Dick Vet hospital hails FMT successes

The hospital established a donor bank last year.

The Dick Vet Hospital for Small Animals has celebrated some of the pets successfully treated by its veterinary surgeons using faecal microbiota transplantation (FMT).

Last year, the hospital launched a donor bank to provide a reliable supply of faecal microbiota from healthy animals as it continues to use FMT to treat chronic and life-threatening gut problems in cats and dogs.

Two of the pets that have benefitted from the treatment are Poppy and Gilbert.

Poppy, an eight-year-old Labrador, was referred to the hospital with haemorrhagic gastroenteritis. Her serum proteins had dropped and she had severe stomach pain and bloody diarrhoea, loss of appetite, and was vomiting.

Common infections had already been ruled out, and after an ultrasound scan ruled out kidney and liver problems, she was giving a presumptive diagnosis of acute haemorrhagic diarrhoea syndrome. In addition to fluids and pain relief, the veterinary team gave her two FMTs over two days.

Following treatment, Poppy’s diarrhoea stopped, her serum protein levels were restored to normal, and she was able to be discharged
with easy-to-digest prescription food and probiotics.

Gilbert, a seven-month-old British shorthair cat, was referred to the hospital with severe chronic diarrhoea and faecal incontinence. While waiting for test results, he was given FMT by the veterinary team in an attempt to reset his gut microbiota.

Almost straight away his incontinence stopped. Test results then revealed that a parasitic infection was most likely causing his diarrhoea, for which he was treated. He was discharged, like Poppy, with easy-to-digest prescription food and probiotics.

Silke Salavati, head of Internal Medicine Service at the hospital, said: “We are delighted at the success we have had in both feline and canine patients following FMT treatment.

“We place the highest importance on screening our donor material to ensure that the highest quality of microbiota is available to the animals with severe gastrointestinal problems.”

Image © Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies

BVA releases new 'Return to work' toolkit

BVA releases new 'Return to work' toolkit

The resource will support vets returning to the profession.

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has launched a ‘Return to work’ toolkit, in an effort to better support BVA members as they return to veterinary practice.

The resources will not only support veterinary surgeons and nurses as they return to the workplace, but also give employers and managers advice for welcoming ‘returners’.

The kit was produced in response to the BVA’s concerns about the recruitment and retention of veterinary surgeons and nurses. Results from the organisation’s Voice of the Veterinary Profession Autumn 2023 survey revealed that 17 per cent of veterinary surgeons were planning to leave the profession in the next five years.

The survey also showed that 19 per cent of veterinary surgeons were unsure if they were going to remain.

The BVA has said that these statistics indicate the importance of employers considering how they can best support their staff, and encourage potential returners, to improve recruitment, retention and job satisfaction.

A previous survey, conducted in Spring 2023, revealed that parental leave was the most common form of long-term leave taken, with one in three veterinary surgeons taking this type of leave.

Female veterinary surgeons were most likely to take this type of leave. However, when asked how supported they were by their employers during and after this leave, only 24 percent felt ‘very well supported’ – with 14 per cent of female veterinary surgeons not feeling supported at all.

The organisation says that the ‘Return to work’ toolkit, which is part of their Good Veterinary Workplaces initiative, will provide the necessary guidance for veterinary employees, and their employers. It addresses situations such as parental leave, long-term sick leave, a career break and sabbaticals.

It also includes a return to work checklist, case studies, and details about relevant Legal Acts.

Anna Judson, BVA president, said: “We want to build a modern, accessible profession for everyone, with veterinary workplaces offering an inclusive and supportive environment for all members of team vet. I know from experience how daunting it can be to return to veterinary work after stepping away, even for a relatively short time.

“There are simple steps that can be taken by employers and employees to make the transition more positive on both sides. Our new checklists are a great tool to help you work through the process.”

The 'Return to work' toolkit can be accessed here.

Image © Shutterstock

Charity calls for tighter regulation on 'dangerous' exotic pets

Charity calls for tighter regulation on 'dangerous' exotic pets

Born Free says keeping dangerous pets threatens the safety of animals and the public.

A wildlife charity has called for tighter regulations on dangerous wild animals being kept as pets, after their research revealed 2,700 dangerous animals being kept privately in Great Britain.

The charity, Born Free, says that keeping these animals as pets not only threatens their welfare, but also puts the general public at increased risk.

Research conducted by the charity revealed that more than 200 wild cats and 250 primates were being kept privately in Great Britain, under license by the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976. There were also 400 venomous snakes kept as pets – which the charity says is ten times more than are kept in zoos.

Born Free has expressed their concern at these statistics, stating that keeping wild animals as pets contributes to considerable animal suffering.

They say that these undomesticated animals have complex physical, psychological and social needs, which can not be met in captivity. This can lead to the animals suffering poor health and psychological damage, further increasing their danger to humans.

Born Free says that demand for wild animals to be kept as pets could put additional pressure on the wild populations of species which are already under threat.

There are also concerns that keeping wild animals in domestic settings could cause transmission of zoonotic diseases from the animals to humans.

Dr Mark Jones, head of policy at Born Free, 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, in order to phase out the private keeping of those species that clearly don’t belong in people’s homes."

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) says that they carefully inspect prospective owners of such species.

It says that the Dangerous Wild Animals Act had been reformed in 2007, 2010 and 2018 to ensure the Act was effective. The Animal Welfare Act 2006 also imposes prison sentences and fines on animal owners who do not provide for welfare needs.

A spokesperson from Defra said: “Anyone wishing to keep an animal covered by the Dangerous Wild Animals Act must be carefully vetted and apply for a licence which sets out strict conditions under which the animals must be kept.

“We keep this legislation under regular review to ensure it remains effective in keeping the public safe. We have also increased the maximum prison sentence for animal cruelty to five years, as well as bringing forward legislation to prohibit primates being kept as domestic pets.”

Image © Shutterstock

U-Hearts marks two years of saving pets in Ukraine

U-Hearts marks two years of saving pets in Ukraine

The foundation has provided vital supplies to shelters and volunteers.

A non-profit foundation that helps animals in Ukraine has been looking back at the work carried out by “incredible” volunteers, as the two-year anniversary of the full-scale Russian invasion approaches.

After the invasion was launched on 24 February 2022, U-Hearts quickly began providing support through the Save Pets of Ukraine initiative to people who were evacuating with their pets from the frontline or who were rescuing pets which had been left behind.

U-Hearts then expanded into supplying aid to shelters and individuals looking after displaced pets. By January 2023, 25,799 dogs and 19,473 cats were being cared for by rescue shelters and volunteers.

In total, the foundation has delivered more than 1,700 tons of pet food, provided more than 30,000 veterinary medicines and vaccine, and supplied cages, carriers, blankets, bedding, and other equipment.

During the last two years, the foundation has also responded quickly to the various emergency situations which have arisen due to the fighting.

When Russia began targeting Ukraine’s power infrastructure with missile and drone strikes, U-Hearts supplied more than 300 warm dog houses, 45 heaters, and generators to make sure that rescued pets could be kept warm during winter.

When the Kakhovka dam was destroyed, causing massive flooding in the Kherson region, the foundation helped the people rescuing pets from the flood waters. Within the first week of the flooding, Save the Pets of Ukraine volunteers evacuated more than 1,500 dogs and cats.

Anzhelika Babii, a communications coordinator at U-Hearts, said: “During our work, we have met incredible people! These are brave individuals who often risk their lives to save others.

“The stories of these people are amazing. Stanislav Frank, who doesn't leave his city of Orikhiv in the Zaporizhzhia region, which is under enemy shelling every day, in order to save animals. Olha Zaitseva, who with a team of volunteers, evacuates pets from cities, towns, and villages in the Donetsk region, including Avdiivka, Ocheretyne, Stepove, and Chasiv Yar. During one of the evacuations, Olha lost friends. Or Regina from Odesa, who alone takes care of 104 dogs, 11 puppies, 65 cats, six kittens, three horses, and a small goat!”

Yuriy Tokarski, CEO of U-Hearts, added: “All of this became possible thanks to the support of our international donors, as well as people who support our activities with donations. It's incredible!”

In the coming year, the foundation plans to participate in neutering and spaying programmes, promote the adoption of pets from shelters, and continue to provide for pets’ basic needs.

Images © U-Hearts Foundation

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'World's oldest dog' has title revoked

'World's oldest dog' has title revoked

GWR says there is not enough evidence to support his claim.

A review conducted by Guinness World Records (GWR) has concluded that Bobi, a rafeiro do Alentejo from Portugal, is not the world’s oldest ever dog.

He has now had his title revoked, despite his owner claiming he had reached the age of 31 when he died last October.

Following a formal review into the ‘oldest dog living’ and ‘oldest dog ever’ titles, opened in January, GWR has concluded that they do not have sufficient evidence to support Bobi’s claim.

Bobi was awarded the accolades of ‘oldest dog living’ and ‘oldest dog ever’ in February 2023, when his owner reported his age as 30 years and 266 days old. This far exceeded the expected life span of a rafeiro do Alentejo, which is approximately 12- 14 years.

Speaking to the Guardian last year, Danny Chambers, a veterinary surgeon and Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), stated that ‘not a single one’ of his Veterinary Voices group believed that Bobi was 31 years old.

A further investigation by Wired magazine accused GWR of insufficient verification of Bobi’s claim. The article suggested that GWR had failed to contact Portugal’s pet database to verify his age.

GWR opened a formal review into the ‘oldest dog living’ and ‘oldest dog ever’ titles in January, pausing all entries for the titles until its investigation had completed.

GWR’s investigation discovered that, when dogs were chipped in 2022, the Portuguese government database for microchip data did not require proof of age for dogs born before 2008. With microchip data central to Bobi’s claim, GWR were left with no conclusive evidence of Bobi’s age.

Mark McKinley, director of records at GWR, said: “We take tremendous pride in ensuring as best we can the accuracy and integrity of all our record titles.

“Following concerns raised by vets and other experts, both privately as well as within public commentary, and the findings of investigations conducted by some media outlets, we felt it important to open a review into Bobi’s record.”

He added: “Without any conclusive evidence available to us right now, we simply can’t retain Bobi as the record holder and honestly claim to maintain the high standards we set ourselves.”

GWR is currently unable to confirm the new holder of the ‘world’s oldest dog ever’ title, but hopes that the investigation will inspire pet owners across the world to get in touch.

Mr McKinley said: “Until that time, we'll require documentary evidence for all years of a pet’s life, we'll continue to ask for vet and witness statements and we’ll also consider microchip data as well where available.”

Image © Guinness World Records


Bristol uni celebrates 75 years of teaching vets

Bristol uni celebrates 75 years of teaching vets

The school welcomed its first students in 1949.

The University of Bristol’s veterinary school is celebrating 75 years of educating veterinary students.

Since the first group of students were admitted in October 1949, the school has seen more than 5,000 veterinary students graduate.

Professor Jeremy Tavaré, pro vice-chancellor and executive dean for the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, said: “I’m delighted to be celebrating Bristol Veterinary School’s 75 years.

“Its excellence in teaching and research has resulted in greater understanding and some real-world changes benefiting the health and welfare of both animals and humans, which is testament to the school’s remarkable staff, students and graduates.”

Image © Bristol Veterinary School

RCVS HQ to temporarily relocate

RCVS HQ to temporarily relocate

The offices will move on 26 February 2024.

The headquarters of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) is to move temporarily, ahead of its permanent relocation later in the year.

From Monday, 26 February 2024, RCVS’ temporary headquarters will be at 2 Waterhouse Square, Holborn, London. This is within walking distance of its current rented offices at The Cursitor, Chancery Lane.

RCVS has been based at The Cursitor since February 2022, following the sale of their Westminster premises the previous March.

However, unforeseen circumstances relating to workspace rental company WeWork filing for bankruptcy means The Cursitor will no longer operate as a WeWork space. The new temporary location is still owned by WeWork.

RCVS anticipates that it will move into its permanent location at Hardwick Street, Clerkenwell, later on in the year.

Image © RCVS

Aberystwyth University receives royal honour for parasite research

Aberystwyth University receives royal honour for parasite research

The Queen presented the award for research on parasitic flatworms.

Scientists from Aberystwyth University have been recognised during a ceremony at Buckingham Palace for their work on One Health parasite research.

The Queen’s Anniversary Prize celebrated the work of scientists at the University’s Department of Life Sciences, which have been been investigating a group of parasitic flatworms which cause disease in livestock and humans.

The flatworms can cause livestock to develop the devastating disease known as fasciolosis, which affects more than 300 million cattle and 250 million sheep across the world. This costs the agriculture industry over £2.5 billion each year.

It can also cause the tropical disease schistosomiasis in humans. The disease, spread through contaminated fresh water, kills an estimated 12,000 people and infects more than 200 million individuals each year.

The Queen’s Anniversary Prizes are awarded every two years as part of the British Honours system, and recognise outstanding work that benefits the wider world. Run by the Royal Anniversary Trust, they are the highest honours that can be awarded to further and higher education institutions in the UK.

Queen Camilla presented the award to the university’s vice-chancellor Professor Jon Timmis at a ceremony held at Buckingham Palace on Thursday, 22 February.

Prof Jon Timmis said: “It was a great honour to receive the prize from Her Majesty The Queen on behalf of the University. I am so proud that the pioneering work by our scientists is being recognised in this way.”

He added: “Our academics have been studying these parasites for more than a century, analysing their complex lifecycles and host interactions to an unprecedented level of detail and identifying vulnerabilities which can be targeted by new vaccines or drugs. I would like to extend my sincere congratulations to all those involved in this research, both past and present.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak congratulated the winners, writing: “As your work shows, there is some extraordinary work taking place in British colleges and universities today – and it is being conducted in a spirit of inquiry, public good and a quest for knowledge.

“So let me thank all the Queen’s Anniversary Prize winners for everything you are doing.”

Image © Aberystwyth University

Cat owners urged to neuter their pets, amid 'cat crisis'

Cat owners urged to neuter their pets, amid 'cat crisis'

The appeal comes following an increase in cats at rescue centres.

A group of charities is calling for cat owners to neuter their pets, as rescue shelters experience a ‘cat crisis’.

The calls, made on World Spay Day (27 February), respond to an unprecedented increase in cats being brought into the care of rescue centres.

The appeal has been made by the Cat-Kind group, which includes charities such as RSPCA, Cats Protection, PDSA and Battersea. The charities have joined forces to encourage the public to neuter their cats, in an effort to tackle the overpopulation crisis.

Animal rescue charity RSPCA has reported that its centres are completely full, leading it to spend funds on private boarding facilities. It reported 260 cats stuck in private boarding facilities in January, and 168 cats in February.

In January alone, RSPCA paid £12,804 each week to keep the cats fed and housed in private boarding facilities across England and Wales.

Furthermore Cats Protection reported 3,350 cats in its care, which is a five per cent increase in the past year. This follows a 47 per cent year-on-year increase of kittens being born in its care in 2023.

RSPCA’s cat welfare experts say that it doesn't usually see these kind of numbers until ‘kitten season’, during the summer months, which has led to concerns about future population numbers.

While RSPCA says it has neutered 46,000 cats in the past ten years, statistics from Cats Protection and PDSA found that there are still 1.4 million unneutered owned cats.

A female cat is capable of giving birth to 18 kittens per year. Cats Protection therefore encourages cat owners to neuter their cats by the time they are four months old, before they are able to become pregnant.

Sarah Elliott, central veterinary officer for Cats Protection, said: “We’d urge owners to help by ensuring their cat is neutered by four months of age. Some animal welfare charities like Cats Protection offer financial support towards the cost of this for owners on a low income.

“Not only does neutering help reduce the unwanted cat population, it also means cats lead healthier, happier lives. This is because neutered cats are less likely to roam far from home or get into fights with other cats, both of which can increase their risk of injury or picking up illnesses.”

Image © Shutterstock

Vetlife Helpline reaches over 4,000 contacts

Vetlife Helpline reaches over 4,000 contacts

The charity provides confidential support for those in the veterinary profession.

A mental health charity for the veterinary profession has marked a historic milestone, as its helpline exceeded 4,000 contacts for the first time.

The Vetlife Helpline reached a total of 4,042 contacts across 2023, which was a 15 per cent increase on the 2022 total of 3,503 contacts. This latest milestone marks a significant increase in demand for its mental health service.

The helpline supports all members of the veterinary profession, including nurses, students and non-clinical staff. Those needing support are able to access confidential, round-the-clock support.

As part of its services, the Vetlife Helpline continues to support practices which are coping with bereavement due to suicide, offering tailored assistance for each practice.

As well as its Helpline, Vetlife also runs a Health Support service, connecting individuals experiencing mental health issues and disorders with essential mental health care resources. In 2023, Vetlife facilitated 198 referrals through this service.

Vetlife’s Financial Support service, meanwhile, provides financial assistance to veterinary surgeons and nurses. Those in need of support may get professional financial advice or, if needed, monthly grants or one-time gifts.

Across 2023, Vetlife provided over £100,000 in financial aid to those in need.

Vetlife president James Russell said: “I am hugely grateful to the awesome team of trained volunteers, drawn from our professions who ensure that every contact to Vetlife receives a timely and individual response. It is reassuring for me to know that we are providing a listening ear to so many people who need our service.
“As the demand on Vetlife Helpline increases, so does the imperative to train more volunteers, and to ensure that more complex needs of callers are being understood and met. This, together with the Health Support service, and our Financial Support service comes at a cost to our charity, and I am delighted that we are undertaking fundraising in a more professional manner than ever.”

You can become a Friend of Vetlife, which gives mental health and financial support to your peers, here. Or to make a donation to Vetlife, visit here.

Image © Shutterstock/Vetlife

New president elected for BVA NI branch and NIVA

New president elected for BVA NI branch and NIVA

The new president’s theme will be ‘Thriving Together’.

Sharon Verner has been elected as the new president of the Northern Ireland Branch of the British Veterinary Association (BVA) and the North of Ireland Veterinary Association (NIVA).

Stepping up from the role of junior vice-president for both associations, she replaces Esther Skelly-Smith, who will serve as senior vice-president for the coming year. Kirsten Dunbar has been elected as the new junior vice-president.

The officer team took up their new roles on Thursday, 22 February at the annual general meeting at the Dunadry Hotel and Gardens in Antrim.

A graduate of the University of Cambridge, Dr Verner has worked as manager of Animal Health and Welfare Northern Ireland’s bovine viral diarrhoea eradication programme for the last seven years. Her presidential theme will be ‘Thriving Together’.

Dr Verner said: “There have been plenty of challenges for Northern Ireland’s veterinary profession to overcome in recent years and many of these will continue during my year as president, such as finding a permanent solution to the long-standing, unresolved matter of ensuring continued access to veterinary medicines.

“I also look forward to supporting the veterinary profession in tackling other local issues such as controlling endemic diseases including bovine TB, lobbying for new animal health and welfare legislation including the need for regulation of farriers, and championing the role of the veterinary profession in the future farming policy and in sustainable agri-food production.

“I am excited to be stepping into this role and, with the support of my fellow officers, aiming for positive engagement with the newly restored Assembly and Executive in the coming months.”

Image © BVA

Wet winter could mean more ewes need worming

Wet winter could mean more ewes need worming

Producers urged to carefully consider which ewes to worm.

Following a wet winter in the UK, the Sustainable Control of Parasites in Sheep (SCOPS) group has said that more ewes might need targeted worming than in previous lambing seasons.

The weather conditions will have had an impact on the overall health of many ewes, and restrictions on sheep movement in some areas due to bluetongue may also have prevented ewes being moved to new pasture on some farms.

As blanket treatment can lead to the development of anthelmintic resistance, SCOPS recommends carefully targeting treatment for ewes which have seen a loss of body condition score, indicating that they are under nutritional stress.

Lesley Stubbings said: “If you just treat those females, which are the ones more likely to produce a high number of worm eggs in their dung, you can reduce the total amount of anthelmintic used this spring compared to blanket treating, without impacting production.

“If you’ve followed this approach before, it wouldn’t be surprising to find yourself treating a few more ewes this year than in previous seasons, given the pressure some ewes have been under.”

The recommended guidance used to be to treat all ewes at lambing time, but SCOPS has adjusted its advice in recent years based on new research.

Ms Stubbings added: “Healthy adult ewes in optimum body condition have good immunity to roundworms and will sustain this if they are well fed, even under the stress of lambing and rearing lambs.”

SCOPS urges producers to speak to their veterinary surgeon and/or animal health adviser about worming.

Image © Shutterstock

RCVS opens consultation on vet nurse training

RCVS opens consultation on vet nurse training

The standards framework is reviewed every five years.

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) has launched a consultation on a new draft standards framework for veterinary nursing education and training.

RCVS’ Standards Framework for Veterinary Nurse Education and Training is designed to set the skills, behaviours and professional values required from approved educational institutions (AEIs), delivery sites and veterinary nurse training practices (TPs).

These standards are reviewed every five years, to ensure that veterinary nursing AEIs, delivery sites and TPs have suitable structures for educating student veterinary nurses in a contemporary and innovative way, while holding accountability for local delivery and management of accredited programmes.

The latest amendments to the framework address sustainability in the sector, considering potential impacts that delivering veterinary training could have on the environment. It also sets guidelines for academic integrity, including the assessment and moderation process.

The consultation into the new standards framework began on Thursday, 22 February, and will continue until Wednesday, 3 April.

All members of the veterinary profession are invited to respond to the consultation, including registered veterinary nurses, student veterinary nurses and veterinary surgeons. It is hoped that these responses will provide detailed feedback on each of the framework’s six core standards, as well as the individual requirements within them.

Julie Dugmore, RCVS director of veterinary nursing, said: “We are looking for veterinary nurses in all walks of life – as well as student nurses and veterinary surgeons – to provide constructive and specific feedback on our proposals.

“Your insights will help us ensure that the standards continue to enable veterinary nurse educators to deliver the best training and support possible for our students, prepare them for life in clinical practice, and ensure that animal health and welfare is a foremost consideration.”

The new Standards Framework for Veterinary Nurse Education and Training can be viewed here.

Image © RCVS (Flickr)

Butterfly and moth genomes unchanged for 250 million years

Butterfly and moth genomes unchanged for 250 million years

Their chromosomes remain the same despite 160,000 diverse species.

An analysis of butterfly and moth genomes has revealed that their chromosomes remain largely unchanged since their last common ancestor, over 250 million years ago.

The findings highlight key insights into their biology, evolution and diversification, and could inform future conservation efforts.

Researchers from the Wellcome Sanger Institute, in collaboration with the University of Edinburgh, analysed over 200 high-quality chromosome-level genomes to understand their evolutionary history.

They identified a genetic stability across the samples, despite the diversity in wing patterns, size and caterpillar form across over 160,000 species globally.

They also discovered rare groups of butterfly and moth species which broke from these genetic norms, and underwent genetic rearrangements. This included chromosome fusions, where two chromosomes merge, and chromosome fissions, where a chromosome splits.

These findings highlight the constraints which govern the genome evolution of these ecologically vital insects. It also offers insights into the factors which enable some species to defy these rules of evolution.

New understanding about the evolution of butterflies and moths is expected to better inform future conservation efforts, supporting the creation of targeted strategies, monitoring of ecosystem health, adapting to climate change, and incorporating of genetic information into other conservation initiatives.

The work forms part of the Darwin Tree of Life Project, which aims to sequence all 70,000 species in Great Britain and Ireland.

It also contributes to ongoing studies, as researchers aim to identify the processes which drive the evolution of chromosomes in these diverse species.

Charlotte Wright, the first author of the study at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, said: “It is striking that despite species diversifying extensively, their chromosomes have remained remarkably intact. This challenges the idea that stable chromosomes may limit species diversification.

“Indeed, this feature might be a base for building diversity. We hope to find clues in rare groups that have evaded these rules.”

The full study can be found in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution.

Image © Shutterstock

Lameness most common finding in PPEs, research reveals

Lameness most common finding in PPEs, research reveals

Pre-purchase examinations of horses are often debated in the equine industry.

New research from the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) has revealed that lameness is the most common prejudicial finding in pre-purchase examinations (PPE) of horses.

Researchers examined 133 PPE certificates of a mixed, non-racing population of horses in an effort to study the merits of five-stage vetting (5SV) and two-stage vetting (2SV).

PPEs are performed by veterinary surgeons for prospective horse buyers, and are designed to identify prejudicial findings which may indicate the horse is unsuitable for its intended use. However, while PPEs usually follow a standardised process, they are often subjective and based on the veterinary surgeon’s opinion at that time.

The study examined PPE certificates from three first opinion practices, assessing the examination format, diagnostic imaging, purchase price, animal signalment, horse’s intended use, the outcome, and the findings.

The analysis revealed that 57.1 per cent of the horses examined had prejudicial findings, with lameness found as the primary prejudicial finding in 55.3 per cent of cases. Diagnostic imaging findings were found in 14.5 per cent of cases, respiratory system findings in 6.6 per cent of cases, with skin conditions and cardiac abnormalities each found in less than six per cent of cases.

The researchers also reviewed when different examination formats, whether 5SV or 2SV, were used to assess the horses.

It was found that 68.5 per cent of the horses underwent a 5SV, compared to 34.1 per cent taking a 2SV. Horses with a higher purchase price were found to be the most likely to undergo a 5SV, a well as being the most likely to have pre-purchase radiography and have prejudicial findings identified.

The researchers say that their findings could encourage further research into PPE formats, which could better inform prospective horse buyers.

Dr Jason Tupper, head of equine practice at the RVC, said: “A pre-purchase examination can discover a number of issues before buying a horse. This study reveals lameness to be the commonest issue.

“Few horses are perfect when it comes to temperament and health. The vetting process determines the issues and the vet can then help the purchaser weigh up their significance and decide if they can compromise and accept the issues or not."

The full study can be found in the Equine Veterinary Journal.

Image © Shutterstock

African swine flu concerns raised over port funding cuts

African swine flu concerns raised over port funding cuts

NPA chairman has written to government minister.

The National Pig Association (NPA) has raised concerns about the impact that cuts to government funding could have on the UK’s ability to prevent meat infected with African swine flu and other diseases from entering the country.

Since September 2022, checks have been carried out at the Port of Dover to prevent pork and pork products weighing more than 2kg from being brought into Great Britain, unless they have been produced to the EU’s commercial standards. Almost 66 tonnes has been seized by the authorities.

However, in December, Defra announced plans to cut the funding it provides to Dover District Council for carrying out checks at the port.

In a letter to Defra Secretary Steve Barclay, NPA chairman Rob Mutimer wrote: ‘It is hugely disappointing that funding for this activity is allegedly going to be cut by around 70 per cent, and that there has been no further communication from government to the wider industry on this topic.

‘This reduction in resource[s] will lead to more illegal imports arriving into Great Britain, not just from the EU but also from the rest of the world, ultimately increasing the threat of a notifiable exotic disease outbreak in this country.’

The cuts in government funding would mean that Dover District Council would need to meet the cost of the port’s health authorities at its own expense. The council has warned that this could ‘bankrupt’ it unless it scaled back biosecurity measures.

In the letter, Mr Mutimer also called on the government to remove the current 2kg limit to make it easier for the rules to be understood and enforced, and for greater clarity on plans to conduct checks on live animals at a new Border Control Post at Sevington, Kent, 22 miles from the coast.

Mr Mutimer wrote: ’As we still do not know what the checks on live animals will entail, it is unclear whether pigs arriving at Sevington will have to be unloaded at the site, which will put them at risk of disease as well as causing stress to the animals.’

Similar concerns were raised in a letter to Steve Barclay from the chairman of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee earlier this year.

A government spokesperson said: “We have strict border controls in place to protect our high biosecurity standards – and are confident that existing and new infrastructure will have the capacity and capability to maintain these standards.
“We recognise the strategic importance of the Port of Dover and are continuing to work with the port authority on future support options.”

Image © Shutterstock

Farne Islands reopen after avian flu outbreak

Farne Islands reopen after avian flu outbreak

Visitors will be welcomed for the first time in two years.

Inner Farne, one of the Farne Islands cared for by the National Trust, is to re-open for visitors on 25 March 2024.

The National Nature Reserve, which is home to approximately 200,000 seabirds, had been closed for two years following an outbreak of avian influenza among the bird population.

The Farne Islands are home to a variety of bird species, including puffins, shags, kittiwakes and Arctic terns. The birds return to the island, located off the Northumberland coast, to breed each year at the end of March, and leave at the end of summer once their chicks are fully-fledged.

However, the colony was hit by the outbreak of avian influenza in 2022. Rangers collected over 6,000 dead birds in 2022 alone.

While avian influenza was still present in 2023, the rangers recorded a 39 per cent reduction in deaths from the disease, with 3,647 dead birds collected.

The National Trust believes that this could be a sign that some immunity is growing in the community. They have said that they will continue to work with the British Trust of Ornithology (BTO) and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) to protect the wellbeing of the birds.

From 25 March, Inner Farne will be welcoming visitor boat-landings from the harbour at Seahouses to get a closer look at the island’s wildlife and cultural history. Inner Farne will be the only island to re-open this year, as the National Trust trials a limited opening.

Sophia Jackson, an area ranger for the National Trust, said: “We have been closely monitoring the impact of the disease on our breeding populations as part of international research into bird flu.

“This has shown that the disease has had devastating impacts on some species and at some UK sites making our conservation efforts all the more important. Like at other sites, it seems that the disease has declined in our birds, although we will continue to closely monitor them as the breeding season starts again.”

Image © Shutterstock

FIVP to attend BSAVA Congress 2024

FIVP to attend BSAVA Congress 2024

The group represents and promotes independent practices.

The Federation of Independent Veterinary Practices (FIVP) has announced that it will attend the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) Congress in March.

FIVP, a not-for-profit organisation which represents the interests and promotes the values of independent veterinary practices, will be at stand (D405) from 21-23 March 2024.

The federation will be welcoming new members, and meeting existing members, to explore the current events which are affecting independent practices. Representatives will be available to discuss concerns about the Competitions and Marketing Authority (CMA) investigation, as well as the changing face of the veterinary industry.

The group will also be promoting the latest career opportunities from independent practices, supporting new and experienced veterinary surgeons and nurses as they develop their careers.

FIVP was founded in 2016, in response to a growing number of corporate-owned practices in the sector. It offers membership to independently owned veterinary practices across the UK.

The group has regularly represented independent practice in ongoing industry debates, most recently featuring in the national media to talk about how the CMA review has affected independent practices.

Rita Dingwall, FIVP business development manager, said: “Once again the FIVP team will be attending and supporting the BSAVA Congress in Manchester.

“This is an opportunity to welcome new members to the federation, many of whom are hoping to open new practices in the coming months or have already done so recently.

“This, alongside being able to meet up with long standing members face to face, supporting experienced vets, new graduates, students and RVNs in their search for a position, or EMS in an independent practice.

“With the interest of the CMA continuing and the constant changing face of the profession, there has never been a better time for practices to celebrate being independent.

“There will be much to discuss over the three days and we look forward to seeing you there.”

BSAVA Congress 2024 will take place at Manchester Central Convention Complex from 21-23 March, and will see thousands of veterinary professionals from across the country attend for three days of networking and CPD events.

It will also include a mix of lectures, panel discussions, and drop-in practical sessions at the congress’ Practical Village in the Exhibition Hall.

To book tickets, visit the BSAVA website.

Image © FIVP


Avian flu restrictions eased in Wales

Avian flu restrictions eased in Wales

Gatherings of poultry are now permitted.

Gatherings of galliformes, including chickens, turkeys and pheasants, are longer prohibited in Wales, the country’s chief veterinary officer has announced.

The restriction, which had been introduced in November 2021 to help contain the spread of avian influenza, have been lifted as of 16 February 2024. Galliformes from premises in Wales are also now allowed to attend gatherings in England.

Anyone organising a gathering, such as a bird fair, market, or show, will have to meet the requirements of the poultry gathering general licence. They will also have to notify the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) at least seven days before the event.

Owing to the continuing risk to water fowl, gatherings of anseriformes, such as ducks, geese, and swans, will remain banned. Bird keepers are also being urged to maintain high biosecurity standards.

Richard Irvine, chief veterinary officer for Wales, said: “Scrupulous hygiene and biosecurity are essential to protect flocks from the threat of disease, and it is important bird keepers continue to complete the biosecurity self-assessment checklist.

“All of our mitigation measures, including restrictions on bird gatherings, are kept under constant review, to help ensure the national flock is protected.”

No premises in Wales have been found to be infected with avian flu since April 2023. However, the virus is continuing to spread among wild birds, with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds recently warning about the impact the disease is having on Welsh seabirds.

Suspected cases of avian influenza should be reported to APHA on 0300 303 8268.

Image © Welsh Government


Dog fosterer's volunteering sparks artistic passion

Dog fosterer's volunteering sparks artistic passion

Jo Heather has fostered nearly 100 dogs.

An accomplished dog fosterer has rediscovered her passion for painting, as she nears a milestone 100 dogs fostered for Dogs Trust.

Jo Heather, a mother-of-two from Salisbury, began fostering for Dogs Trust in 2017, inspired by her daughters’ love of dogs. However spending time with the fostered dogs also reignited another love of Ms Heather’s, as she rediscovered her love of painting.

As a fosterer for Dogs Trust’s Home from Home foster scheme, Ms Heather volunteers to provide a temporary home for dogs while Dogs Trust searches for a permanent home. This can mean caring for a dog for a few days, or even several weeks.

Ms Heather soon found that, during quiet times when the dogs were asleep, she was inspired to sketch and paint them.

Ms Heather said: “I started thinking: I’ve got a little bit of time here – the dogs are happily sleeping so I can sketch them and paint away and that’s how it happened really.
“I don’t know how many [dogs] I have now painted. Dozens anyway. I’ve gifted many of them to the new owners as a good luck present.”

The Home from Home scheme is funded by Dogs Trust, with support of players of the People’s Postcode Lottery. So far, players have contributed over £20.6 million for Dogs Trust.

The charity also runs another foster scheme, Freedom, which fosters the pets of owners which are fleeing domestic abuse. As some refuges do not allow dogs, fosterers care for them until their owner is able to be reunited with their pets.

Dogs Trust says that the need for pet fosterers has never been greater, as they report over 45,000 handover calls received in 2023.

Abbi Moon, head of rehoming central operations at Dogs Trust, said: “This year, foster carers have been more important than ever before. We had over 45,000 handover calls last year because dog owners are facing so many struggles, including the cost of living.
“We have 21 rehoming centres, but our kennel space is stretched, and we don’t see that easing any time soon.
“Thanks to volunteers like Jo, and the players of People’s Postcode Lottery, we can have kennels ready for the next dog who has nowhere else to go. We couldn’t be more grateful.”

Image © Dogs Trust

African Union approves donkey skin trade moratorium

African Union approves donkey skin trade moratorium

More than 30 million donkeys will be protected.

The African Union (AU) has agreed to stop the slaughter of donkeys for their skin across Africa.

A moratorium on the donkey skin trade was approved by heads of states at the AU Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Sunday, 18 February.

Donkey skin is used to make ejiao, an ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine. At least 5.9 million donkey are slaughtered globally each year to make the medicine, according to recent research by The Donkey Sanctuary.

Owing to a decline in the donkey population in China, many of the donkeys slaughtered for the trade are from Africa and South America.

There are an estimated 33 million donkeys in Africa and the trade has had a large impact on people in poor communities where donkeys are still regularly used for transport and farming. Uganda, Tanzania, Botswana, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Senegal had already banned donkey exports to China.

The moratorium, which will apply to all AU member states, has been welcomed by the International Coalition for Working Equids, made up of The Donkey Sanctuary, World Horse Welfare, SPANA, and Brooke.

Marianne Steele, chief executive of The Donkey Sanctuary, said: “This is a truly momentous result for the welfare of donkeys in Africa. The decision to ban the slaughter of donkeys for the skin trade is enormous. Donkeys are sensitive and intelligent creatures who deserve protection for their own sakes, and for the countless communities who rely on them.

“This agreement from leaders of the African Union strikes at the heart of the brutal skin trade. It’s our hope that this decision will act as a catalyst for the rest of the world to act now, to not just save our donkey populations but to actively recognise their value and protect them properly.”

Brooke’s East Africa regional director Raphael Kinoti added: “This is a terrific moment for communities in Africa who have benefitted from donkeys since time immemorial. It is also a great moment for donkeys all over the world and for indigenous African biodiversity conservation.

“Donkey slaughter for its skin has had many negatives; from eroding livelihoods in Africa to robbing the continent of its culture, biodiversity and identity. We must all applaud AU heads of states for taking these bold and drastic measures for a good cause. We urge all AU members to uphold the decision for the good of all.”

Image © Shutterstock

Scotland's XL bully owners urged to prepare for new rules

Scotland's XL bully owners urged to prepare for new rules

The first stage of safeguards will be introduced Friday.

XL bully owners in Scotland are being reminded to prepare for the deadline of the first stage of an XL bully ban in Scotland.

From Friday, 23 February 2024, XL bully owners in Scotland will be required to ensure their dog is muzzled and on a lead when in a public place.

This first stage of rules will also mean it is illegal to sell, advertise, gift or exchange XL bullies. Furthermore, it will be illegal to let dogs of this type stray.

Dog owners who are convicted of breaching these safeguards could face up to six months imprisonment, and/or a fine of up to £5,000.

This stage of rules is set to be followed by a second stage, effective 1 August 2024, which will make it an offence to own an XL bully without owning or having applied for an exemption certificate. The definition of an XL bully will be the same as is used by the UK government.

The Scottish government is due to release full details on how to apply for an exemption certificate, and the support available, in the coming weeks.

The first stage of legislation has been presented to the Scottish parliament for consideration, ahead of it coming into force on Friday. The Criminal Justice Committee is to take evidence from Siobhain Brown, the minister for victims and community safety, on Wednesday, 21 February.

Ms Brown said: “Whilst dog attacks remain a rare occurrence, where they do occur, they can have devastating consequences which is why safeguards must be introduced. We are doing so whilst ensuring we promote and support responsible ownership, and public safety as effectively as possible.

“The new regulations aim to protect public safety and are being introduced as a consequence of similar XL bully controls brought in by the UK government, which created an unacceptable risk of dogs being moved to Scotland from England and Wales.”

Image © Shutterstock

Oblique PUO technique could support HIF healing, study finds

Oblique PUO technique could support HIF healing, study finds

The approach reduces risks associated with transcondylar screws.

New research has revealed that using an oblique proximal ulnar osteotomy (PUO) could support the healing of humeral intracondylar fissures (HIFs) in spaniels.

The technique would reduce the high complication rate which is associated with transcondylar screws.

HIFs are considered to be a cause of thoracic limb lameness in spaniels. It is a weakness of the humeral condyle, and can often result in elbow fractures.

It was originally believed to be due to a failure of the centres of ossification of the humeral condyle to fuse, however more recent research has suggested it could be a result of stress fractures due to joint incongruity.

The study, conducted by Dr Alan Danielski, aimed to investigate how oblique PUO could heal HIFs, reducing the risk of transcondylar screws. Transcondylar screws have a post-operative complication rate of approximately 69 per cent.

The data involved 51 elbows across 35 spaniels, from which 24 partial HIFs and 27 complete HIFs were diagnosed.

The first part of the study identified a previously undocumented cartilaginous lesion, called a humero-anconeal lesion, in the caudal humeral condyle in elbows with HIF. The lesion showed various degrees of cartilage damage and, during elbow extension, the anconeal process perfectly matched the lesion.

This suggested that humero-anconeal incongruity could be the cause of the fissure’s development.

Based on this, Dr Danielski theorised that improving this incongruity could contribute to healing the HIF.

The second part of the study sought to prove the hypothesis that healing the fissure could be achieved using oblique PUO, which allows translation and tilting of the proximal ulna. This would displace the tip of the anconeal process more proximally, to prevent it applying an abnormal load to the caudal aspect of the humeral condyle.

The 35 spaniels each underwent PUO surgery, followed up by assessments including CT scans 18.5 months post-surgery.

The results revealed that 80.3 per cent of the 51 elbows achieved healing. This included five dogs which had been suffering from complications due to transcondylar screws.

This suggests that, not only does this technique have a reduced complication rate while healing the fissure, it can also be used as a revision strategy for dogs suffering from complications.

Dr Danielski said: “This manuscript represents the culmination of years of research and dedication.

“It has the potential to revolutionise the treatment of this devastating disease and prevent countless unnecessary amputations.”

The full study can be found in the journal Veterinary Surgery.

Images © Dr Alan Danielski