Journal news

Vet nurse consultations could help financial recovery from Covid-19

Vet nurses (VNs) offering consultations in areas that fall within their remit could help generate significant revenue once practices are fully operational following the Covid-19 lockdown. This would also free up vets’ time to deal with more complex cases.

Animal health data company Veterinary Insights has used its Vet Viewer benchmarking tool to calculate the value of VN consultations and their impact on practice turnover. The results, released as part of Vet Nurse Awareness Month, show that practices are not making the most of their VNs in terms of their ability to generate revenue, it says.

The calculations found that VNs carry out 6.5 per cent of all practice consultations, and that 71 per cent of these are provided free, compared to 21 per cent of vet consultations.

The data show that when practices charge for VN consults, the average charge is around 30 per cent less than for...

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New equine vet nursing degree

Hartpury University has developed a new equine vet nursing degree course, which will provide its graduates with the clinical skills and knowledge needed to have a successful and rewarding career in a highly valued profession, it says.

The four-year course is accredited by the RCVS and includes a placement at an RCVS-approved equine vet nursing training practice, giving students valuable experience and connections for their careers. The university’s facilities include a clinical skills centre, a commercial equine therapy centre, an equestrian centre with 230 horses at livery, and an experienced teaching team of vet nurses with clinical experience.

Catherine Phillips, head of the vet nursing department, said: ‘We’re preparing our students with the clinical and professional skills they need to help drive forward a vibrant, sustainable profession.’

Hartpury University, Hartpury House, Gloucester GL19 3BE, telephone 01452 702100.

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Guidance on rebuilding businesses

The challenges of rebuilding businesses in a ‘new normal’ environment are highlighted in a business re-emergence manual created by the Veterinary Management Group (VMG) for its members.

The VMG says the peer-reviewed manual has been designed to be relevant for any veterinary business and has been developed following a detailed review of contemporary academic and business literature, with expert input from the VMG board of directors.

The manual suggests that as they plan for recovery, businesses should consider:

• People – including new working patterns, communication, training needs and transition plans;

• Planet – including sustainability issues, environmental considerations and animal welfare;

• Profit – including cash flow, profit and loss and service provision.

With guidance on each of these areas, the manual encourages practice leaders to consider the factors most relevant for their organisation and to think about short-term, medium-term and long-term priorities.

The VMG is pausing subscription...

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Medicines update

The points below highlight changes in marketing authorisations (MAs) that may have a significant impact on veterinary surgeons’ prescribing decisions.

New marketing authorisations

New marketing authorisations relevant to veterinary surgeons in the UK that were issued or published in March 2020 are listed in Table 1.

Table 1 also indicates where a public assessment report should become available for a product. Where available, links to these reports are accessible by clicking on the relevant product on the VMD’s Product Information Database

The European Medicines Agency publishes European Public Assessment Reports for every veterinary medicine that is authorised through a centralised procedure. Links to these reports are accessible at

There may be a delay between the issuing of a marketing authorisation to a company and the product being placed on the market.

Changes to marketing authorisationsSmall animals

(1) Ataxxa Spot-on solution...

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Bovine herpesvirus respiratory disease affecting weaned calves

SRUC VS disease Surveillance headlines, February 2020

  • Congenital lymphoma as a cause of bovine abortion.

  • Abomasal tympany and mural emphysema associated with Sarcina species colonisation in Suffolk lambs.

  • Multiple abortions due to porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus in an outdoor pig herd.

  • Ongoing losses due to avian tuberculosis in a backyard poultry flock.

  • The mean temperature in Scotland in February was 0.4°C above the long-term average and it was the second wettest February in a series from 1862. Rainfall was near average in the north east but most other parts of the country had well over twice the normal amount. Sunshine was 104 per cent of average but generally below average in the west, and well above normal in Aberdeenshire.

    CattleAlimentary tract disorders

    Two calves, born to heifers following assisted calvings, died within six hours of birth. The second calf failed to...

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    Improving the teaching of fundoscopy in veterinary medicine

    Learning how to examine the fundus of veterinary patients consistently and well is undeniably difficult, and teaching aids are important to avoid the demotivation of students.1,2 However, the rewards of mastering the technique are equally undeniable. Fundic abnormalities may be present in cases where there is only a narrow window of opportunity for recognition and treatment of conditions that threaten vision (eg, optic neuritis) or even life itself (eg, severe systemic hypertension). Fundoscopy also frequently enables us to distinguish potentially reversible from irreversible pathology, thereby guiding clinical decision making with clients.3,4

    The teaching of fundoscopy has taken many routes over the years, and a variety of methods enabling the tutor and student to see the same thing at the same time have been employed. Early methods included the use of teaching prisms on the headpiece of binocular indirect ophthalmoscopes, resulting in...

    Categories: Journal news

    Use of smartphones to aid the teaching of equine ocular fundus examination


    Teaching and learning how to perform examination of the ocular fundus is challenging. Smartphones can support to enhance students’ confidence and experience.


    Following an optional year-4 ophthalmoscopy practical using hand-held ophthalmoscopes, students completed a questionnaire using a visual analogue scale (VAS) investigating if students felt smartphone use aided learning and if student’s self-assessed confidence in visualising the ocular fundus had improved. VAS scores were compared using the Wilcoxon signed rank test (significance: P<0.05).


    All 30 year-4 students attending the practical participated to the study. Confidence in performing direct ophthalmoscopy significantly increased after the practical. Confidence after the practical was 65.3 (±19.8) per cent compared with before the practical when confidence was 20.1 (±15.6) per cent (P<0.001). The perceived usefulness of traditional teaching was 62.3 (±23.8) per cent. The perceived usefulness of the teaching with the smartphone was 91.1 (±8.6) per cent. While students found both methods useful, they perceived the use of the smartphone to be significantly more useful (P<0.001). Free-text comments on the use of the smartphone were all positive and included ‘useful’, ‘fun’ and ‘good teaching tool’.


    This study shows that students positively received the use of the smartphone, which can be a useful tool to teach the equine ocular examination to undergraduate veterinary students.

    Categories: Journal news

    Prevalence and clinical significance of the medullary rim sign identified on ultrasound of feline kidneys


    The medullary rim sign (MRS) is an ultrasonographic (US) feature identified in normal and diseased feline kidneys. The prevalence and potential clinical significance of the MRS in a referral hospital cat population was investigated.


    Retrospective case–control study. US images from 661 cats were reviewed. Cats with an MRS were identified and compared with equal number of time-matched control cats. Medical data and MRS features, including thickness, intensity and symmetry, were collected. Associations between independent variables and the MRS were examined with conditional and unconditional logistic regression, with initial univariable, and subsequent multivariable analysis.


    Of the 661 reviewed cats, 243 (36.8 per cent) showed a variation of the MRS. A thin MRS (133 cats) was not associated with azotaemic renal disease (P=0.87). A thick MRS (110 cats) was associated with azotaemic renal disease (P=0.001). There was an association between the presence of MRS and a final diagnosis of feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) (P=0.028).


    The MRS is a common finding in cats. In this cat population, a thick MRS was associated with azotaemic renal disease, while a thin MRS was not. In cases with a clinical suspicion of FIP, the MRS may be related to the underlying disease process and not be an incidental finding.

    Categories: Journal news

    Clinical effects of epidurally administered dexmedetomidine with or without lidocaine in sheep


    The aims of this study were evaluate cardiopulmonary, sedative and antinociceptive effects of dexmedetomidine–lidocaine combination via lumbosacral epidural injection in sheep.


    Six Santa Inês breed sheep, 16±6 months old and weighing 42.2 ± 5.7 kg were used. Sheep were subjected to epidural anaesthesia with three treatments: L, lidocaine (1.2 mg/kg), D, dexmedetomidine (2.5 μg/kg) or DL, dexmedetomidine plus lidocaine (2.5 μg/kg + 1.2 mg/kg). Drugs were injected via pre-placed lumbosacral epidural catheters. Cardiopulmonary, arterial blood gases, electrolytes, degree of sedation and antinociceptive aspects were measured before drug administration (T0) and then at 15, 30, 60 and 120 min after drug injection (T15–T120) in all treatments and at T0 to T240 in DL.


    There were significantly increases in PaCO2 at times T60 and T120 in D, and at T30–T120 in DL, compared to baseline. The antinociceptive effects were observed up to 240 min in DL and 60 min in L, and were more intense in DL. Treatment D provided analgesia only in the perineal region, and only at T15.


    The combination of DEX with lidocaine produced similar cardiopulmonary changes compared with either drug alone, but with greater and more prolonged antinociceptive effects.

    Categories: Journal news

    Selected highlights from other journals

    Assessing pain in growing pigs using the Piglet Grimace Scale

    C. Vullo, S. Barbieri, G. Catone and others

    Animals (2020) 10

    doi: 10.3390/ani10030412

    • What did the research find?

    Surgical castration of cryptorchid pigs was completed without complications, and no pigs required postoperative rescue analgesia. However, the mean piglet grimace scale (PGS) score for the pigs increased from 1.02 before surgery to 2.16 six hours after surgery (P=0.02). This increase in PGS score correlated with a significant reduction in the pigs’ activity levels. The interobserver reliability of the PGS was excellent, with an overall interclass correlation coefficient value of 0.87.

    • How was it conducted?

    Ten mixed-breed cryptorchid pigs with a mean age of 73 days were filmed the day before undergoing surgical castration and six hours after surgery to evaluate their behaviour. Still frames of the face of each pig were also extracted from the videos every time...

    Categories: Journal news

    Using judgement to balance risks

    In response to Michael Smalley’s letter (VR, 2/9 May 2020, vol 186, p 497), I would like to support the BVA’s stance on its guidelines to the profession.

    One must remember these are guidelines, not law, and must be interpreted by individual practices and practitioners using their professional judgement and common sense, taking into account their regional situation. Where there is little disease at present, as in the south west of England, it makes little sense to stop all business activity. We will be more challenged by this virus when lockdown is eased, and will in future have to exercise even more caution than at present.

    As a director of an independent practice myself, I have been faced with some staff who will not come to work at all, and a septuagenarian I cannot keep away. One must respect the individual and their wishes in each case I feel.

    Categories: Journal news

    Protocol for assessing imported cats

    There has, rightly, been much focus recently on the risk of introducing foreign pathogens into the UK from imported rescue dogs and on protocols to limit this risk. One such example is the four pillars set out by the European Scientific Counsel for Companion Animal Parasites (ESCCAP) UK & Ireland, which encourages a thorough veterinary health check, screening for exotic parasites, tick and tapeworm treatment and physical screening for ticks. The aims of such protocols are to protect individual households into which these dogs are introduced, to make informed long-term medical decisions and to improve national biosecurity.

    Although the numbers of cats being imported are smaller when compared with dogs, the RSPCA has been involved in a number of cases concerning imported cats and has sought advice from experts working in this field.

    The following protocol has been used by the RSPCA for the assessment of cats with a...

    Categories: Journal news

    Could vets manage Covid-19 better?

    Further to the two most interesting articles by Joe Brownlie and Dick Sibley (VR, 18/25 April 2020, vol 186, pp 446-448, 462-463), the second article in particular created an interesting debate between myself, my daughter and her partner – both medical doctors, each with some seven years’ experience.

    We all agreed with Brownlie and Sibley’s remark about under-resourcing of the NHS.

    We also all agreed on the basic application of the ‘four pillars’ of disease management described; namely biosecurity, biocontainment, surveillance and resilience. Like the authors, one worries that some of the models being used by the epidemiologists are inaccurate, especially when based on quite difficult data. As commented, similar projections were used in the 2001 UK foot-and-mouth disease outbreak to underpin government policy that was subsequently shown to be mistaken. No doubt in time we will see if this was also the case here.

    However, on the matter...

    Categories: Journal news

    Could vets manage Covid-19 better?

    I read the Editorial and the Debate article by Joe Brownlie and Dick Sibley in the same issue with some concern (VR, 18/25 April 2020, vol 186, pp 429, 462-463), which made me think about whether vets would manage the Covid-19 outbreak better.

    First, Covid-19 is a human health problem.

    Second, we are a profession deeply involved in a decades-old attempt to control a major – potentially zoonotic – disease caused by an infectious agent – bovine TB. In living memory we have also been involved in two large foot-and-mouth disease outbreaks. And there is no 100 per cent sure way to control Johne’s disease. So why should the government trust us?

    Third, the matter of trust in partners you work with is crucial to government. For example, the government was told ventilators were needed, and lots of them, and now the clinical effectiveness of ventilators is being questioned....

    Categories: Journal news

    RCVS council vote an opportunity for change

    I should like to thank everyone who voted for me in the 2020 RCVS council election. Despite members having to struggle with the day-to-day difficulty of continuing to care for animals during the Covid-19 crisis, there was a record turnout for an RCVS council election.

    I am humbled by the level of support shown for my candidacy and delighted to have received an incredible 3943 votes. I would like to take this opportunity to commiserate with the unsuccessful candidates.

    I believe that the high turnout and the fact that two new candidates have been elected demonstrates a desire for change

    I believe that the high turnout and the fact that two new candidates have been elected demonstrates a desire for change in the manner in which council has recently conducted itself – particularly that members want more openness and to be involved in decision making.

    I hope that...

    Categories: Journal news

    The ethics of culling badgers

    I write in response to the Debate article by Alick Simmons on the ethics of badger culling (VR, 21 March 2020, vol 186, pp 357-358).

    He lists questions on ethical wildlife control compiled by Dubois and others,1 who accept that culling can ‘be justified by evidence that significant harms are being caused to people, property, livelihoods, ecosystems and/or other animals’, and supplies his answers.

    One question is ‘Are the decisions warranted by the specifics of the situation rather than negative labels applied to the animals?’.

    To this, Simmons answers: ‘No they are not. While the badger enjoys comprehensive protection and is regarded fondly by a large proportion of the public, it has been characterised largely by farming interests as destructive, dirty, diseased and a threat to ground nesting birds and hedgehogs’.

    But I would suggest the badger is a threat to ground nesting birds.2, 3

    Categories: Journal news

    Alick Simmons responds

    I was pleased to see the response from Trevor Jones to the article about the killing of badgers to control bovine TB (bTB) (VR, 21 March 2020, vol 186, pp 357-358). The subject deserves vigorous debate.

    The badger cull is solely a disease control measure

    My original article considered the ethics of killing wildlife to control livestock disease. Jones seeks to add conservation to the debate. The badger cull is solely a disease control measure and the two issues should not be conflated.

    There is no evidence that badgers affect the breeding success of ground nesting birds. Meta-analysis from 2005 concluded that the national impact of badgers on bird populations is likely to be low in the UK.1 However, Jones is correct when he states that badgers predate hedgehogs, although the extent to which the increased badger population has contributed to the decline in hedgehog populations,...

    Categories: Journal news

    Death notices

    Day On 10 May 2020, Michael Joseph Day, BVMS, BSc, PhD, DipECVP, FASM, FRCPath, DSc, FRCVS, of Cheddar, Somerset. Professor Day qualified from Murdoch university and was admitted to the register in 1987.

    doi: 10.1136/vr.m1899

    Jones On 15 April 2020, Elfed James Jones, BSc, MRCVS, of Wellington, Shropshire. Mr Jones qualified from Edinburgh in 1950.

    doi: 10.1136/vr.m1900

    Oldham On 24 April 2020, John Godfrey Oldham, BVetMed, MRCVS, of Hedon, Hull. Mr Oldham qualified from London in 1949.

    doi: 10.1136/vr.m1901

    Stanton On 15 April 2020, David Stanton, BVMS, MRCVS, of Heswall, Wirral. Mr Stanton qualified from Glasgow in 1966.

    doi: 10.1136/vr.m1902

    Witos On 3 January 2020, Wojciech Tadeusz Witos, MRCVS of Bridgnorth, Shropshire. Mr Witos qualified from Warsaw university and was admitted into the register in 2006.

    doi: 10.1136/vr.m1903

    Categories: Journal news

    Time to rethink our lives and businesses

    It’s been a stressful and, in some cases, tragic few months. While we’re not out of the woods yet, the prime minister has laid out a ‘sketch of a roadmap’ of how to unlock the UK from Covid-19.

    As this strategy evolves, it’s clear vet practices must adapt to a new normal and accommodate different ways of working for the future.

    I see Covid-19 as a ctrl/alt/del reset – a rare opportunity to rethink our lives and businesses

    I see Covid-19 as a ctrl/alt/del reset – a rare opportunity to rethink our lives and businesses. Three clear themes are developing to support the objective of keeping R0, the basic reproductive rate of the virus, below 1.

    First, fears about a persistent risk of infection. Social distancing is likely to continue for some time, restricting mass gatherings and travel to essential-only activities. The implications for companies are huge and...

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    Is this the wake up call weve needed?

    Have you ever tried eating insects? I can barely watch the bushtucker trials on ITV’s ‘I’m a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here!’ without gagging like a cat with a furball. I was once offered a mealworm while travelling in South Africa, but with its fat, wrinkly, squidgy body, I just couldn’t face it. I can imagine that eating a cricket might be alright, with a nice crunch to it, but to be honest I would rather have some pork scratchings. So, it is food for thought then (no pun intended) that insects are already being farmed for animal and human consumption, and are being promoted as a viable alternative protein source to help mitigate food insecurity.

    I am no eco warrior but I do try to do my bit for the environment; I take shopping bags to the supermarket rather than buying new ones, occasionally ride my bike to...

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