

A recent study from the University of Helsinki has revealed new insights into the impact of a DVL2 gene defect on canine health. This gene variant is already associated with a screw tail and has become widespread in English bulldogs, French bulldogs and Boston terriers as a result of inbreeding.

Julia Niskanen from the University of Helsinki and the Folkhälsan Research Center said: “In this study, we wanted to further investigate the frequency of the DVL2 variant in different dog breeds and determine its effects on skeletal development.

The DVL2 variant was identified in all of the English bulldogs, French bulldogs and Boston terriers in the study, however, both the variant and the normal form were found in the American Staffordshire terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers, dogues de Bordeaux, olde English bulldogs and American bulldogs.

Using computed tomography scans, researchers analysed the skeletal anatomy of American Staffordshire bull terriers of different genotypes, in order to determine the effect of the variant gene on body shape. They found that the presence of the DVL2 gene defect commonly resulted in caudal vertebrae 'anomalies'.

“Tail abnormalities in the American Staffordshire terriers were less severe than the screw tails typically seen in English bulldogs, French bulldogs and Boston terriers,” added Vilma Reunanen from the University of Helsinki's Faculty of Veterinary Medicine.

“In contrast to the previous study, we did not find an association between the DVL2 variant and thoracic vertebral anomalies.”

Researchers also found that the muzzles of dogs that carry two copies of the gene defect are significantly shorter. Similarly, dogs with one copy of the defect have shorter muzzles than dogs that don’t carry any copies of the gene defect.

Several of the dogs with two copies DVL2 variant were found to have a congenital heart defect. However, researchers state that this finding requires further study.

Many of the breeds that carry the DVL2 variant also have other genetic variants that affect body shape. The study affirmed that the combined effects of these defects may result in 'serious health problems'.

RZSS joins global coalition #UnitedForBiodiversity

RZSS joins global coalition #UnitedForBiodiversity

Move comes ahead of the UN Biodiversity Conference CoP15

The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) has become the first UK zoo to sign the global coalition #UnitedForBiodiversity.

RZSS joins more than 150 institutions and 25 organisations worldwide that have already joined the coalition, which calls for stronger mobilisation in raising awareness about the need to protect biodiversity. 

The move comes ahead of the UN Biodiversity Conference CoP15, which takes place later this year.

David Field, RZSS CEO, said, “We are proud to join this growing list of international organisations standing together on behalf of biodiversity across the globe.

“Our planet is facing an extinction crisis, with scientists warning that one million species are on the brink of disappearing. The UN Biodiversity Conference offers an opportunity to set new goals and transform our relationship with nature for the better.”

The #UnitedForBiodiversity campaign was launched on World Wildlife Day 2020 by Virginijus Sinkevičius, the EU commissioner for environment, oceans and fisheries. Among the institutions that have already pledged to raise their voices for nature include aquariums, zoos, national parks, research centres and botanic gardens.

The 2021 CoP15 summit will see scientists, heads of state and policymakers adopt a new global framework to protect and restore nature. Current projects being carried out by RZSS Scotland include restoring the Scottish wildcat population and protecting chimpanzees in Uganda.