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At a crossroads, wondering which way to go

Having returned from travelling and working in Australia, the Covid-19 pandemic has given Anna Leach the chance to consider where she would like to take her career next.

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Diary of a parliamentary intern

The Veterinary Policy Research Foundation employs a veterinary intern to assist Lord Trees in advancing veterinary thinking in parliament. Here, the current intern Catrina Prince shares an update.

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How is the lockdown affecting vet students?

Like most other professions in the UK, the veterinary profession has been hit hard by Covid-19. But how has it impacted on students? Alexia Yiannouli investigates

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Thank you from the government

I am writing to thank the veterinary profession for the part you are playing in our fight against what is perhaps the greatest health challenge this country has faced in our lifetime.

The government has taken some unprecedented steps to ask people to stay at home, to protect our NHS and save lives. The more we all follow the rules, the fewer lives will be lost and the sooner life can return to normal.

Our success in responding to, and recovering from, the outbreak will come from all of us working together. It has been so encouraging to see many fantastic examples of this across many sectors and groups, including the veterinary profession.

I want to take this opportunity to thank you and your profession for playing your part. Your willingness and support in providing critical veterinary equipment to the NHS for medical use has helped individuals, their...

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Ophthalmology of clinically normal alpacas (Vicugna pacos) in the United Kingdom: a cross-sectional study


Alpacas are being more frequently presented to veterinarians in the UK. It is important to validate whether published normal ocular parameters are consistent with the alpaca population in the UK.


Ophthalmic examinations were performed on healthy alpacas (Vicugna pacos) from three farms in East Anglia, UK.


On direct ophthalmoscopy of 35 alpacas, there was a 50 per cent prevalence of opacities within the lens in alpacas older than two years old (n=8/16). There was a 36.8 per cent prevalence of persistent hyaloid arteries in alpacas under two years old (n=7/19). The mean Schirmer tear test-1 value was 20.0 ±6 mm/minute (n=40). The mean intraocular pressure measured by rebound tonometry was 17.2 ±5.5 mmHg (n=46), and applanation tonometry resulted in statistically similar values (P=0.30; n=25). There was a significant variation in intraocular pressure throughout a 24-hour period (n=8). Fluorescein dye was not detected at the nostrils of any of the alpacas which underwent a Jones test to assess nasolacrimal duct patency (n=8).


The ophthalmic findings appear largely consistent with previously published values from North America and continental Europe. Variations include the large range of measurements obtained and evidence of diurnal variation in intraocular pressure.

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Risk factors for blood-contaminated cerebrospinal fluid collection in dogs


To determine the risk factors for blood contamination during cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) collection in dogs.

Study design and methods

This is a prospective study of 170 CSF samples. Data collected included signalment of the patient, body condition score, site of CSF collection (cerebellomedullary cistern (CMC) or lumbar cistern (LC)), number of attempts, clinician expertise, final diagnosis, time of day, skull conformation and day of the week. Analysis of the CSF samples was then performed, and the presence of blood contamination (red blood cells >500/µl) was recorded. Logistic regression was used to quantify the association of potential risk factors of the procedure. Multivariate analysis was performed on the variables that were statistically significant.


Of the 170 CSF samples, 53 per cent were collected from the CMC (n=90) and 47 per cent from the LC (n=80). Blood contamination was seen in 20 per cent (n=34) of the samples, 8.9 per cent (n=8) in CMC and 32.5 per cent (n=26) in LC samples. Increased odds of obtaining a contaminated CSF sample were associated with lower level of clinician expertise (odds ratio: 2.5; 95 per cent confidence interval: 0.9–6.7; P=0.046) and with LC versus CMC collection site (odds ratio: 8.1; 95 per cent confidence interval: 2.1–12.9; P=0.001).

Clinical significance

There is increased likelihood of blood contamination when collecting CSF from the LC compared with the CMC site. Increased clinician experience reduced the risk of CSF blood contamination, but none of the other variables examined significantly influenced this.

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Feline behaviour problems in Brazil: a review of 155 referral cases


Geographical variations in feline behaviour problems exist. The occurrence of feline behaviour problems in different regions are therefore important to prepare professionals for the emerging needs of cat owners.


One-hundred and fifty-five feline behaviour cases that were referred to a veterinary behaviourist in São Paulo (Brazil) during the period 2008–2014 are described.


Inter-cat aggression was the main behavioural complaint reported (31%), followed by housesoiling (26.4%). Unlike other international studies, inter-cat aggression was more frequently seen than inappropriate elimination. Oral repetitive behaviours, including problems such as psychogenic alopecia and pica, were also a prevalent problem (ie, 16.8% of the cases). Human-directed aggression accounted for 13.5% of the cases, taking fourth place in the list of the most common feline behavioural problems. Female and male cats were equally likely to be presented (51% and 49% of cases, respectively).


This study highlights potentially geographical or temporal variation in the behavioural problems that need to be recognised by veterinary behaviourists in order to meet the emerging needs of owners.

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Innovation in a post-Covid 'new normal

The proverb ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ is particularly apt at present. Whether it is Formula 1 teams producing ventilators for the NHS instead of racing cars, distillers making hand sanitiser instead of gin, or fashion houses creating personal protective equipment for healthcare workers instead of haute couture, in the space of a few weeks, businesses have adapted and innovated so they can continue to function in some form while accommodating restrictions imposed to limit the spread of Covid-19.

The veterinary profession has adapted, too. As described by BVA junior vice president James Russell on 10 May in BVA’s weekly webinar update on Covid-19, vets have stepped up when it comes to finding new ways of working while respecting social distancing rules. Farm vets have been innovative with animal handling techniques to allow most routine bovine TB testing to continue, emergency surgeries to be conducted and the spring...

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Emergency funding for rescue centres

By Matthew Limb

Animal rescue centres are being thrown a funding lifeline to avert an animal welfare ‘catastrophe’ from happening under the Covid-19 lockdown.

The Association of Dogs and Cats Homes (ADCH) has launched an emergency fund – with one-off grants of up to £10,000 available – to stave off centre closures and maintain vital rescue and rehoming work across the British Isles.

It follows a survey of member organisations that showed many centres facing crisis, amid falls in funding but no let-up in need, which risks wide-scale abandonment of pets.

Claire Horton, ADCH chair, said: ‘Their [charities’] income streams have all but dried up due to cancelled fundraising activities and closure of charity shops. This is an emergency – the very survival of some of these rescues is at stake.

Their closure or reduction in capacity would be catastrophic for animals in need

‘Their closure or reduction...

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Rates relief campaign gains momentum

By Matthew Limb

Pressure is mounting on ministers to boost financial support for struggling vet practices and avert potential closures linked to the Covid-19 lockdown.

Hundreds of vets and around 50 MPs so far are backing a campaign by the BVA to ensure vet practices, like pet shops, can access business rates relief.

Ben Lake, Plaid Cymru MP for Ceredigion, who is collecting support for an early day motion in parliament highlighting the issue, said the government must act so vets can ‘weather the storm’.

Vet practices are not eligible for business rates relief, despite the fact that many are high street businesses and derive a significant proportion of their income from retailing medicines, treatments and other pet products.

Lake, who is a BVA honorary associate, said vets were doing what the government asked of them – protecting animal health and welfare and maintaining the food supply chain –...

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Changes to calf bTB testing during Covid-19

By Georgina Mills

Calves under 180 days old can be excluded from bovine TB (bTB) testing in England and Wales if, in the vet’s judgement, they cannot be tested safely in line with Covid-19 social distancing.

This temporary amendment to bTB testing requirements, which was announced by the APHA on 4 May, will be applied retrospectively to incomplete tests where the final part of the test would have commenced on or after 23 March, and to any qualifying tests from now until further notice.

No movement restrictions will be placed on herds that do not test calves as long as the other eligible (older) animals in the herd are negative for the bTB test. Any calves that cannot be tested safely at this time will be left untested until the next bTB test of the herd.

The APHA says the decision will be kept under regular review while the...

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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. www.improveinternational.com

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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