Journal news

Government offers financial lifeline to zoos and aquariums

By Kathryn Clark

Licensed zoos and aquariums in England whose income has been severely affected by the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions have been offered a financial lifeline by the government.

A £14 million support fund, which was announced on 4 May by the animal welfare minister Lord Goldsmith, is designed to help those that need additional support to maintain the welfare of their animals.

Zoos will be able to apply for grants of up to £100,000

Individual establishments in England covered by the Zoo Licensing Act will be able to apply for grants of up to £100,000 to cover costs such as keepers’ wages, animal feed and bedding, and veterinary care and medicines. If an application is approved, payments will be made over a maximum of three months.

However, Defra warned that the fund is aimed at supporting smaller zoos at immediate risk and at protecting animal welfare, and...

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Concern over student numbers cap

The RCVS, the BVA and the Veterinary Schools Council (VSC) have written a joint letter to the government expressing concern over plans to cap student numbers at UK universities.

On 4 May, the government announced a temporary cap on student numbers as part of measures to support the higher education sector during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The letter from the RCVS, BVA and VSC, addressed to Michelle Donelan, the minister of state for universities, requests that UK vet schools be exempt from the measure.

It points out that there is currently a shortage of vets in the UK, and the sector is heavily reliant on vets educated within the EU, who make up around 60 per cent of vets joining the RCVS register each year.

With the travel restrictions in place due to the current pandemic, it is expected that the number of EU graduates coming to the UK will...

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In other Covid-19 news

• Dogs Trust is helping to support the national effort in the fight against Covid-19 by donating medical equipment to the NHS.

Dogs Trust Loughborough donated 120 surgical gowns to nearby Lings Bar Hospital, while Dogs Trust Basildon has provided 300 masks to Basildon University Hospital. The charity has also collected 18 oxygen cylinders from across its network of UK rehoming centres to make them available for use within the NHS.

• The RCVS Mind Matters Initiative has launched an Innovation in Wellbeing competition to find the best ideas for how vet teams can enhance mental health and wellbeing during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The competition is encouraging vet teams to think of inventive ideas for supporting each other, boosting morale and encouraging a sense of togetherness at a time when they are having to physically distance from each other and may only be communicating remotely.

Further details about the...

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How are vets finding solace in nature?

The Covid-19 lockdown is taking its toll on individuals, families, communities and businesses across the world. But, as founder and coordinator of Vet Sustain Laura Higham explains, we can all find consolation in nature during these testing times.

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Climate-sensitive diseases to be tracked

By Josh Loeb

The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) is creating a special register of ‘climate-sensitive’ vectorborne diseases, the distribution of which it is hoping to better map as the world heats up.

The global organisation is heightening surveillance and monitoring around certain diseases, and wants to harness the power of big data and artificial intelligence to make predictions about the future spread of climate-assisted pathogens.

This, it hopes, will allow countries to adapt their food systems and subsequently reduce their vulnerability to starvation arising from climate change.

Matthew Stone, the OIE’s deputy director general of international standards and science, told World Veterinary Association (WVA) congress delegates last month that Rift Valley fever, West Nile fever, bluetongue and avian influenza were among the diseases classified as ‘climate sensitive’ by the OIE.

Threats to livestock from these diseases, and the knock-on impact this could have on food availability, is...

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Maximum limits on export times suggested

By Josh Loeb

NO livestock exported from the UK should face journey times of more than 21 hours without explicit permission from the government, an expert group advising ministers has recommended.

The Animal Welfare Committee (AWC), formerly known as the Farm Animal Welfare Committee, said that longer journeys should normally be regarded as unjustifiable.

The recommendation was contained in a 400-page report written for the UK government and devolved administrations by the AWC and published in April.

The expert group, which is chaired by former RCVS president Peter Jinman, concluded that ‘until scientific evidence is provided, no animal should be exposed to journeys longer than 21 hours’.

It suggested that if firms transporting animals wanted to extend the journey time beyond the maximum 21-hour limit then they should be obliged to give reasons and obtain an official letter of dispensation from the APHA or equivalent devolved department.

Even then,...

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Digitising cytology diagnosis and teaching

Veterinary pathologist Francesco Cian has teamed up with online CPD provider VetCPD and US company Lacuna Diagnostics to offer vets the opportunity to improve their cytology skills using the latest digital technology.

Cian explains that, in the past few years, diagnostic laboratories have increasingly been using ‘whole slide imaging’ to digitise cytology and histology smears. This uses computer technology to scan and convert traditional histopathology and cytology glass slides into digital images (digital slides) that can be viewed remotely by pathologists on a workstation using viewing software.

The advantages are ‘immense’ he says. These include the ease of sending slides digitally to pathologists who are working at home and the ability to share and discuss slides from interesting cases, or those that require a second opinion.

Digital scanners are becoming available for vets to use themselves, and Lacuna Diagnostics offers a diagnostic service in which vets prepare and scan...

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e-learning during covid-19

Improve International is offering discounted access to its online bitesize CPD training for vet professionals who are keen to refresh or develop their learning during the Covid-19 lockdown. The training offers flexibility to vets and vet nurses who want to access to concise clinical topics at a time and place to suit them. There are 10 core subject areas for vets and six for vet nurses, with new modules released regularly. The sessions are interactive and feature quizzes, case studies and support materials.

Dechra Veterinary Products has improved the functionality of its free online training academy. A new weekly series of webinars will look at how to successfully manage chronic cases within the constraints of the current pandemic in line with guidelines issued by the RCVS, the BVA and the government. The academy includes webinars, elearning, ebooks and videos and is fully optimised for tablets and...

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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...

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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...

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    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.

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    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...

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