• Posted on September 21, 2016 7:16 pm
    By Chris
    Chris
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    Vet Student Operating

    I enjoy surgery so much that it is almost a love, I find it so rewarding to be able to anesthetise an animal, and whilst it is sleeping fix it or stop the pain. For me it has been obvious for a while that my path will follow that of surgery, I’ve seen as much practice as I could with a focus on surgery. And I have spent every spare hour I have within the surgery department here. Surgery is a massive thrill, the adrenaline rush of scrubbing in and picking up a scalpel is something that I am told will never vanish. And I love this. It makes me happy doing surgery, and it makes me feel fulfilled when the dog or cat or rabbit wakes up after surgery fixed. Well sometimes it is not so simple and there is a period of rehabilitation however every single day from the surgery the poor animal is getting better. As I get better at surgery, my understanding and experience is deepening. Where before I looked for every opportunity to cut as a chance to do what I love and take the animal to surgery I am now not so fast to want this. I was speaking about this with one of doctors the other day who told me that many years ago he was told that the art of surgery was not doing surgery, but knowing when to do surgery. Something that has always bothered me is that sometimes surgery is simply to fix problems caused by humans. This came to a head for me on the Ophthalmology conference weekend when Professor Ron Ofri spoke about a surgeon walking out of surgery holding up a piece of skin he removed from a dogs forehead that stretched to the floor. I asked the question – should we as vets be performing such surgery without requiring the castration or spaying of the animal at the same time? When a breeder has a litter of puppies that all require a visit to the ophthalmologist and surgery before they are a month old? Is this ok? It’s not just the eyes though, another common surgery is for BOAS – Brachycephalic Obstructed Airway Syndrome – where part of the soft palate is cut away because it is too long and is stopping the dog from breathing properly. Often this is combined with plastic surgery to widen the nostrils which are too narrow. Then there are dogs that have been bred so badly that they cannot give birth naturally. They can only be born by caesarean section. Many years ago I read a book by a surgeon from America asked to present at a UK conference on castration implants in dogs – the press thought it was about plastic surgery and filled the entire room. And the surgeon lectured about the use of “implants” to replace the testicles removed during castration – he passed around some samples and one of the attendees mentioned how lifelike they felt to be told that the ones they had were the human version… The outcry was because vets are not allowed to carry out cosmetic procedures on animals – this is why tail docking, ear clipping etc are all outlawed as cruel because they are cosmetic. Yet now the two cases above that I mentioned are commonly happening the press is silent. Emma Milne recently did an amazing job of raising the issue of brachycephalic dogs such as pugs that cannot breathe properly as a welfare concern which got some media attention. Pedigree dogs exposed covered some of the crazy welfare issues. And yet at crufts a unhealthy German Shepherd was allowed to win. I can cut, however the question will be whether ethically and morally I should cut. I believe if the deformity is so great as to require surgery than that animal should not be bred from. If by surgery I can relieve pain or suffering from the animal then it may be justified – however I believe that in this case the animal should be castrated or spayed before or at the same time.

    Vet School Diary
  • Posted on July 2, 2013 8:16 pm
    By Chris
    Chris
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    If you are looking to build, purchase or design a new stable for your horse, you may well find yourself at the beginning of a difficult and daunting task. Even if you are simply looking to renovate an existing building or piece of land to accommodate your horses, the process of creating a functional and idyllic living space remains extremely challenging. There are a number of considerations that need to be taken as your strive to create a suitable home for your horse, some of which are absolutely integral if you are to create a desirable and welcoming structure. Imagining the Ideal Stable Space: The 3 Key Components With this in mind, what are the 3 key components that are required to imagine, design and create the ideal living space for your horse? Consider the following: - The Size and Shape of your Stable According to the industry accredited Canadian Agri-Food Research Council, an individual horses loose box should at least measure between 3m and 3.6m2. This is the minimum recommendation, and this should provide a template when it comes to visualizing the size of your horses living space.  If you have the land to build larger stalls then you should strive to do this, as more spacious boxes will allow your horses far greater freedom. If you are cramped for space and are looking to optimise this, it may be wise to remove standard partitions between 2 regular stalls and create a more open plan stable layout. Flooring When it comes to laying stable flooring, the most commonly used material is concrete. A roughened and firm surface is non-slip, and subsequently minimizes the risks of accidental falls and unnecessary injury to your mares or foals. You will need to add bedding and rubber mats to certain areas of the stable structure, however, as this will provide them with a comfortable place to sleep and some respite for their long and slender legs. Another key point to bear in mind when laying concrete is that it does not drain naturally, which means that you must either install drains in the stalls or place your stable over an existing system. Lighting If the size of your stable space and the flooring used are key to ensuring your horses comfort, lighting is equally important if you are to keep your horses safe and mentally stimulated. In terms of artificial light, it is important to remember that standard fluorescent bulbs may not function in the extreme cold, while the lighting that you do incorporate must be protected by safety cages and fitted out of the horses reach. With regards to natural light, you must place your structure in an area that benefits from regular sunshine, as this will guarantee a safe and stimulating environment that has very few dark or shadowed areas. The Bottom Line If you are committed to creating a genuinely inviting and functional home for your horse, you will need to consider investing the highest possible quality of temporary stable structures. Purchasing from the Redmire Stable sales will enable you to access affordable, outdoor structures, which help to provide comfort and warmth to your horse on a daily basis.

    Vet School Diary
  • Posted on January 18, 2013 8:28 pm
    By Chris
    Chris
    1
    Crabs Feel Pain Too

    Today's Diary Entry is sponsored by Spikes World One of the areas I am passionate about is animal welfare, with previous research into animal pain and suffering as I believe alleviating this is key to a better world. I tend to try and keep track of what is happening with the latest research coming out etc. Back in March 2012 I was aware of research into the ability of hermit crabs to learn, today however I came across new research into the ability of crabs to feel pain. Now its always been accepted that as shellfish have a primitive central nervous system (CNS) they could not feel pain and so they are just cooked alive in boiling water. The response seen when they are dunked into boiling has always been labelled as a reflex response and not one of pain-induced self preservation. It has been argued for many years that the way crustaceans (crabs, lobsters etc) are banded and stored before being cooked in boiling water causes tremendous pain, yet the problem has been how to prove this. The problem here is that it is philosophically impossible to demonstrate an animals ability to feel pain. The best we can do is develop a set of criteria of what we would expect to see if an animal was in pain (vets use this principle all the time!) and so the research proposal came together. Researchers at the Queens University Belfast School of Biological Sciences devised an experiment to test whether crabs felt pain. I've decided that the researcher Bob Elwood at the university described the experimental process best so have him explaining it to you: Elwood described how it went: “Ninety crabs were each introduced individually to a tank with two dark shelters. On selecting their shelter of choice, some of the crabs were exposed to an electric shock. After some rest time, each crab was returned to the tank. Most stuck with what they knew best, returning to the shelter they had chosen first time around, where those that had been shocked on first choice again experienced a shock. When introduced to the tank for the third time, however, the vast majority of shocked crabs now went to the alternative safe shelter. Those not shocked continued to use their preferred shelter.” He continued, “Having experienced two rounds of shocks, the crabs learned to avoid the shelter where they received the shock. They were willing to give up their hideaway in order to avoid the source of their probable pain.” Now one of the criteria used in determining pain is that animals will learn to avoid pain, or try to reduce the pain they are in (hence the praying position in dogs, or effectiveness of electric fences with horses). Under this principle it appears that the crabs that experienced the electric shock (which were relatively mild so as not to cause permanent harm) gave up their safe shelter to hide somewhere else in order to avoid the painful stimuli. In fact as anyone that has ever cooked a lobster or crab will know, it does not just sit still in the pan but will go into a frenzy. Research is increasing starting to show that though we look different, pain is a feeling that is shared between all species. As an advocate for animals it is important that we consider the pain of all animals, and not just those that are cute and cuddly!

    Vet School Diary
  • Posted on August 27, 2012 11:30 pm
    By Chris
    Chris
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    Most people believe that it is third world countries that lack stringent and effective animal welfare laws, you can imagine my suprise when I found out Canada made this list. When you think of animal welfare you assume that all animals are covered, however in Canada Marine Mammals (cetaceans such as Whales, Dolphins and also the shark family) are not. A little further digging has brought up several cases where marine mammals have not perhaps been treated in the best manner however thats beyond this diary entry. Earlier in the week I tweeted about how the USA was permitting a new aquarium opening in Toronto to hunt sand tiger sharks of the coast of South Carolina. The sand tiger shark is listed as endangered on the IUCN redlist. The 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act provides protection for captive marine mammals in the USA, and also the hunting of marine mammals from the sea under a permit scheme. The hunt and capture of the sand tiger sharks is under a Marine Mammal Permit. I am against the taking of any animal from the wild for commercial or entertainment enterprises, in this case the aquarium have sourced 3 from another aquarium so it is beyond me why they want more. In addition the method used for the capture of these animals causes devastation Anyways, since that tweet I have come across the fact that Canada has no legislation for marine mammals. I believe it is a irresponsible decision for the USA to grant this whilst there is no legislation protecting them in Canada where they'll be transported to. In addition the track record of the ability of Canada to regulate and protect these animals is dubious at best. In 1998 Zoocheck commissioned a team of marine mammal experts to inspect Marineland in Niagara Falls in Canada who produced a report describing conditions as "appalling". The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals whilst having the power to lay charges, there is a lack of enforcable standards against which conditions can be compared to in order to bring charges. In addition a lack of specialised knowledge of these marine mammals has also been highlighted as preventing OSPCA taking action. It is a well acknowledged fact that the life expectancy of marine mammals is significantly reduced in captivity. In the UK the legislation is so strict that there are no dolphins in captivity that I am aware of. Many other countries legislate for Marine Mammals including Chile who banned the display, capture, import and export completely in 2005. I realise that marine mammals post a mystery to many people, however by visiting them in aquariums are you really learning? It is certainly possible to teach as much, if not more through talks with videos as it is to learn by seeing these majestic creatures in environments made out of concrete. If you really wish to learn do a scuba course (BSAC in the UK offer great discounts for students!), and get out to see these animals in their natural environment. The is a petition online here against the import of these Endangered sharks.

    Vet School Diary
  • Posted on August 25, 2012 11:45 pm
    By Chris
    Chris
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    So I changed my topic at the last minute for tonight's diary entry after coming across something that I consider to be extremely disturbing within animal welfare legislation. Animal Welfare on factory farming systems, though regulated relies on the inspection process being carried out on average once a year. Workers are fully aware who and what the inspectors are and why they are there. There is a ton of research supporting the change in behaviour of people when they know (or suspect) that they are being observed. Recently in the USA there have been several large cases of animal abuse occuring within slaughter houses and animal facilities, these cases have been so severe that the USDA has immediately shut down entire facilities. Take for example a two week undercover investigation of Central Valley Meat Co a slaughterhouse in Hanford, California (grapihc & disturbing video here http://www.cok.net/californiacows/). Or the case of Iowa Select Farms in Kamrar, Iowa one of the nations largest pork (pig) producers between April - June 2011 (disturbing video here http://www.mercyforanimals.org/pigabuse/). Whilst slaughter within food production systems is necessary, I believe it should be humane, without pain, stress or suffering and with dignity and respect to the animal. There are facilities that manage to do this, and in fact I am looking forward to seeing how the UK compares to Slovakia first hand. In the meantime however I don't believe that official inspections get to see the whole story of the day to day runnings, and that sometimes a undercover approach works best. In fact when undercover films are released to the public, they generally attract a lot of media attention causing a public outcry and forcing rapid action to protect the animals. It has therefore shocked me that Iowa, the state where the massive pig abuse took place in March this year quitely passed legislation making it illegal (a misdemenor) for undercover filming to take place. This means that anyone exposing animal abuse such as in the cases above would be prosecuted (I don't understand the american legal system so not sure what penalties are). Undercover investigations are already high risk, in the 1990's two ABC reporters investigating the Food Lion supermarket chain were found guilty of tresspass and fraud with damages awarded to Food Lion in the millions. However this new legislation is also being considered in Utah, New York, Missouri, Indiana, Illinois and Minnesota. It seems that the focus is on protecting facilities and producers rather than focusing on improving and ensuring animal welfare. Whilst I can understand part of the legislation serving the purposes of protection from losses incurred in the advertising for, hiring and training of new staff. I do not believe this is in the best interest of animal welfare. You can find out more about "ag-gag" laws here: http://animalrights.about.com/od/animallaw/a/What-Are-Ag-Gag-Laws-And-Why-Are-They-Dangerous.htm In other less disturbing news, I have managed to sell my bed, warddrobe and bookcase which has raised the funds needed for a months rent.

    Vet School Diary