Journal news

Defra taking action to prevent African swine fever in the UK

Josh Loeb outlines new government measures to tackle the disease that is steadily making its way through Europe

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In brief

African swine fever found in Slovakia

Slovakia has reported its first case of African swine fever.

The case was found in Strážne, in the Kosice region, in a backyard pig holding. Four animals were suspected to have the disease, but only one case was confirmed. All four were killed and disposed of.

Strážne is situated in the south of Slovakia, just a few kilometres from the Hungarian border where ASF has been found in wild boar.

A three-kilometre protective zone and 10-kilometre surveillance zone have been put in place. Farmers within these zones will be subject to additional measures to control the disease. The origin of the outbreak is unknown.

Since Defra’s last report on ASF, dated 18 July, there have been three outbreaks of ASF found in domestic pigs in large commercial holdings in Bulgaria and Romania. There have also been an additional 94 outbreaks in small commercial...

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'Theres no conspiracy with telemedicine debate

By Josh Loeb

A member of RCVS council has delivered an impassioned plea for members of the profession to believe reassurances given on telemedicine.

In recent weeks the college has sought to address concerns that have arisen around provision of telemedicine services, including remote prescribing.

The issue was raised at BVA council last week, when Sue Paterson, a member of RCVS council and president of the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA), leapt to the college’s defence.

The college is receptive to everybody’s views

She acknowledged that some members of the profession were wary about some council members’ ‘conflicts of interest’, but she added: ‘I promise you, the college is receptive to everybody’s views, and everybody is absolutely hand in the air when they have a conflict at every single stage of the proceedings.’

She said she was open about the fact that she is the veterinary director...

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Celebrating success in animal welfare science

Two top scientists were awarded for their contributions to the field of animal welfare at the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare (UFAW) conference last month.

Paul Hemsworth was awarded the UFAW Medal for outstanding contributions to animal welfare science.

For almost 40 years, Australian scientist Hemsworth pioneered and led internationally acclaimed research on the role of human-animal interactions in the welfare and productivity of farm livestock.

His research focussed on furthering the understanding of how human characteristics – such as attitudes and behaviours – can affect farm animal welfare and productivity. This research underpinned training programmes for the dairy, pig and poultry industries.

In 1997, he jointly established the Animal Welfare Science Centre with the University of Melbourne, Monash University and the Department of Natural Resources and Environment in Victoria, and as director led the centre to become the pre-eminent such centre in Australia.

Also receiving an award was...

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Building a veterinary evidence manifesto

Ingrid Torjesen reports from EBMLive, where Vet Record ran a workshop session to explore what vets can learn from the human medical world when it comes to driving evidence-based practice.

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Disease surveillance in England and Wales, July 2019

APHA disease Surveillance report headlines

  • Illegal imports and the risk of African swine fever

  • Nutritional myopathy in suckler calves

  • Tetracycline resistance in Mannheimia haemolytica isolated from lambs with pneumonia

  • Clostridial myositis and cellulitis in pigs

  • Leg abnormalities in pheasants

  • Disease and threats summaryAfrican swine fever virus and imported pork products

    There are ongoing concerns around pork products from non-EU countries entering the EU in passenger luggage and then being discarded in areas where wild boar or domestic pigs are present.

    With regular direct flights to the EU, including the UK, from China and eastern Asia, there is a risk of entry of African swine fever (ASF) virus in products of animal origin from Asia. Numerous media accounts in 2019 have reported the movement of illegal pork products and ASF-infected pork products from China.

    In June 2019, as part of routine activities, port...

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    Enzootic abortion of ewes

    This focus article has been prepared by Amanda Carson and Rudolf Reichel of the APHA Small Ruminant Species Expert Group and Maggie He, data analyst at the APHA Surveillance Intelligence Unit.

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    Beyond steroids and bronchodilators - investigating additional therapies for horses with severe equine asthma

    Chronic inflammatory airway disease in horses has been known by many names over the past few decades, including heaves, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), inflammatory airway disease (IAD) and recurrent airway obstruction (RAO) – with the variant of summer-pasture associated RAO (SPRAO).

    In 2016, the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM) revised consensus statement on IAD in horses proposed a further change in terminology, combining IAD and RAO under the umbrella of ‘equine asthma syndrome’, with a differentiation into mild-moderate equine asthma (formerly IAD) and severe equine asthma (formerly RAO).1 This change in terminology was based on the realisation that chronic airway inflammation in horses is likely to be a collection of clinical and clinicopathological manifestations – or phenotypes – that may have different underlying pathophysiological mechanisms, similar to human asthma syndrome.1,2

    This evolving thought process has highlighted the need to further...

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    Randomised study of the immunomodulatory effects of azithromycin in severely asthmatic horses

    Neutrophilic inflammation is believed to contribute to the airway obstruction and remodelling in equine asthma. Azithromycin, an antibiotic with immunomodulatory properties, reduces pulmonary neutrophilia and hyper-responsiveness in human asthmatics and decreases airway remodelling in rodent models of asthma. It was therefore hypothesised that azithromycin would improve lung function, mucus accumulation and central airway remodelling by decreasing luminal neutrophilia in severe equine asthma. The effects of a 10-day treatment with either azithromycin or ceftiofur, an antimicrobial without immune-modulating activity, were assessed using a blind, randomised, crossover design with six severe asthmatic horses in clinical exacerbation. Lung function, tracheal mucus accumulation, tracheal wash bacteriology, bronchial remodelling, airway neutrophilia and mRNA expression of proinflammatory cytokines (interleukin (IL)-8, IL-17A, IL-1β, tumour necrosis factor-α) in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid were evaluated. Azithromycin decreased the expression of IL-8 (P=0.03, one-tailed) and IL-1β (P=0.047, one-tailed) but failed to improve the other variables evaluated. Ceftiofur had no effect on any parameter. The reduction of neutrophilic chemoattractants (IL-8, IL-1β) justifies further efforts to investigate the effects of a prolonged treatment with macrolides on airway neutrophilia and remodelling. The lack of efficacy of ceftiofur suggests that severe equine asthma should not be treated with antibiotics at first-line therapy.

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    Exploring early life events including diet in cats presenting for gastrointestinal signs in later life

    Our study aimed to determine if certain early life events were more prevalent in cats presenting to veterinary practices specifically for gastrointestinal signs on at least two occasions between six months and 30 months of age. Data from an owner-completed questionnaire for 1212 cats before 16 weeks of age and subsequent questionnaires for the same cats between six months and 30 months of age were reviewed. Of the 1212 cats included, 30 visited a veterinary practice for gastrointestinal signs on two or more occasions. Of the early life events recorded, cats reported with vomiting, diarrhoea or both, and/or those not exclusively fed commercial diet(s) that meets the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) Global Nutrition Committee (GNC) guidelines before 16 weeks of age were more likely to visit veterinary practices specifically for gastrointestinal signs on at least two occasions between six months and 30 months of age (P<0.001, odds ratio (OR)=2.64, 95 per cent confidence interval (CI)=1.66–4.22 and P=0.030, OR=1.51, 95 per cent CI=1.04–2.22, respectively). Ensuring cats exclusively consume commercial diet(s) that meets the WSAVA GNC guidelines and further studies identifying specific aetiologies for vomiting and diarrhoea before 16 weeks of age to enable prevention may reduce the number of cats subsequently presenting to primary care veterinary practices for repeated gastrointestinal signs.

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    Evaluation of alfaxalone and dexmedetomidine for intramuscular restraint in European hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus)

    The European hedgehogs may require the use of chemical restraint for clinical examination because of their tendency to roll up as a defensive behaviour. This study evaluated the effects of alfaxalone combined with dexmedetomidine for restraint of hedgehogs undergoing pre-release health checks and atipamezole for recovery.

    Twenty hedgehogs received alfaxalone 2 mg/kg and dexmedetomidine 0.05 mg/kg intramuscularly in the quadriceps. If the righting reflex was still present, both drugs were administered at half of the initial doses. A semiquantitative scale scored sedation; clinical variables evaluated included pulse rate, respiratory rate, arterial haemoglobin oxygen saturation, end-tidal CO2 and body temperature.

    The righting reflex disappeared between 141 and 880 seconds. Overweight animals required one additional injection to achieve adequate relaxation. Pulse rate decreased during the procedure and increased after atipamezole administration. Respiratory rate and end-tidal CO2 did not change statistically throughout the procedure but one hedgehog showed haemoglobin oxygen saturation lower than 90%. Recovery after atipamezole was smooth and complete. Body temperature decreased over time.

    The sedation protocol may represent an effective combination to restrain European hedgehogs and atipamezole provides a rapid antagonism. Additional sedatives administration may be required in overweight animals and an external source of oxygen should be available.

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    Selected highlights from other journals

    What disorders are the most common in UK bulldogs?

    D. G. O’Neill, A. M. Skipper, J. Kadhim and others

    PLoS ONE (2019) 14

    doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0217928

    • What did the research find?

    Bulldogs comprised 0.6 per cent of all dogs born in 2013 attending the participating veterinary practices, rising from 0.35 per cent in 2009. The median longevity of the breed was 7.2 years, with females generally living longer than males. The most prevalent disorders recorded were otitis externa (12.7 per cent), pyoderma (8.8 per cent) and obesity (8.7 per cent). The skin was the most commonly affected body region (28.6 per cent), followed by the eyes (18 per cent), ears (13 per cent), gastrointestinal tract (11.6 per cent) and upper respiratory tract (10.5 per cent).

    • How was it conducted?

    The clinical records of all bulldogs under primary veterinary care at clinics participating in the VetCompass programme during 2013...

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    Higher risk of xylitol gum poisoning with some products

    One of the Veterinary Poisons Information Service’s (VPIS) remits is toxicovigilance.

    Xylitol, commonly used in sugar-free products, is a well-recognised toxic hazard to dogs, causing hypoglycaemia and liver failure. In February 2018, Mars Wrigley Confectionery UK launched a new range of Starburst Gums called Starburst Fruity Mixies, Starburst Strawberry Cubes and Starburst Red Berry Sticks. These products are described as a mix between a gum and a sweet, and the Fruity Mixies and Strawberry Cubes both contain a high concentration of xylitol (over 50 per cent).

    The VPIS has been monitoring cases involving these products and have nine cases with complete follow-up. Eight cases involved Starburst Fruit Mixies (available in packs of 100 pieces) and one involved Starburst Strawberry Cubes (packs of 30 pieces).

    In six cases involving the Fruit Mixies the dose ingested was estimated to range from 15 to 200 pieces of gum. The dogs ranged in...

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    Bookmakers responsibility to greyhounds

    Josh Loeb’s excellent news article (VR, 20 July 2019, vol 185, p 73) reinforces the absolute requirement to put good welfare at the heart of any sport that uses animals for entertainment, such as racing greyhounds.

    Much could be improved if bookmakers took their responsibilities towards greyhound welfare seriously. The introduction of a statutory levy on all bookmakers, alongside additional measures, such as improved kennelling and mandatory training in animal husbandry for those working within the sport, would go a long way towards improving welfare for racing greyhounds.

    It is a shame that despite all the requests from charities and the government, the bookmakers continue to ignore their moral and ethical obligation to look after the welfare of their greatest attribute: the greyhound. Therefore, I’m pleased that journalists and researchers such as Mia Cobb, who is referenced in the article, are bringing such an important issue to the fore.

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    Discrimination in the veterinary profession

    I welcome the BVA’s report on discrimination and thank the BVA for raising these important issues through their survey (VR, 13 July 2019, vol 185, pp 34-35), which will pave the way for a more equal profession.

    Discrimination in the workplace is completely unacceptable. I encourage all veterinary professionals to contribute to the conversation and to speak up about discrimination, and I urge everyone, especially employers, to take action to tackle this kind of behaviour in the workplace.

    Our vets play a critical role in controlling disease outbreaks, safeguarding animal health and welfare, supporting trade and tackling global One Health challenges, such as antimicrobial resistance. I will be joining the profession-wide discussion about the findings of the report to ensure that, as colleagues and as employers, we all support our veterinary surgeons.

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    Genetics of equine metabolic syndrome

    Equine metabolic syndrome (EMS) is defined as a complex disorder characterised by a phenotype of insulin dysregulation, obesity and a predisposition toward laminitis, resulting from the combination of one or more inherited genetic alleles and environmental influences.1

    Recently, a genome-wide association study (GWAS)2 identified two genetic markers for EMS located in the FAM174A gene region in Arabian horses: BIEC2-263524-C and FAM174A 3’ UTR -11(G) (Equus caballus chromosome 14:69,276,814 and 14:69,119,991 in EquCab2.0, respectively), with a correlation of 98 per cent between the two. However, uniform fasting guidelines were not followed and the studied populations were older than the general age of onset of EMS.3 This led to inconsistent diagnoses of EMS, since variability in non-structural carbohydrates, content of forage and age of horses influence metabolism and phenotypic measures.1-4

    In addition, some EMS cases used for the GWAS were affected...

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    RCVS need to acknowledge general practitioners

    The RCVS recently published the papers from the May meeting of the advancement of the professions committee (APC) (

    I note the papers are redacted in two respects, in relation to the costs of the activities discussed and in respect of regulatory matters where advice has been sought by third parties relating to RCVS activities.

    Concerns have been voiced recently about council voting on RCVS matters in a hidden manner, with no opportunity to identify how councillors, including elected councillors, are behaving. Together with, what looks to me to be, increasing redactions in committee papers I see RCVS entering a new phase of ‘bunker’ behaviour, quite at odds with their undertakings of ‘honesty and transparency’ outlined in the current strategic plan for 2017-19 (p 4).

    With these changes of behaviour I also struggle with the RCVS’ self-appointed leadership role in supporting leadership in the profession. I would contend...

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    BVA Council reps 'shocked but not surprised by discrimination findings

    Following an ‘unprecedented’ response to BVA’s recent surveys on discrimination in the workplace, BVA Council members were asked how the Association could help address the issues raised.

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    Microchip scanning position updated

    Council members were asked to approve an updated BVA policy position on microchip scanning and databases.

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    Council news in brief

    Telemedicine and the RCVS

    Several Council reps reported that members in their regions were concerned that the RCVS was ‘doing things behind closed doors’ regarding telemedicine and its review of ‘under care’ and 24/7 cover. They were looking for reassurance that the profession would be thoroughly consulted on these issues. BVA President Simon Doherty said the RCVS had assured BVA there was ‘no conspiracy’ and that it was committed to pan-professional consultation and engagement. BVA will be engaging with members as the issues progress.

    Prioritising welfare issues to focus resources

    Cathy Dwyer, director of the Jeanne Marchig International Centre for Animal Welfare Education, attended the Council meeting by invitation to describe the recent Delphi study she and her team had carried out for the Animal Welfare Foundation (AWF). The study aimed to identify and rank animal welfare issues to help the AWF prioritise the funds it has available...

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