Avian flu identified at Yorkshire turkey farm

“Immediate steps have been taken to limit the risk of the disease spreading” - CVO.

More than 10,000 turkeys will be humanely culled at a premises in North Yorkshire following the identification of highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N8 on Saturday (28 November).

A 3km Protection and 10km Surveillance Zone have been placed around the infected farm, located near Northallerton, the APHA has confirmed.

The zones replace the Temporary Control Zones on the 28 November 2020. An investigation is now underway to determine the source of the outbreak.
Chief veterinary officer (CVO), Christine Middlemiss, commented: “Avian flu has been confirmed at a commercial turkey fattening farm near Northallerton, North Yorkshire. Immediate steps have been taken to limit the risk of the disease spreading and all the remaining turkeys at the farm will be culled.

“Public Health England has confirmed that the risk to public health is very low and the Food Standards Agency advises that bird flu poses a very low food safety risk for UK consumers."

She continued: “Bird keepers should remain alert for any signs of disease, report suspected disease immediately and ensure they are maintaining good biosecurity on their premises. We are urgently looking for any evidence of disease spread associated with this farm to control and eliminate it.”

This is the sixth confirmed case of avian influenza following the identification of the disease at premises in Leicestershire, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Cheshire and Kent. Several wild birds across the UK have also tested positive for the disease.

In response to the rising number of cases, the UK CVOs declared an Avian Influenza Protection Zone (AIPZ) across England, Scotland and Wales. Under the AIPZ bird keepers are urged to maintain and strengthen their biosecurity measures to prevent further outbreaks of the disease.

Both Public Health England (PHE) and the Food Standards Agency continues to advise that the risk to public health from the virus remains low.

Dr Gavin Dabrera, a consultant in acute respiratory infections at PHE said:  “To date, the World Health Organisation has never confirmed any cases of H5N8 in humans and the risk to the public is considered very low. As a precaution, the local Health Protection Team will offer routine health advice to those working on the farm. We will work with DEFRA to monitor the situation closely.”

A Food Standards Agency spokesperson said: "We advise that, on the basis of the current scientific evidence, avian influenzas pose a very low food safety risk for UK consumers. Properly cooked poultry and poultry products, including eggs, remain safe to eat."

First vet nurse apprentice completes CQ EPA

First vet nurse apprentice completes CQ EPA

Centre was the first to offer COVID-secure EPA assessments

Central Qualifications (CQ) are celebrating the first veterinary nurse apprentice to pass CQ's End Point Assessment (EPA).

CQ was the first End Point Assessment Organisation to offer COVID-secure assessment centres, and has been committed to serving the Veterinary Nursing Apprenticeship Standard despite the global challenges of the pandemic.

The successful student veterinary nurse, who trained at Lynwood School of Veterinary Nursing and works at Lynwood Vets in Bournemouth, was successful on her first attempt of the EPA which comprises a Professional Discussion and an Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE).

The End Point Assessment is the final aspect of the Veterinary Nursing Apprenticeship. Upon completion, successful apprentices are able to gain their Veterinary Nursing Diploma and proceed to register with the RCVS as an RVN.

“We are really proud to be the first-ever school of veterinary nursing to have put forward the first student veterinary nurse through their apprenticeship end point assessment with Central Qualifications,” said Lisa Bugh, Joint Head of School at Lynwood School of Veterinary Nursing. “The student was successful on their first attempt.”

CQ, an Ofqual approved awarding body and End Point Assessment Organisation for veterinary and other animal-related establishments, congratulated the student on their achievement.

“All of the EPA Team at CQ are thrilled to have the first apprentice complete their EPA with us,” said William Barrow, Operations Manager at CQ. “We’d like to congratulate the learner on her achievement and thank everyone who’s worked tirelessly to deliver End Point Assessments in a covid secure manner.”

CCTV to become compulsory in Scottish abattoirs

CCTV to become compulsory in Scottish abattoirs

Legislation 'a huge win' for animal health and welfare.

Legislation that will make CCTV compulsory in abattoirs in Scotland has been approved by the Scottish government.

Under the Mandatory Use of Closed Circuit Television in Slaughterhouses (Scotland) Regulations 2020, all Scottish abattoirs will be required to install and operate CCTV and to retain footage and associated data for 90 days. 

The legislation, which comes into force on 1 July 2021, comes after the vast majority of people who responded to a public consultation supported the measure. The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has also backed the use of CCTV where it complements the checks and physical monitoring carried out by Official Vets.

Welcoming the move, BVA Scottish Branch President Kathleen Robertson said: “This decision is a huge win not only for animal health and welfare but for public health, food safety and trade. While most Scottish abattoirs already have CCTV, this legislation will help to keep welfare standards high at all stages of the supply chain now and in the future.

“It is positive that Official Vets in Scottish abattoirs will be able to use CCTV footage as a complement to their welfare monitoring and also have unrestricted access to footage so that they can identify and resolve any breaches in regulation effectively.”

She added: “Now that Scotland has taken this important step, we hope that governments in Wales and Northern Ireland will follow suit with similar legislation to underpin the high welfare standards across the whole of the UK.”

Cross-institutional team monitoring avian flu outbreaks

Cross-institutional team monitoring avian flu outbreaks

HPAI viruses are causing significant illness and death in poultry and wild birds.

A cross-institutional team of academics have joined forces to monitor avian influenza outbreaks in poultry and wild birds across Europe and Central Asia.

The team, which includes a Professor in One Health Biology at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC), will monitor both low and novel high-pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) and assess the measures required to reduce its spread. 

HPAI viruses are causing significant illness and death in poultry and wild birds. But scientists say that the particular H5 clade viruses involved have not been associated with zoonotic infections.

Following the recent detection of both low and novel high-pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) viruses in wild birds and poultry in Europe and Central Asia, researchers at the One Health Poultry Hub are readying themselves for further outbreaks in the flocks they study.

UK-based Hub partners at the OIE/FAO International Reference Laboratory and the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) have been analysing the emerging viruses in both Europe and countries in both the Middle East and Central Asia. 

Nicola Lewis, Poultry Hub Investigator and a Professor in One Health Evolutionary Biology at the RVC, said: “This HPAI H5N8 virus has been circulating undetected in birds likely since 2019. After its first detection in Iraq in May 2020, it has quickly spread to poultry in the Russian Federation and Kazakhstan and has now also been detected in many countries in Europe in both wild and domestic birds.

“This emergence of another novel H5N8 virus – the third emergent event with these H5 viruses that Eurasia has experienced since 2014/2015 – reminds us that despite SARS-Cov2 (causing COVID-19), bird flu is still a serious threat to both poultry health and to food security in many countries and highlights the need for continuous and effective surveillance in poultry populations worldwide.”

Winter is currently the biggest threat to the poultry sector. Earlier this month, the APHA updated its biosecurity guidance following the discovery of HPAI H5N8 in Gloucestershire, Cheshire, Herefordshire, Kent and Leicestershire.

Other investigators involved in the surveillance work of the Hub include Professor Ian Brown, a virologist at the APHA, and Dr Ash Banyard.

Image (C) RVC.

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Mars Comedy Pet Photographer of the year revealed

Mars Comedy Pet Photographer of the year revealed

Elke Vogelsang scooped first prize for a hilarious photo of rescue dog Noodles.

The winner of the 2020 Mars Petcare Comedy Pet Photographer of the Year Award has been revealed.

Elke Vogelsang scooped first prize for her photo of rescue dog Noodles, a Galgo Espanol mix breed. With his goofy expression, Noodles was a clear favourite with the judges and also won the Dog category award.

On hearing the news, Elke Vogelsang said: “It's wonderful to be associated with something that makes people happy. This dog definitely is a mood-lifter. Happy to share her funny, gorgeous face with the world.” 

Elke discovered Noodles in a kill shelter in Spain, abandoned at the end of the hunting season. Determined to rescue her, Elke said that she ‘fell in love with her gorgeous face and funny ears immediately.’

The Mars Petcare Comedy Pet Photo Awards aims to showcase the incredibly positive impact that pets have on our lives and raise awareness around homeless pets in the UK. Pet and animal lovers were encouraged to submit funny images of their pets for a chance of winning £3,000 and to raise money for the Blue Cross Pet Charity. 

Elke said that she intends to reinvest some of the prize money back into an organisation for pet rescue. Other winners include:

  • Cat Category: Malgorzata Russell’s brilliant photo of Basil, peeking from under a fence titled ‘Why are you upside down, Mum?’ 
  • Mighty Horse Category: Magdalena Strakova with her great shot of three horses ‘Gossip Girls’ 
  • All Other Creatures: ‘Drama Queen’ by Anne Linder took the prize with her yawning rabbit 
  • Pets Who Look Most Like Their Owner’s Category: ‘Morning Mood’ a photo by Hannah Seeger and her dog
  • Junior Category: Ayden Brooks for his sleepy cat called ‘Fox Mulder’.

Tom Sullam from the Comedy Pet Photo Awards, adds: “I think it’s fair to say that most people can’t see the end of 2020 fast enough! 2021 will hopefully bring some good news, some cheer and positive horizons for everyone - but in all the gloom of 2020, the Comedy Pet Awards managed to raise our spirits more than most things.

“The importance of pets in our lives - the positive life-affirming friendship that they bring without even realising it - is often underestimated and taken for granted. But this year has really given these pets a chance to shine and I think without pets many, many people would have had a harder time dealing with the isolation. Thank you to the pets, all of them, for making us smile through this competition, and keeping many of us on an even keel!”

Image (C) Mars PetCare.

Boehringer Ingelheim to host online Christmas comedy special

Boehringer Ingelheim to host online Christmas comedy special

Event will bring first-rate comedy direct to vets homes

Boehringer Ingelheim (BI) Animal Health is set to host a live Christmas comedy event to provide entertainment and festive fun for veterinary professionals.

BI Animal Health's Christmas Comedy Cracker is a free online event, designed to help veterinary professionals sit back and relax at the end of what has been a difficult year for the whole profession.

The event will take place online at 8pm on Thursday 17 December. Comedian Rhys James will host and the line-up also includes ventriloquist Nina Conti, comedian Zoe Lyons and musical comedy troupe The Noise Next Door.

To register your place for free please visit www.christmascomedycracker.co.uk

VMD and VPS announce joint open information day

VMD and VPS announce joint open information day

Event will take the form of a series of pre-recorded webinars.

The Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) and the Veterinary Products Committee (VPC) have announced a joint open information day covering topics such as veterinary medicines regulations, antimicrobial resistance, scientific advice and novel therapies.

Taking place on Wednesday 18 November, the virtual event will take the form of a series of pre-recorded webinars and a 'Slido' Q&A session. Links to the webinars and full instructions on how to use Slido will be available on gov.uk on 18 November. To join the mailing list for the event, email director.support@vmd.gov.uk

Study reveals impact of canine epilepsy on owners

Study reveals impact of canine epilepsy on owners

Findings could help veterinary professionals to better support clients.

Almost all owners of dogs diagnosed with epilepsy have made substantial life changes to care for their pet, according to new research.

The study by the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) found that a diagnosis of canine epilepsy affects many aspects of an owner's life, including work, relationships and overall wellbeing. Many owners said the unpredictable nature of epilepsy made them feel like they were living with a 'ticking time bomb'.

Previously, much of the research surrounding canine epilepsy has centred on developing treatments to manage repeated seizures, rather than the emotional and logistical challenges faced by the owners of affected dogs. Researchers say these new findings could help veterinary professionals to better support clients and improve their overall quality of life.

Dr Rowena Packer, a lecturer in companion animal behaviour and welfare science and research lead in canine epilepsy at the RVC, said: “Epilepsy can be an extremely tough condition for owners to manage, where the love, time and money owners dedicate to their dogs is not necessarily matched by a significant improvement in their condition, with seizures often continuing unabated. 

“Our study has revealed previously unrecognised or underappreciated impacts that epilepsy introduced to these owners' lives. Improved awareness and understanding of these challenges by veterinary professionals have the potential to improve communication with clients, to avoid owners feeling that social media is the only place they can go to feel supported and understood.”

In the study, published in BMC Veterinary Research, researchers conducted interviews with owners to discover how their lives changed following a diagnosis of canine epilepsy. 

Following the initial diagnosis, many of the owners said they felt negative emotions, such as being fearful or uncertain about their dog's future and how the disease might progress. Experience with the disease was rare, and owners were shocked and distressed by the appearance of seizures.

The study also highlights the difficulties of strict daily medication schedules and finding assistance in caring for their dog. These factors, together with fear over leaving their dog unsupervised, had implications on the owner's social lives and led to the increased use of  internet forums for support.

Amy Pergande, a small animal intern at the RVC and primary author of the study, said: “We are sincerely grateful to the owners who participated in this study for providing us with such detailed and often emotive accounts of their experiences. Many of the participants had willingly altered many aspects of their daily routine for their dogs, both socially and professionally, and sometimes at the expense of their own quality of life.”

RSPCA and Blue Cross announce partnership to help more animals in need

RSPCA and Blue Cross announce partnership to help more animals in need

Charities to work together on a range of new initiatives

Leading animal charities Blue Cross and RSPCA have announced that they will be working more closely together in order to help more pets in need across England and Wales.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a substantial impact on the resources and finances of thousands of charities and organisations across the country.

The two charities have agreed to collaborate more moving forward to help save funds, share resources and have as big of an impact as possible on animals.

Areas that RSPCA and Blue Cross are aiming to partner in include purchasing and supplies – where savings can be made and supply chains secured – as well as in transport of animals and in behaviour services. This, according to the charities, will help keep funds in the animal sector, as well as reducing impact on the environment.

Blue Cross CEO, Chris Burghes, said: “We are pleased to share the news of our intentions of several areas to partner on with the RSPCA. It feels that we are on the cusp of something truly exciting to reach more pets, and the people they share their lives with.

“There is much natural alignment in both our strategies and in areas of the country where we both have a presence, there is opportunity for strong working collaboration for an even greater impact for animals and communities.”

RSPCA CEO, Chris Sherwood, said: “The RSPCA is excited to be exploring practical ways we can work with Blue Cross to help us work smarter and better at this difficult time for charities and for animals.

“We are keen to build strong relationships with charities across the sector so we can all collectively focus our efforts on helping the animals which need us. Strengthening partnerships is central to our new strategy.”

Images (c) Blue Cross.

Two new RCVS Working Parties to assess vet tech role and sustainability

Two new RCVS Working Parties to assess vet tech role and sustainability

Groups to consider new policies and definitions for profession

The RCVS has announced that it will be starting two new Working Parties. One of which will consider both the role of veterinary technicians and possible regulation within the profession, while the other will address environmental and sustainability issues.

The Veterinary Technicians’ Working Party will aim to define the role of a veterinary technician and it's scope, as well as considering regulations and educational standards for the role.

The Working Party will include representatives from the British Cattle Veterinary Association (BCVA), along with members of RCVS and VN Councils.

Linda Ford, a lay member of RCVS Council and the chair of the Working Party, said: “The aim of the Working Party will be to more clearly define the role of veterinary technician, and it how fits alongside the established role of veterinary nursing and within the vet-led team.

“The group will review the current set-up for veterinary technician courses and qualifications, with a view to incorporating them as a defined veterinary profession and associates of the RCVS within time.”

The Environment and Sustainability Working Party will be collaborating with the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change (UKHACC). It will aim to create a formal environment and sustainability policy for the College and for the profession. It will also seek to make recommendations regarding new potential environmental and sustainability initiatives.

Sue Paterson, an RCVS Council member and chair of the group, said: “In our professional declaration as veterinary surgeons, we pledge to ensure the health and welfare of animals in our care and I think part of this can be a greater recognition of the environmental footprint of veterinary medicine and how we can innovate and change the way we do things to mitigate and reduce our environmental impact.”

RCVS updates guidance for vets working with musculoskeletal therapists

RCVS updates guidance for vets working with musculoskeletal therapists

Updates to Code of Professional Conduct provide clarity for vets

New guidance to help veterinary surgeons working with musculoskeletal therapists (MSKs) has been published by the RCVS' Standards Committee.

According to the RCVS, MSKs, such as animal physiotherapists, currently have their work underpinned by an Exemption Order to the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 which allows them to treat an animal under the direction of a veterinary surgeon who has first examined that animal.

The College has acknowledged that there has been some confusion as to whether MSKs need a veterinary referral for maintenance work, such as massage, in a healthy animal.

The new guidance is found in chapter 19 of the supporting guidance to the Code of Professional Conduct. It outlines the current rules for musculoskeletal treatment of illness, disease or pathology and states that healthy animals do not require a veterinary referral for maintenance care.

In the guidance, the RCVS states that veterinary surgeons should be confident that the musculoskeletal therapist is appropriately qualified. It also notes that any animal, including a healthy one, should be registered with a veterinary surgeon and referred to them at the first sign of any potential underlying health problems.

In March 2019, the RCVS acknowledged that the existing exemption order was not suitable for underpinning the work of MSKs in it's Review of Minor Procedures Regime. To remedy this, the College recommended a reform of Schedule 3 of the Veterinary Surgeons Act, alongside regulation through Associate status for MSKs. This would allow the college to set and uphold standards for MSKs in a similar way to veterinary nurses.

The recent Legislation Working Party Report, which is currently open for consultation, includes proposals which build on this recommendation.

Tributes paid to Wildlife Vets International founder

Tributes paid to Wildlife Vets International founder

Dr John Lewis “a mentor and an inspiration” for many zoo and wildlife vets.

Tributes have been paid to the founder of Wildlife Vets International (WVI), Dr John Lewis, who has died following a short illness.

A graduate of the University of Cambridge, Dr Lewis worked as a pathologist and clinician before joining the International Zoo Veterinary Group (IZVG) in 1985, where he later became a partner.

Renowned for his love of big cats, Dr Lewis founded WVI to support vets and conservationists using veterinary science to protect endangered species. Besides providing WVI with advice and guidance, he also participated in numerous conservation projects, specialising in Amur tigers and leopards in the Russian Far East.

Olivia Walter, executive director of WVI, said: “We are devastated to lose John, a mentor and an inspiration for so many zoo and wildlife vets and biologists for the last 35 years. Through his passion for the conservation of big cats, he truly became a world leader in his field. His skill and dedication with fieldwork, including his expertise in field anaesthesia, were second to none. He inspired many and his passing is an unimaginable loss to wildlife veterinary medicine.”

Besides his work with tigers, Dr Lewis was also considered an expert in primates, elephants, marine mammals and zoo and wild animal anaesthesia. He was a veterinary adviser to the Amur Leopard and Tiger EEPs (EAZA Ex-Situ Programme) and a member of the IUCN SSC (Species Survival Commission) Cat specialist group.

Dr Sue Thornton, a senior partner at IZVG, said: “The messages of support from vets, biologists and zookeepers we have received are consistent in their praise for John’s willingness to pass on his knowledge and expertise to all who worked with him or attended conferences or workshops with him.  Within IZVG he was always willing to discuss a case with a colleague and was equally willing to admit when he did not know the answer. His anecdotes and admissions of failure were often delivered with great humility and humour.

“We and the animals he has cared for have all benefited from John’s knowledge and veterinary skills. His passing is a huge loss to the whole zoo and wildlife conservation industry. He has, however, left a legacy in the charity Wildlife Vets International, as well as his more recent project to develop a website (Wildtigerhealthcentre.org) to support rangers and conservation vets and biologists in the care of wild tigers.”

To leave a message of condolence, contact Olivia Walter at o.walter@wildlifevetsinternational.org or visit tolbc.com/DrJohnLewis

 Report highlights spike in behaviour and obesity problems

Report highlights spike in behaviour and obesity problems

PDSA findings reveal concerning trends associated with the COVID-19 lockdown.

There has been a rise in behavioural issues in dogs and cats as a direct result of the pandemic restrictions, according to to the latest PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report.

Figures reveal that one-in-five owners (1.9 million dogs) said their dog has displayed a new behaviour during lockdown, with five per cent reporting their dog had started showing signs of distress when left alone, raising concerns over the long-term impact of the crisis on separation-related behaviours. 

Around a quarter of cat owners (2.3 million cats) have noticed new behaviours in their cat since the start of lockdown, with 15 per cent saying their cat was spending more time outdoors and six per cent saying their cat was vocalising more, equating to 590,000 cats. 
Links between the lockdown and deepening rates of pet obesity are also highlighted in the report. Around eight per cent of owners stated their dog gained weight during lockdown - potentially affecting 790,000 dogs - while six per cent of cat owners said their pet gained weight.

“As well as contributing to our long-term view of pet wellbeing, this unique Report has helped to provide early insight into how the Covid-19 pandemic is affecting the UK pet population," commented PDSA Director of Veterinary Services, Richard Hooker. 

“The Report reflected the enormous positive impact that pets have on people’s lives, something which our vet teams see every day in our Pet Hospitals across the UK – with roughly half of owners surveyed (49%) agreeing that their pet has been “a lifeline” during these challenging times. "

He continued: "Our pets play an invaluable role in providing companionship, alleviating stress and loneliness and helping safeguard owners’ health and wellbeing. “However, PAW has also shown some worrying trends, especially relating to increased behavioural issues as a result of owners spending more time at home. 

"Rising rates of obesity in dogs, cats and rabbits is also extremely concerning for the veterinary professions, when it is already estimated that up to half of UK pets are overweight or obese.”

In more positive news, the report also found that fewer rabbits are being fed muesli as one of their main food types, from 49 per cent in 2011 down to 18 per cent in 2020.

The proportion of pets who have been microchipped has increased for all species, with 92 per cent of dogs now microchipped, compared to just 70 per cent in 2011 (74 per cent in cats).

The PDSA is holding a free webinar in partnership with The Webinar Vet on 3 December at 12 pm to discuss the report's findings. The event will discuss significant trends and what they mean for the veterinary profession, featuring leading speakers from across the sector. 

Emotions and mood influence animal behaviour, study finds

Emotions and mood influence animal behaviour, study finds

Discovery could have practical benefits for animal welfare.

Emotions and mood influence animal behaviour in a similar way to humans, according to new research.

Findings published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. suggest that animals display positive moods when they “win” and negative moods when they “lose”. 

Principal investigator Dr Gareth Arnott from Queens University Belfast, said the discovery could have practical benefits for the future of animal welfare. 

“Good welfare requires animals to have few negative emotions and lots of opportunities for positive experiences, he said. “Understanding animal emotions and why they evolved will, therefore, help us to measure and improve animals' emotional states and welfare.”

Researchers previously investigating animal contests have focused on how animals assess the value of a resource and their opponent’s fighting ability. In this new study, scientists argue that assessments contribute to an animals’ emotional state, and that emotions drive animal behaviour. 

Their paper indicates that, just as depressed or anxious humans are more pessimistic about the future, animals that lose fights are more negative and pessimistic, and are therefore less willing to engage in future fights. 

Lead author Andrew Crump, a postdoctoral researcher from the School of Biological Sciences at Queen’s, explained: “Human emotion influences unrelated cognition and behaviour. For example, people rate their overall life satisfaction higher on sunny days than rainy days. 

"We have found that animals’ emotions also influence unrelated cognition and behaviour. For example, animals that won a contest experienced a more positive mood and expected fewer predators in their environment. Similarly, animals that lost a contest experienced negative emotions and took part in less future contests. These carryover effects may lead to maladaptive behaviour."


Initiative to tackle growing problem of unowned cats

Initiative to tackle growing problem of unowned cats

iCatCare launches free virtual library of resources and advice.

International Cat Care (iCatCare) is launching a new initiative to help people working with unowned cats, kickstarting with a free, certified course on the 5 December.

Currently, there are an estimated 300 million unwanted cats worldwide. This number accounts for more than half the predicted global population of domestic cats and is rising year on year.

In a bid to tackle this problem, iCatCare has launched a virtual library of resources, bringing together latest research and expert knowledge. Entitled Cat-Friendly Solutions for Unowned Cats (CFSOC) the information is freely accessible to established professionals, volunteers and organisations, or those who are simply interested in the subject.

To launch the project iCatCare has created a free, certified introductory course called ‘Bringing Cat-Friendly Solutions for Unowned Cats to Life’. Through uplifting and emotional stories of three very different cats, users will be able to learn the principles of the CFSOC and test their knowledge as they progress.

The CFSOC also aims to create a community for those working with unowned cats to share their knowledge, ideas and experiences with like-minded people across the world.

Vicky Halls, cat-friendly homing project manager at iCatCare and CFSOC lead, said: “We strongly believe that collaboration, mutual support and care are needed for us to provide all cats with the best possible life experience.

"Be loud and proud about what you have achieved already but, for the sake of cats, aspire, with the support of others, to evolve from great to even better, as even little changes can make a difference to the species we all care about so much.”

For more information about CFSOC and to take the course when it becomes available on 5 December visit https://bit.ly/2KH4FYP

Image (C) iCatCare

Study aims to predict spread of deadly poultry viruses

Study aims to predict spread of deadly poultry viruses

Models could enable the development of effective vaccines.

Tools that will enable researchers to forecast the spread of deadly poultry viruses are being developed by scientists at the University of Edinburgh's Roslin Institute.

In a first-of-its-kind study, researchers aim to build computer models that can predict how Marek's disease transmits from bird to bird and how it evolves to become more harmful.
It is hoped the models could enable the development of effective vaccines and control strategies to prevent outbreaks. 

Professor Andrea Doeschl-Wilson, personal chair in animal disease genetics and modelling at the Roslin Institute explains: “This is the first study that investigates the combined influence of vaccination, host and viral genetics on how viruses are transmitted and evolve to higher virulence. 

“We hope that our models can inform future control strategies to help tackle the health, welfare and economic burden of Marek’s disease as well as other poultry viruses.”

Marek's Disease is currently controlled by 'imperfect' vaccines, with losses costing the poultry industry billions of pounds every year. In the study, researchers will use data from some 7,000 birds to assess how the virus evolves as it transmits up to 10 times. 

The team will compare effects in vaccinated and non-vaccinated chickens, and in chickens that differ in their genetic resistance to the virus. They will then identify common variations in the genetic code of the birds and viruses that are associated with higher virulence and to the ability of the viruses to evade immune surveillance. 

Finally, scientists will compare the genetic makeup of the most virulent variations of the viruses - thos ethat have been spread 10 times - with the original virus that infected the first chickens.
All of this data will then feed into computational models that simulate the spread and evolution of the disease.

BSAVA announces updated Endoscopy and Endosurgery Manual

BSAVA announces updated Endoscopy and Endosurgery Manual

Revised second edition provides the most up-to-date guidance.

The BSAVA has announced the publication of an updated edition of the BSAVA Manual of Canine and Feline Endoscopy and Endosurgery, accompanied by a collection of videos demonstrating the techniques.

Edited by Philip Lhermette, David Sobel and Elise Robertson, this second edition has been revised to provide the most comprehensive and up-to-date guidance for veterinary surgeons who wish to practice minimally invasive endoscopic techniques. 

Dr Jolle Kirpensteijn, chief professional veterinary officer at Hills Pet Nutrition in the USA and a past president of the WSAVA said: “I hope you are as excited to turn the pages as I was when I received the news that the new Manual was on its way. This book represents the pinnacle of endoscopic surgery.” 

According to the BSAVA, this new edition reflects the many endoscopy and endosurgery techniques that have changed since the first edition was published in 2008. Topics covered include routine procedures as well as more advanced techniques for more experienced practitioners.

The Manual is also accompanied by a series of 40 videos, accessible via the BSAVA Library, to help readers understand how to perform a particular procedure.

New topics include:

  • chapters on oesophagoscopy, interventional endoscopy, and evolving trends and future developments 
  • more detailed information on minimally invasive techniques in cats 
  • significantly expanded chapter on laparoscopy covering techniques ranging from liver biopsy and ovariectomy to cholecystectomy and adrenalectomy.

For more information about the manual visit the BSAVA website.

Blind therapy cat wins Blue Cross Medal

Blind therapy cat wins Blue Cross Medal

Carrots has been comforting patients at the Marie Curie Hospice in Bradford.

A blind therapy cat who helped to bring comfort to patients and their families at a Marie Curie Hospice has been awarded the historic Blue Cross Medal.

Four-year-old Carrots has been bringing joy to those living with anxiety and depression, as well as those who receive palliative care, at the Marie Curie Hospice in Bradford. 

Julia Mckecknie-Burke, Blue Cross director of fundraising and one of four judges on this year’s panel, said: “With the Blue Cross Medal we want to celebrate the extraordinary things pets do for us and how they change our lives. 

“Carrots is a perfect example of this, and we’re honoured to award him the Blue Cross Medal on its 80th anniversary, placing him alongside a long list extraordinary pets that have transformed or saved human lives.” 

Carrots visits to the hospice started when his owner, Katie Lloyd, was diagnosed with an Anaplastic Astrocytoma, but his soothing, confident nature soon won over the hearts of other patients.
The ginger tom, who lost his sight as a tiny kitten, now provides twice-weekly visits to the hospice, sitting beside patients so that they can stroke him and listen to him purr. 

Katie Lloyd said: “I'm so incredibly proud of Carrots for winning the 2020 Blue Cross Medal. I’m really humbled and didn’t expect Carrots to get this kind of recognition. When Carrots first arrived I knew immediately that he was a special boy. He has been my companion for many years, helping me get through some of the hardest times of my life. ”

Carrots is the only therapy cat within Marie Curie Hospices and is the UK's only blind therapy cat. During the COVID-19 pandemic - when not chasing his favourite scrunchy ball -  he has been writing letters to some of the patients he has met through his therapy work - naturally signing off every letter with a paw print. 

The Blue Cross Medal celebrates heroic pets who are changing or saving lives across the UK, with one pet being awarded the medal every year.

Launched during World War One, the Medal was initially given to people who helped rescue animals. The first time it was presented to an animal was in 1940, to a dog called ‘La Cloche’, for saving his owner from drowning after a German torpedo hit their ship.


Military dog Kuno awarded for bravery

Military dog Kuno awarded for bravery

Belgian shepherd suffered life-changing injuries while on duty.

A retired military working dog who saved the lives of British insurgents during a deadly Al Qaeda attack has been awarded the PDSA Dickin Medal for his bravery and devotion to duty.

In 2019, Belgian shepherd Kuno needed to have one of his paws amputated after sustaining bullet wounds to his back legs during a compound raid.

As the British came under attack, Kuno charged through a hail of gunfire to tackle the enemy, breaking the deadlock and allowing the soldiers to complete their mission.

Kuno was formally-presented with his medal – the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross – during a virtual presentation on Tuesday (24 November).

PDSA director general, Jan McLoughlin, said: “Kuno is a true hero. His actions that day undoubtedly changed the course of a vital mission, saving multiple lives in the process. And despite serious, life-changing injuries, he performed his duty without faltering.”

Following the attack, Kuno was given immediate life-saving treatment on the back of a helicopter. One bullet had narrowly missed a main artery, and he needed several operations before he was stable enough to return the UK.

A lengthy programme of rehabilitation ensued, and Kuno was eventually strong enough to be fitted with a pioneering custom-made prosthesis to replace his missing paw.

Now enjoying his retirement, Kuno is the 72nd recipient of the PDSA Dickin Medal. Previous recipients include 34 dogs, 32 World War II messenger pigeons, four horses and one cat.

Image (C) PDSA.

Chief vet welcomes cattle and sheep health and welfare reports

Chief vet welcomes cattle and sheep health and welfare reports

“Collating key data and understanding drivers for behavioural change are vital” - Christine Middlemiss.

The UK's chief veterinary officer has welcomed two reports from the UK Cattle and Sheep Health and Welfare Groups (CHAWG and SHAWG) highlighting areas of focus to drive forward improvements in farm health and welfare.

Representing 10 years of government and industry collaboration, the reports cover industry structure and priorities, challenges and opportunities, disease surveillance, health performance, and responsible medicine use.

Chief veterinary officer Christine Middlemiss said: “We congratulate the groups and all of their participants on providing the bridge between individual farm management and the health and welfare narrative that is so crucial to the future of the industry.

“Collating key data and understanding drivers for behavioural change are vital. The value of the continued work in driving health and welfare improvements, along with environment, performance and cost benefits, has been recognised across the sector."

She continued: “We now need to work in partnership across government, industry, science and academia, using a sound evidence base to agree disease control and eradication strategies moving forward.”

The CHAWG report provides a broad summary of facts and figures relating to the UK cattle industry. It reveals that industry-led programmes to eradicate bovine viral diarrhoea (BVD) and Johne’s Disease continue to make great progress as a result of new marketing campaigns and initiatives.

The report also shows that substantial progress has been made on reducing the numbers of dairy bull calves euthanised on farm. A cross-industry coalition has outlined a vision for the dairy industry to rear all calves with care and eliminate euthanasia of calves by 2023.

The SHAWG report examines progress over six key objectives, including aims to reduce the impact of disease through better use of surveillance and prioritising nutrition and welfare.

It shows there has been a marked reduction in national levels of lameness, with the sector heading towards meeting the Animal Welfare Council target of fewer than two per cent of sheep lame by 2021.

Both reports highlight the role of livestock farmers in supporting One Health efforts to reduce the development of antimicrobial resistance.

Low cholesterol linked to mortality in cats and dogs, study suggests

Low cholesterol linked to mortality in cats and dogs, study suggests

Researchers assess the period prevalence of hypocholesterolaemia and associated mortality rates.
Low levels of cholesterol are associated with mortality in canine and feline patients, according to new research.

The study published in the Journal of Small Animal Practice assessed the period prevalence of hypocholesterolaemia and the associated mortality rates in dogs and cats at the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, University of California, Davis. 

The team reviewed medical records of cats and dogs presenting to the hospital from September 2011 to August 2016 to identify animals that had at least one cholesterol measurement. They also collated patient signalment and clinical information, before calculating the period prevalence and mortality rate of hypocholesterolaemia. 

The study revealed that the period prevalence of hypocholesterolaemia was 7 per cent in dogs and 4.7 per cent in cats. The mortality rate of hypocholesteraemic dogs and cats was 12 per cent in both species, which was significantly higher than that of animals with normal serum cholesterol. 

Steven Epstein, corresponding author for the paper, said: “The odds of death in dogs and cats with hypocholesterolaemia were 3.2 and 2.5 times higher than in those with normocholesterolaemia respectively. Furthermore, there was a significant linear trend towards higher mortality in association with more severe hypocholesterolaemia in both species.

“Disease of the hepatic, gastrointestinal and lymphoreticular systems were most commonly associated with hypocholesterolaemia, and infectious and neoplastic disease were the most commonly associated pathophysiological processes in both species. In dogs with neoplasia, lymphoma was over-represented.”

JSAP editor Nicola Di Girolamo said: “These findings suggest that low cholesterol levels are associated with mortality in canine and feline patients. It is not clear whether hypocholesterolaemia is simply a marker for disease severity, or if it has active physiological effects contributing to poor outcomes. At this stage, it seems indicated to enhance intensity of diagnostic effort and therapy for affected animals.”

Vets identify gene responsible for feline tooth resorption

Vets identify gene responsible for feline tooth resorption

Blocking activity of the MMP9 gene could prevent condition from developing.

A team of vets at the University of Edinburgh's Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies say they have identified a gene responsible for causing feline tooth resorption - a common condition estimated to affect 20 to 60 per cent of all cats.

The discovery follows an analysis of genetic material recovered from the teeth of 11 cats, with permission of the animals' owners. Vets found more than 1,000 genes that had been active in teeth where resorption had occurred and therefore might be involved in the process. 

The team concentrated on one particular gene - the MMP9 gene - which produces a protein commonly found in areas of damaged tissue. In experiments using two different techniques to prevent activity in the gene, both approaches prevented the biological processes associated with tooth resorption.

Researchers say their findings, published in Scientific Reports, suggest that the MMP9 gene, and the protein it generates, are involved in causing tooth resorption. Blocking the action of this particular gene could, therefore, prevent the cell processes that lead to disease, they write.

Dr Seungmee Lee from the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, explains: “This is a painful condition which affects virtually all mature cats, and currently there is no effective way to manage the disease other than removing affected teeth. By examining genes involved in the process it seems that if we stop the activity of the MMP9 gene, we may be able to prevent the condition from developing.” 

Currently, there are no treatments for tooth resorption other than extracting the affected teeth. Researchers say their discovery could inform new treatments for this condition and may also have implications for other conditions, such as the role of MMP9 in bone diseases.

Winners of Hill's Pet Nutrition Nurse Awards revealed

Winners of Hill's Pet Nutrition Nurse Awards revealed

Hard-working nurses and nursing teams celebrated during difficult year

Veterinary nurses who have shown outstanding dedication and commitment to supporting pets and owners have been recognised as part of the annual Hill's Pet Nutrition Nurse Awards.

“We’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who entered our awards during this very ‘unusual’ year,” said Fi Marjoram, nurse programme coordinator at Hill's Pet Nutrition.

“It has been a challenging year for everyone, but as expected, the commitment and dedication shown by vet nurses around the country has not wavered and we are thrilled to give them the recognition they deserve.”

The finalists and winners in each category are as follows:

The Senior Support Nurse Award

Laura-Jean Hammersley of White Cross Vets, Coulby Newham – winner
Jane White of Abbey House Veterinary Hospital, Morely
Becky Smith of Wilton House Vets, Guisborough.

The Managing Weight with Excellence Award

The nursing team from Heathside Veterinary Surgery, Southampton – winners
Alex John of St James’ Vets, Swansea
Becky Smith of Wilton House, Guisborough.

Hill's Pet Nutrition also announced the Canine and Feline Slimmers of the Year, who undertook incredible weight loss journeys across 2020.

The winner in the canine category was Willow Mason from Guisborough. She entered the awards in 2019 and has lost 40 per cent of her start weight since then. Overall Willow went from 27.5kg to 16.5kg with the help of Becky Smith from Wilton House Vets.

The nursing team at Pennard Vets in Allington helped feline winner Timmy Howell to go from 14.4kg to a more manageable 6.9kg. Overall the cat has lost an amazing 48 per cent of his start weight.

For more details on how to apply for the 2021 awards, please speak to your local Hill’s Pet Nutrition territory manager.