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Legs, tails and toes: what can nurses amputate?

2 May 2019

By Josh Loeb

The removal of some animals’ tails or toes can be classed as minor surgery – meaning such amputations can be performed in certain cases by registered veterinary nurses (RVNs).

The RCVS has confirmed its position on what constitutes minor and major surgery following confusion from some vets and RVNS.

The college, however, has stated that leg amputations should always be considered ‘major’ surgery.

The issue was highlighted earlier this year at an event at the British Small Animal Veterinary Association congress. According to Schedule 3 of the Veterinary Surgeons Act, RVNs can – under the direction of their veterinary surgeon employer – undertake ‘minor surgery not involving entry into a body cavity’.

Since amputations constitute surgery not involving entry into a body cavity, a question then arises about the precise meaning of the word ‘minor’.

Vet Robert Wallace asked for an example of a surgical procedure...

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RCVS mediation service working well

2 May 2019

By Adele Waters

The mediation service that helps resolve disputes between vets and clients is successfully resolving the lionshare of complaints against practices.

An audit of the Veterinary Client Mediation Service, which was launched by the RCVS in 2016, found 65 per cent of all cases referred to it up to November 2018 were resolved at a preliminary stage.

Of these, almost all – 96 per cent – concluded without the need for further action.

Feedback about the service also shows a high level of satisfaction, with 84 per cent of practice staff saying they were satisfied with the outcome and 81 per cent finding the service fair.

Jennie Jones, a solicitor who runs the service, said most complaints were about a clinical pathway, for example obstetric care in dogs or a dental procedure.

Other causes included communication issues, such as failing to update owners, acknowledge their views and/or...

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Showcasing the UKs agricultural technology

2 May 2019

The role of the UK’s four agri-tech centres in achieving sustainable global food production has recently been highlighted at two on-farm events.

The events were held at Newcastle University’s Cockle Park Farm and showcased projects involving the Agri-EPI Centre, Agrimetrics, Crop Health and Protection, and the Centre for Innovation Excellence in Livestock.

Exhibits featured included: a demonstration of the role of a variety of sensors in precision livestock management; mobile CT scanning and imaging facilities for assessing body condition and carcase traits; and digital image and audio smart tools for monitoring animal health and welfare.

Speaking at the event, BVA president Simon Doherty said: ‘I am absolutely passionate about the "UK offer" in agricultural technology across the supply chain, from farm to fork.

‘It is a hugely challenging time for the agri-food sector but I’m confident that we can create solutions to many of the obstacles we face by...

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'Blurred lines over practice premises rules

2 May 2019

By Josh Loeb

A vet says he is ‘puzzled’ after being informed that his home address must be registered as a practice premises even if he only keeps medicines there for use on his own pets.

Gareth Harries, a visiting veterinary orthopaedic surgeon from Staffordshire does not dispense drugs from his home or store them for use on other people’s animals. In addition, his home is not open to the public as a place to bring animals for treatment.

Nonetheless, in correspondence with the RCVS, seen by Vet Record, Harries was informed by a member of the college’s registration team that ‘if you are storing veterinary medicines at home for your own animals, your home would have to be registered’.

This interpretation of the rules means that his home could need to undergo an inspection by members of the Veterinary Medicines Directorate inspection team.

Vets who keep a small...

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Dog therapy helps reduce stress in students

2 May 2019

Middlesex is the first university in the UK to establish a structured programme of work and activity for student engagement with canine teaching assistants (CTAs).

A CTA was first introduced in 2017 to reduce anxiety among nursing students. The dog was owned by head of clinical skills Fiona Suthers and, following the initial success, five dogs have now been trained to help all students and staff.

Every week students can engage with the dogs during drop-in sessions at the university’s wellbeing centre, which usually involve up to 20 students, and the staff have noticed a significant change in students’ frame of mind when they leave. The CTAs also visit lectures around exam time or when students have revision sessions with the aim of reducing stress and anxiety.

The university notes the canine therapy has particularly helped with students feeling homesick and on the verge of dropping out.

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Meet the dogs trained to use their noses to find people in trouble

2 May 2019

Georgina Mills discusses the recent assessment of new mountain rescue dogs in Scotland

Categories: Journal news

In brief

2 May 2019
The RCVS election results are in ...

Three successful candidates have been elected to RCVS council, after a record-breaking number of votes were cast.

Current RCVS council members Niall Connell and Jo Dyer were re-elected, while newcomer Linda Belton also joins the council.

A total of 8234 votes were cast in this year’s election (of which two-thirds were done online), making a record total turnout of 25.5 per cent.

RCVS registrar Eleanor Ferguson said: ‘I was delighted to see that, this year, we had over a quarter of those eligible to vote doing so, which means both a record number of votes and a record turnout –it seems this was assisted by our email reminders which, each time they were sent out, led to a significant boost in uptake.’

The results will be formally declared at this year’s Royal College Day in July, when the successful candidates will also...

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Disease surveillance in England and Wales, April 2019

2 May 2019

APHA disease Surveillance report headlines

  • Reports from France of congenital infection of calves with bluetongue virus serotype 8

  • Poor quality forage leads to abortions in cattle

  • Inadvertent intravascular injection of a macrocyclic lactone in a ewe

  • Clostridial enteritis in neonatal piglets

  • Intestinal spirochaetosis in ratites

  • Highlights from the scanning surveillance networkCattleAbortions attributed to poor quality forage

    Several APHA Veterinary Investigation Centres (VICs) and partner postmortem examination providers reported abortions in cattle caused by Listeria species (usually Listeria monocytogenes), Bacillus licheniformis or Aspergillus fumigatus. These organisms are widespread in the environment and are consequently not uncommon contaminants of forage.

    Infection in cattle by these organisms is often associated with the feeding of poor quality forage, although other feeds such as brewers grains can also become contaminated. Once the causative agent has been identified, it is important to change the feed offered to pregnant...

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    Coccidiosis in sheep

    2 May 2019

    This focus article has been prepared by Mick Macrelli, Lizzy Dunnett, Sian Mitchell and Amanda Carson of the APHA Small Ruminant Species Expert Group.

    Categories: Journal news

    Tortoise orchiectomy - treatment tool or management option?

    2 May 2019

    While orchiectomy has been previously described in chelonian species,1,2 the paper by Hatt and colleagues, summarised on page 555 of this issue of Vet Record, contributes not just further advice on the technicalities of the surgery but also assesses its effects on courtship behaviour in Testudo species.3

    From the technical aspect, Hatt and colleagues,3 by evaluating surgery over a period of time rather than in a single short study, have been able to demonstrate that surgery is easiest to perform in late spring when testes are smaller – a useful tip for anyone attempting what is a complex surgery.

    Furthermore, from a clinician’s point of view, the study is interesting in that it looks at pet tortoises presenting with exaggerated courtship behaviours and how these behaviours have been affected by orchiectomy. These behaviours are a common problem in captive tortoises and...

    Categories: Journal news

    Orchiectomy in Testudo species: technical aspects and effect on courtship behaviour

    2 May 2019

    Courtship behaviour of tortoises includes biting, ramming, chasing, same-sex sexual behaviour, and it commonly is excessive in European tortoise species kept as pets. As a result, males are kept individually. To assess the effect of orchiectomy on excessive courtship behaviour in European tortoises, 50 tortoises (Testudo graeca, T hermanni and T marginata) underwent endoscopically assisted orchiectomy from April through September 2013 to 2017. Statistical analyses were performed in relation to species, body mass, testicular size and season and owners were invited to fill out a follow-up questionnaire. Body mass of the tortoises ranged from 334 to 2645 g (mean 1056 g) and the age from 5 to estimated 60 years. Testicular length ranged from 1.4 to 7.0 cm (mean 2.7 cm) and testicular mass from 0.6 to 12.6 g (mean 3.9 g). A complete or partial reduction (allowing group-housing) of the excessive courtship behaviour was noted by 95 per cent of owners and 59 per cent of the owners reported a noticeable change of behaviour within a month of surgery. Given the seasonal variation in testicular size, the best period for castrations in male European tortoises is shortly after brumation (April, May), when testes are proportionally smaller.

    Categories: Journal news

    Syndromic surveillance by veterinary practitioners: a pilot study in the pig sector

    2 May 2019

    Traditional indicator-based livestock surveillance has been focused on case definitions, definitive diagnoses and laboratory confirmation. The use of syndromic disease surveillance would increase the population base from which animal health data are captured and facilitate earlier detection of new and re-emerging threats to animal health. Veterinary practitioners could potentially play a vital role in such activities. In a pilot study, specialist private veterinary practitioners (PVP) working in the English pig industry were asked to collect and transfer background data and disease incident reports for pig farms visited during the study period. Baseline data from 110 pig farms were received, along with 68 disease incident reports. Reports took an average of approximately 25 minutes to complete. Feedback from the PVPs indicated that they saw value in syndromic surveillance. Maintenance of anonymity in the outputs would be essential, as would timely access for the PVPs to relevant information on syndromic trends. Further guidance and standardisation would also be required. Syndromic surveillance by PVPs is possible for the pig industry. It has potential to fill current gaps in the collection of animal health data, as long as the engagement and participation of data providers can be obtained and maintained.

    Categories: Journal news

    Assessing veterinary students using in-training evaluation scores: what is being assessed?

    2 May 2019

    In-training evaluations are commonly used for assessing veterinary students during clinical training, but are criticised for being unable to discriminate dimensions of performance. This study investigated scores on an in-training evaluation in use at one veterinary school to determine the dimensions being assessed and the influence of the dimensions on the overall score awarded. Common factor analysis and ordinal logistic regression were conducted on a retrospective sample of 3466 evaluations of 197 final year veterinary students. The findings suggested a higher-order dimensional structure, with one overarching factor and two to four subfactors, consistent with the complex construct of competency that thSAS Institute e assessment was intended to assess. In the four -factor model, all dimensions were significantly related to overall grade, with the effects of the professional attitude factor and the knowledge factor dependent on the placement. The professional attitude factor had the strongest effect on overall grade (β=2.71, P=0.0004). There was a significant effect of placement on overall grade (P=0.021). Neither academic status of the supervisor nor grade point average had significant effects on the overall grade (P>0.49), and a student’s overall grade did not significantly differ over time (P=1). The results suggest that the complexity of supervisor judgement is effectively represented in evaluation scores.

    Categories: Journal news

    Selected highlights from other journals

    2 May 2019
    Vets’ attitudes towards antimicrobial use in pigs

    L. A. Coyne, S. M. Latham, S. Dawson and others

    Preventive Veterinary Medicine (2018) 161, 115–126

    doi: 10.1016/j.prevetmed.2018.10.021

    • What did the research find?

    Overall, vets were confident that their prescribing decisions were responsible. However, there was concern that the prescribing behaviours of other vets may be less responsible. Similarly, they seldom identified that treatment failure was a consequence of antimicrobial resistance in their own clinical caseload, but they considered it an issue for others. The decision on whether to prescribe antimicrobials was influenced by numerous factors relating to the vet’s experience and the clinical situation presented, but maintaining animal welfare was a priority.

    • How was it conducted?

    A questionnaire was distributed to 261 veterinary surgeons in the UK who had a clinical caseload that included commercial pig farms. This questionnaire aimed to explore participants’ antimicrobial prescribing behaviours, their attitudes to...

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    Herriots way inspired a generation

    2 May 2019

    The current BSAVA president’s criticism of James Herriot/Alf Wight is inappropriate, if not arrogant (VR, 27 April 2019, vol 184, p 514).

    The James Herriot image allowed the profession to be uniquely popular with, and respected by, the public for many years

    Alf Wight’s books inspired countless young people and encouraged their ambitions to become veterinary surgeons, causing veterinary medicine to become one of the most popular university courses with the highest standards of selection. The James Herriot image allowed the profession to be uniquely popular with, and respected by, the public for many years. Sadly that popularity and respect is now being destroyed by the blatant profit motive of many practice owners.

    David Napley, when president of the IPG (interprofessional group), once defined being in a ‘profession’ to me as ‘being paid to allow you to do the work which you did’, in contrast to a trade...

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    African swine fever spread in China

    2 May 2019

    African swine fever (ASF), caused by ASF virus (ASFV), is one of the most serious infectious diseases affecting pigs.

    In 1921, ASFV was first discovered in Kenya, Eastern Africa.1 In the 1950s, it rapidly spread across Europe including Spain, Portugal, Italy and France. But in the mid-1990s, ASFV was eradicated from Europe, with the exception of Sardinia. However, it was introduced into Georgia in 2007, and then spread through Eastern Europe, including Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Romania, Moldova, Czech Republic and Poland.2

    In August 2018, ASFV entered into China, which has over 50 per cent of the world’s pig population.3,4 Up to April 2019, over 100 ASF cases had been officially reported in China. These cases covered almost all the provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities of China, with the exception of Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao. So why has...

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    Keeping snakes

    2 May 2019

    Tariq Abou-Zahr (VR, 10 November 2018, vol 183, pp 572-573; 2 February 2019, vol 184, pp 157-158; 20 April 2019, vol 184, pp 505-506) believes keeping snakes in enclosures shorter than they are does not prevent their welfare needs from being met, as required by the Animal Welfare Act 2006 (AWA). Yet he acknowledges that doing so prevents snakes from performing normal behaviours – including being able to stretch to full length, perform rectilinear locomotion, and being able to travel further than their own body length – and states ‘clearly it is to be advocated that enclosures should be as spacious as possible in most circumstances’.

    Although wild snakes have home ranges of several hectares or more, and some pet species are highly active, exploratory, foraging predators, Abou-Zahr argues that because captive snakes have food, water, a temperature gradient and no predators, they do not need or want their...

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    Prevalence of Seoul hantavirus in UK wild rats: an emerging public health problem?

    25 April 2019

    Seoul hantavirus (SEOV) is an emerging zoonotic pathogen in the UK. SEOV is transmitted from infected rats to people via inhalation of aerosolised virus in rat urine and faeces. Infected rats are asymptomatic and are likely to remain persistently infected while intermittently excreting the virus throughout their life.1

    The virus was first identified in laboratory rats in Scotland in 1977.2 Since this time, a number of serosurveillance studies in the UK have shown serological evidence of exposure to hantaviruses.3 From these studies, the main risk factor for hantavirus infection was thought to be occupational exposure, particularly for those working in rural areas (eg, agricultural workers), pest control workers and sewage workers.

    In these studies, those testing positive for antibodies to hantaviruses reported mild symptoms such as flu-like symptoms and sore throat, with some exhibiting minor liver and kidney impairment. However, as the diagnostic...

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    Detection of Seoul virus in wild brown rats (Rattus norvegicus) from pig farms in Northern England

    25 April 2019

    Hantaviruses are maintained by mammalian hosts, such as rodents, and are shed in their excretions. Clinical disease can occur in humans from spillover infection. Brown rats (Rattus norvegicus) are the globally distributed reservoir host of Seoul virus (SEOV). Human cases of SEOV-associated haemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (SEOV-HFRS)have been reported in Great Britain (GB) since 1977.


    Brown rats (n=68) were trapped from a variety of peridomestic locations, with a focus on pig farms. Kidney and lung tissues were tested for viral RNA using a pan-hantavirus RT-PCR assay followed by Sanger sequencing and analysis.


    SEOV RNA was detected in 19 per cent (13/68, 95% CI 11 to 30) of rats and all sequences fell within SEOV lineage 9. Twelve sequences were highly similar to each other and to the previously reported GB Humber strain of SEOV (98 per cent). One rat SEOV sequence was more distant. The SEOV prevalence in rats from pig farms was significantly greater (p=0.047) than other sites sampled. No significant sex or age differences were observed among positive and negative rats.


    The results from this study suggest that SEOV could be widespread in wild rats in GB and therefore pose a potential risk to public health.

    Categories: Journal news

    Chronic kidney disease in cats attending primary care practice in the UK: a VetCompassTM study

    25 April 2019

    Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a frequent diagnosis in cats attending primary care practice and the most frequent cause of death in cats aged over five years, yet there is limited published research for CKD in cats attending primary care practice. This study aimed to estimate the prevalence of CKD and investigate risk factors for diagnosis and survival of cats diagnosed with CKD in UK primary care practices. The study included cats attending VetCompassTM practices from January 1, 2012 to December 31, 2013. A nested case-control and cohort study were undertaken. From 353,448 cats attending 244 clinics, the prevalence of CKD was estimated as 1.2 per cent (95 per cent CI 1.1 per cent to 1.3 per cent). Most cats with CKD had clinical signs at diagnosis (66.6 per cent). Few cats underwent investigations or monitoring of serum creatinine (32.6 per cent), urine protein:creatinine ratio (14.9 per cent) or blood pressure measurement (25.6 per cent). A proprietary renal diet was the most frequently prescribed management (63.8 per cent). Median survival time following diagnosis was 388 days (IQR 88–1042 days). This study provides generalisable evidence from the wider cat population to aid veterinarians in improved diagnosis and management of CKD that can benefit the health and welfare of cats with CKD in the UK.

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