Miscellaneous: Animal Health Information and Careers



We've given you two headlines, the first (in blue) being the original, and the second (in red) aims to be a more informative headline, so you can gain an idea of what the article is about more quickly. The source is also given in case you want to track down the original article.

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If it ain't sick, don't cure it

FDA restricts usage of some preventive antibiotics on farms

source: New Scientist vol 213 no 2847, January 14 2012 p4

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced a restriction on the usage of some antibiotics to prevent illness in farm animals, due to the risk of generating bugs affecting humans, with resistance to drugs. The restrictions will affect cephalosporin usage. Critics argue that cephalosporin accounts for 0.2% of farm antibiotic usage, and are concerned about penicillin and tetracycline usage, which the FDA planned to tackle in 1977. The FDA claims it has focused on voluntary action by farmers, and that it is still concerned about the issue.


Evaluation of probiotics as a substitute for antibiotics in a large pig nursery

Probiotics can perform as well as antibiotics to promote pig growth

source: S.K. Kritas and R.B. Morrison
Veterinary Record vol 156 no 14, April 2 2005
starts p447, 2 pages long

Antibiotics are often used to promote growth in pigs, but there has been concern about antibiotic resistence transferring to human pathogens, as well as drug residues in food. This has led to tighter controls of antibiotic usage, and interest in probiotics as an alternative. Probiotics are yeast or bacteria cultures used to equilibrate intestinal flora. They may help to stimulate immune systems, and may compete with harmful flora in the gut, so help control some diseases caused by E.coli. A study in Minnesota focused on a farm with 1,600 sows. Piglets were given low doses of antibiotics to prevent post-weaning diarrhoea linked to E.coli. A probiotic with Bacillus subtilis and Bacillis licheniformis was used in place of the antibiotics for one treatment group, while the other received their normal antibiotics. The results in terms of body weight and cost per pig and bodyweight kg were not significantly different, nor was there a difference in mortality
rates. Pigs can do as well on probiotics as on antibiotics in high-health status farming units, allowing antibiotics to be used to prevent or treat more serious conditions.


Animal health and welfare

DEFRA issues animal health and welfare plan

Source: Veterinary Record vol 153 no 25, December 20 2003 p765

The United Kingdom's Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has issued a plan for animal health and welfare, which covers a range of issues, including infectious diseases that can be passed between domestic animals and those that can be caught by humans, as well as the Pet Travel Scheme, and the sale of veterinary medicines. The aim is for consultation with groups interested in these issues, such as vets, animal keepers, and other stakeholders. DEFRA invites comments from interested parties.


Superbug's source

Feeding antibiotics to livestock can affect human health

source: New Scientist vol 213 no 2853, February 25 2012 p4

A type of MRSA, or antibiotic-resistant staphylococcus aurea, probably became resistant when it affected livestock. The ST398 strain was first recorded in 2003, and is found in animals in the USA. The bug can cause sepsis and skin infection in humans who have contact with infected animals, though humans do not catch it from other humans. Paul Keim and team from Phoenix Arizona's Translational Genomics Research Institute have sequenced MRSA and other S aurea genomes. They have found that ST398 may have originated as a harmless bacteria initially colonising humans, and then livestock. It developed antibiotic resistance in livestock which were given antibiotics. The dosing of livestock with antibiotics on a large scale could encourage antibiotic resistance, microbiologists fear. Only a small proportion of antibiotics is covered by recent restrictions on their usage in the USA.


Should I get my pets tested for MRSA?

MRSA not seen as a significant risk for pet owners

Source: Alok Jha
Guardian Life supplement December 18 2003 p3

Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus (MRSA) has been found in 12 animals in Britain, including dogs, cats and a rabbit, by researchers from the Health Protection Agency, London, England. This is not seen as likely to cause significant problems for humans or their pets. MRSA infections generally occur in nursing homes and hospitals, affecting some 7,000 people annually in Britain. The bacteria usually infects through open wounds, and is generally only a problem for people who do not have strong immune systems, such as newborns, the aged, and people who have just had operations. Infections cannot easily be treated with antibiotics.

Microbiologist, Brian Spratt, from Imperial College, England, notes that the strains of MRSA affecting hospital patients tend to differ from those found outside in the community. British Veterinary Association president, Tim Greet, notes that pets can pass on a number of infections to owners, and many of these probably have greater significance than the possibility of catching an MRSA infection from a pet. Washing hands after playing with pets is a sensible precaution, he notes.


'Hosptal superbug' MRSA spreads to animals

MRSA found on twelve animals

source: Jo Revill
Observer December 14 2003 p1

Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a bacteria which kills around 5,000 people a year. Around a third of people carry the bacteria, and do not show ill-effects, but newborn children, elderly people, and those who have just been operated on can be affected, as can people whose immune systems are not working properly. The bacteria has been found on 12 animals, which has led to concerns that humans could become infected from pets. The findings came at the Health Protection Centre, London, England, which looked at samples from a rabbit, cats and dogs. The pets came from across the UK, so the bacteria is not localised. Cases have also been found of animals carrying the bacteria in the US. The reason for the spread of the bacteria may be the over-usage of a strong anti-biotic called quinoline. The British Veterinary Association has stressed that pet owners should wash their hands on a regular basis, and should not be panicked into giving up their pets.


Dealing with the fat cats

Obesity in pets

Source: Justine Hankins
Guardian Weekend September 13 2003 p69

Around a half of cats and dogs in Britain are thought to be overweight, and this can lead to kidney disease and diabetes in cats, and arthritis and heart disease in dogs. Fat rabbits are more prone to strokes and breathing problems, and fat horses are more prone to laminitis.

Pets should have a visible waist, and it should be possible to feel their ribs. Pets need sensible diets, and they also need exercise. Toys, such as cotton reels, can help cats to enjoy exercise, while rabbits, ferrets and guinea pigs need large runs. Most dogs need to walk for an hour a day, minimum. Owners and dogs benefit, though a gradual start is needed for inactive dogs and owners. Activities with dogs, such as agility and frisbee games, can be more enjoyable than visits to the gym.


Assessing the impact of fear, anxiety and boredom in animals

RSPCA meeting on animal health and welfare

source: Veterinary Record vol 152 no 21, May 24 2003
starts p639, 2 pages long

The RSPCA has held a meeting in London, England, to examine animal welfare and the emotional wellbeing of pets and domestic animals. Corticosteroids and other substances can be measured to assess how animals respond to stimuli, but this only tells part of the story. It also helps to look at animals' behaviour and expression, to give a fuller picture.

University of Birmingham's David Morton argues that anthropomorphism can help in predicting how animals might feel. A situation that might leave humans scared, bored or stressed could have the same effect on other animals. Stifling the normal behaviour of an animal is not good for animal welfare, whilst providing a novel environment does enhance welfare. Welfare is a concept which involves more than ensuring that animals are healthy. Meanwhile, Bristol University's Chris Sherwin noted that laboratory animals have colour preferences for cages, which should be taken into account to help them achieve happiness.

Pet dogs may suffer separation anxiety when left alone, noted University of Southampton's John Bradshaw. Dogs and cats need to be exposed to different sorts of stimuli while they are puppies and kittens, since this improves their emotional wellbeing.


How do you measure quality of life?

Ethical and welfare issues relating to vet treatments

source: Veterinary Record vol 153 no 2, July 12 2003
starts p37, 2 pages long

The BVA Animal Welfare Foundation has discussed how quality of life can be defined and measured in animals. There is agreement on basic requirements, such as food, security, and even companionship, but humans may have concerns that are not shared by other animals. Recreation may not be an important need, for example. A subjective element is likely when people talk of the quality of life.

University of Birmingham's David Morton noted ethical aspects of this issue, for example in whether surgery is appropriate, and whether animals in shelfters should be used to help vets practice skills to become better surgeons. He argues that the values of different societies mean that views of the quality of life can vary from one society to another, and that it is important to assess the costs and benefits for the animals involved, when considering treatment.

The impact of treatments on owners was also considered, as was the role of euthanasia. Some vets see euthanasia as signalling failure, while others see it as valuable in alleviating suffering.


Animals use nature to heal themselves

Self-medication in the animal kingdom

Source: Robin McKie
Observer January 26 2003 p13

Researchers have discovered that animals often self-medicate to get rid of poisons, parasites or other infections. Capuchin monkeys use millipedes that contain insecticides called benzoquinones. They rub the millipedes on their fur. Chimpanzees eat pith from a plant called Vernonia amygdalina, which is toxic for intestinal worms. Dogs can also tell when owners are ill, for example if they are about to suffer an epileptic fit. Cindy Engel has published a work called 'Wild Health', and notes that mountain gorillas are among animals that eat clay, a substance that can absorb pathogens and toxins. The Wildlife Conservation Society's William Karesh has found that most wild animals can survive a range of infections which are more likely to be fatal in domestic animals. Kenyan elephants have also been found to eat sodium-rich rock, that they grind before swallowing. This helps to provide a defence against toxins found in some plants they consume.


Consider her ways

Self-medication in wild and domestic animals

source: Cindy Engel
New Scientist February 23 2002
starts p42, 4 pages long

Zoopharmacognosy is the scence of animal self-medication, that has developed since 1944, when scientists interesting in this area began to co-operate. Rats may eat clay to rid themselves of toxins, and observers may not be able to ascertain whether a rat is seeking to cure, or to prevent illness. Self-medication may be unconscious in humans and other animals. Colobus monkeys may learn to eat charcoal to neutralise plant toxins, with their mothers as teachers. Apes, bears and geese use rough-leaved plants to scour themselves of parasites. Domestic animals may self-medicate, for example, cattle may ingest clay, which helps them to combat diarrhhoea.

Non-nutrients may be important for human health. Some herbs can act as anti-oxidants. There are lessons that pharmaceutical companies could learn, though many animal remedies are mechanical, and cannot easily be patented.

There is work being carried out in a number of fields on how animals can self-medicate. Some studies focus on domestic animals and their ability to self-medicate for pain, while other work focuses on cultural and evolutionary aspects of self-medication in primates. It is worth drawing together the research in this area.

A surprising finding is that sheep have been observed to eat meat, on the Isle of Foula, Shetlands, where the chicks of Arctic terns are targeted. This supplies sheep with minerals that they cannot otherwise obtain.


Toxic tide

Cat litter implicated in sea otter deaths

source: Elin Kelsey,
New Scientist no 2358 August 31 2002
starts p42, 2 pages long

There is concern that sea otters off California may have been infected by pathogen pollution from cat litter. Dozens of otters have fallen sick with a brain infection. Researchers at the University of California, Davis, have found that dead and sick sea otters have a parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, in their brains. The parasite affected 40% of the living otters sampled, and 60% of the dead otters. Southern sea otters are suffering a decline in their population, and are an endangered species.

Toxoplasma is carried by cats, and both cats and humans can be infected, but usually it is infirm and sick individuals which succumb, whereas otters appear to bemore susceptible. The reason for their susceptibility is unclear. They may be vulnerable on account of being a new host, or have a genetic susceptibility, or have suffered massive exposure. Flushable cat litter involves exposing marine animals to faecal waste. The US is also home to some 60 million feral cats, and their faeces can pass through storm drains to rivers, and so to the ocean. Otters living locations where storm drains and streams reach the ocean are more likely to be infected. Otters may also become infected from eating bivalve shellfish, such as clams and oysters. Humans could also be at risk from pathogen pollution.


Plague dogs

Wild animals at risk from domestic animal diseases

source: Stephanie Pain
New Scientist April 19 1997
starts p32, 6 pages long

The expansion of the human population into new areas can carry risks for endangered wildlife across the world. Ethiopian wolves and African wild dogs, for example, are at risk from diseases caught from domestic dogs, and Serengeti lions were infected by canine distemper in 1994. Mustelids, such as otters, are especially vulnerable to canine distemper. Parvovirus can kill the young of wild canids, and rabies has also affected Ethiopian wolves and African wild dogs. Cats can also pass on diseases to wild animals.

Wild animals tend to live at lower population densities than domestic animals, so infections can die out, whereas they may persist among domestic animals. There is concern that vaccination could cause more problems than itself, since wild animals may react in unexpected ways to a vaccine. Intervention can be successful when there is a clear need. One example is the successful treatment of endangered Arctic foxes for mange, carried out by Russian scientists. Cubs were given anti-parasite drugs, and fewer died of mange. Vaccination of domestic animals may, however, be more useful than trying to treat wild animals themselves. A drive to vaccinate dogs against rabies in Ethiopia was well received by local people. The dogs were not accustomed to being handled by humans, since the local religion is Islam, according to which dogs are unclean. This presented some challenges for the vaccination team, which it has overcome.


Britain's disease-free status remains intact

Bat rabies-type illness does not threaten British ground-dwelling animals

source: Steve Connor
Independent November 21 2002 p6

Terrestrial mammals such as dogs and foxes are not affected by the same type of rabies as the type that affects bats, European bat lyssavirus (EBL), also called 'bat rabies'. The diseases are similar. EBL is common among the bat population of northern Europe, and can be passed on to other animals such as humans, though this is rare. There have been three deaths of humans from EBL in Europe since 1977. Each of the three people has had contact with bats, and had not been given immediate treatment after becoming infected.

The British Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) argues that Britain is still rabies-free, since EBL cannot be transmitted between terrestrial mammals. The terrestrial form of rabies is not found in Britain, and has almost been eradicated in neighbouring European countries after a campaign to vaccinate foxes, using bait. Some 200 bats are tested annually by government scientists, with two cases detected over 15 years. It is rare for humans to be infected with EBL by bats. The public should not handle bats that appear ill, and should ask for help from a bat conservation organization. EBL cannot be transmitted through bat droppings. Bats are classed as a protected species in the UK.


Competition Commission points to complex monopolies in the supply of POMs

Investigation into prescription-only vet medicines

source: Veterinary Record vol 151 no 12, September 21 2002
starts p339, 2 pages long

The Competition Commission has sent provisional conclusions to UK vets, and wholesalers and manufacturers of prescription-only vet medicines (POMs), on the supply of these products. The commission has found that a complex monopoly exists where certain practices are common. These practices include vets not telling animal owners that they can request prescriptions, or failing to give prescriptions when asked for them, or charging high prices for them. Vets may also fail to tell owners how much the medicines will cost before they are dispensed, and bills may not be itemised. Discounts may not be passed on to owners, and POMs may be priced to subsidise professional fees.

Manufacturers' practices that indicate a monopoly include not negotiating discounts to vet buying groups, while monopolies may also exist if both manufacturers and wholesalers refuse to supply POMs to pharmacies on terms allowing the pharmacies to compete with vets.


Rational use of corticosteroids in small animals

Using corticosteroid drugs in treating small animals, and ways of avoiding side effects

source: Kit Sturgess
In Practice vol 24 no 7, July/August 2002
starts p368, 6 pages long

Corticosteroids are mainly produced in the adrenal gland, and they may be prescribed for a number of conditions. Though they can be helpful, they can also cause problems if they are misused. Some animals, such as rats, rabbits, hamsters, and mice, and birds are sensitive to steroids, whereas others, like humans, dogs, cats, horses, pigs ferrets and guinea pigs, are relatively resistant to steroids. Marked lymphocytolysis can result from using glucocorticoids with species that are sensitive to steroids. Other potential side effects include changes in the skin and hair, such as thinning of skin, lethargy, mood changes, tachypnoea, weight gain, polyuria, hypertension, muscle weakness and decreased muscle mass, osteoporosis, body fat being redistributed, pancreatitis, and immunosuppression.

Glucocorticoids can suppress clinical signs, but are rarely cures, so should not replace specific therapies. Single doses of glucocorticoids that are intermediate or short-acting are unlikely to be harmful, except in conjunction with NSAIDs, or in the case of hypovolaemic animals. Three-day treatment periods are also unlikely to be harmful, except where high doses are involved.

Corticosteroids may both act as anti-inflammatories and imunosuppressants. They can delay diagnosis and inhibit wound healing

Adverse side effects can be avoided in a number of ways, such as by being careful with using glucocorticoids in animals that have intercurrent disease, or are pregnant. Doses should not be continually increased if there is no initial response. Side effects are more likely at higher doses, and with longer-term treatments.

Steroid treatments lasting over two weeks should end with tapered doses to avoid corticosteroid withdrawal syndrome. This syndrom is not likely to be a problem with treatments of under three days.

Lab tests may be affected by animals having been given corticosteroids, for example, urine concentrating ability may be decreased, and T4 levels may be reduced.


Life is a stressful environment

Stress in captive and wild animals

source: Peter Taylor-Whiffen
Independent, Open Eye May 7 2002 p5

Frederick Toates, psychobiology reader at the Open University, has studied stress in animals. He notes that stress may result from loss of control in caged animals, leading to stereotypy, or repetitive behaviour. Animals need stimulation, without which they function at a reflexive, level, where they operate without thinking. Boredom and/or stress can trigger a drop to this reflexive level. Birds may pluck feathers, cats and bears may pace, and monkeys may rock themselves. Hormonal changes, problems with neighbours, pain and hunger can also lead humans to become stressed. Captive animals need rich environments to ease boredom. However, Toates says that wild animals can also suffer from stress, for example wild primates at the bottom of a hierarchical structure. In some ways, animals may be less stressed in captivity than in the wild, for example, captive animals do not face natural predators.

Veterinary science has come to recognise that animals have feelings, though some scientists prefer to focus on what can be measured, such as hormone levels, rather than feelings, which cannot be observed. Toates sees his research as important for animal welfare, and as having economic significance, since animals may harm themselves when under stress.


Supply of POMs: the Competition Commission starts to look for answers

British Competition Commission looks into supply of medicines available on prescription

source: Veterinary Record vol 150 No 18, May 4 2002
starts p 558, 3 pages long

The British Competition Commission is investigating the supply of vet medicines that are available on on prescrption (POMs). A public hearing in London on April 26 2002 has looked at prices charged by manufacturers, vets, dispensing of drugs by pharmacists, and the system of regulations. National Office of Animal Health's Phil Sketchly, favours a single European system for the authorisation of medicines. Views from pharmaceutical wholesalers, pharamacists and vets were heard on the existing and potential role of pharmacists in supplying POMs. Reasons for POMs being cheaper in many European countries outside the UK were also discussed.


DEFRA funding for veterinary science

Allocation of UK government funds for veterinary research

Source: Veterinary Record vol 150, no 20, May 18 2002 p620

There was an increase in funding for vet research by the UK Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) and Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) of over 80%, to 37.6 million pounds sterling for 2001 to 2002 compared with 20.8 million pounds annually for 1992-1993, according to food and farming minister, Lord Whitty. Funding for university research rose to 5.6 million pounds from 1.6 million pounds in this period.

The proportion spent on research into transmissible spongiform encephalopathies rose to 43% of the total in 2001-2002, compared with 27% in 1992-1993. There has also been a rise in spending on researching foodborne zoonoses. Animal welfare research, in contrast, accounted for only 8.5% of the total in 2002-2002 compared with 24% in 1992-1993.


Threat of clampdown on veterinary drugs

Competition Commission to investigate price of veterinary drugs

source: Stephen Foley
Independent April 17 2002 p21

The British Competition Commission has contacted manufacturers and wholesalers of veterinary drugs as well as vets, and is seeking to assess whether pet owners are paying too much for these products due to monopolistic or anti-competitive practices. Over 25% of the market is accounted for by Dechra Pharmaceuticals. Farmers and pet owners claim that drug prices are too high. The Commission’s deputy chairman, Denise Kingsmill, sees the discount system used by the pharmaceutical companies as lacking in transparency. End of year rebates, for example, tend not to benefit pet owners. One possibility being examined by the Commission is how to increase the numbers of veterinary drugs sold through pharmacists, to whom consumers could take vets’ prescriptions. Vet drugs appear to cost more in the UK than they cost in euro-currency areas, according to Kingsmill.

Dechra chief executive, Ian Page, argues that the company’s market share has increased as a result of operational efficiencies, and that it does not mean that anti-competitive practices are involved.


Pet owners shun British vets for wine and worming trips abroad

British pet owners buy cheaper vet medicines abroad

source: Observer February 17 2002 p10

British pet owners are increasingly buying vet medicines for their pets abroad, where costs are lower. They can also buy medicines abroad that have to be bought on prescription in the UK, which means that buying them in the UK costs more, because owners may also have to pay for seeing a vet. Some owners with dogs needing long-term treatments can save several thousand pounds by buying vet products abroad, according to Dogs Today editor, Beverley Cuddy.

Meanwhile, the British Office of Fair Trading is investigating the UK market for vet prescription drugs, due to concerns that a monopoly may have developed. The market is worth some 200 million pounds sterling annually.


Catch the rays

Lack of vitamin D after conception may lead to neurological problems

source: Rachel Nowack
New Scientist February 9 2002 p7

Lack of vitamin D after conception may lead to neurological problems, according to a researcher from Queensland Centre for Schizophrenia Research, Wacol, John McGrath. He studied rats which were fed diets lacking in vitamin D after they were conceived. When they became adult, these rats were more startled by loud noises following soft noises, compared with normal rats. Baby rats on vitamin D-deficient diets also have bigger ventricles in their brains than normal, a characteristic often noted in humans suffering from schizophrenia. Many genes in the brains of vitamin D deprived rats were also found to be less active.

McGrath had embarked on this research after noting that people with schizophrenia in North America and Europe were disproportionately likely to have birthdays in springtime, and so have spent much of their time in the womb during winter. Sunlight is important for the manufacture of vitamin D in the body. Further research is needed before women should consider taking supplements of vitamin D, which can lead to birth defects if taken in excess.


Flabby minds

High fat diets can impair memory

source: Alison Motluk
New Scientist March 3 2001 p10

High fat diets can impair memory, according to researchers from Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care, Toronto. They fed rats a high-fat diet, from the ages of one to four months, with 40% of the diet accounted for by fat, either vegetable or animal. These rats were compared to rats on a diet with 10% fat. All the rats were given a task to obtain food. They could obtain food by pressing a lever, but were only rewarded only every second time they were shown the lever. There was a delay of up to 80 seconds between when the lever appeared and its previous appearance. Rats on high fat diets, whether vegetable or animal fat, showed a poor performance in this task, compared with rats on the 10% fat diet, which learnt more quickly that they did not need to press the lever each time they saw it.

Fat could interfere with how insulin works, and how the brain uses glucose, the researchers argue. This research may be relevant to other animals, including humans. There is concern that a high fat diet could prevent young animals’ neural pathways from developing properly. This research is dealt with in detail in ‘Neurobiology of learning and memory’, vol 75 p179.


Broadening horizons, forging links: working as a volunteer overseas

Working abroad as a volunteer vet

source: Jack Reece
In Practice vol 24 no 1, January 2002
starts p 35, 5 pages long

Vets can benefit from volunteering to work abroad for charities. They can travel, and gain more experience than is possible in a British practice, as well as help others. There is stronger demand for extension workers and technicians than for veterinary surgeons, so not many voluntary jobs are advertised for vets. Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) and other organisations can help with finding work, as can personal contacts. Jobs can last from a few weeks to two years, and longer is needed if volunteers are to work somewhere where it takes a while to adapt to the culture. VSO usually asks for a minimum two-year contract.

Vets may work in a range activities such as training, zoological research, disease control, and animal welfare. Vets can contribute supplies such as books, drugs and equipment, and may find that they have less equipment to work with than they are used to. Charities may help with learning the language, or the volunteer may have to learn alone.

Life as a volunteer can be rewarding in a number of ways, especially being able to help colleagues and clients, who may depend on a cow that is being treated. Volunteers often have more trouble getting used to Britain on their return than they do in adapting to the community where they volunteer, since concerns in Britain may appear more trivial in contrast. Working as a volunteer is still worthwhile, despite the drawbacks.


Veterinary nurse training

Vet nurse training places lost

source: Hamish Cormie
Veterinary Record vol 150 no 3, January 19 2002 p88

A request for information from vets on Approved Training and Assessment Centres for veterinary nursing has resulted in information on 50 places that are likely to be lost, or have been lost. Busy vets are concerned about the paperwork and input that these places involve. There is concern that training of vet nurses could be affected, with fewer nurses being trained. The Royal College needs to accept that the S/NVQ system is leading to a reduction in places.


Note from America

Lyme disease could affect dogs and other pets in Europe

source: Ewan McNeill
In Practice vol 24 no 1, January 2002 p39

Lyme disease is common in the US, where it is spread by a minute species of tick. The disease usually affects dogs, though it can affect other pets such as horses and cats. It results in swollen joints, and can be treated if diagnosed early. Serious problems can arise, such as renal failure and arthritis, if it is not treated. There are vaccines, though they are not 100% effective, and booster shots and annual tests are needed. Tick control is also important.

Lyme disease appears to be spreading in northern Europe. More British dogs are travelling abroad, and British vets may eventually have to provide routine tests for Lyme disease.


CMO launches infectious disease strategy

British plan to tackle infectious diseases, including zoonoses

source: Veterinary Record vol 150 no 3, January 19 2002 p59

Britain’s Chief Medical Officer has announced that a new agency will be set up to tackle infectious diseases, including zoonoses, or diseases than can be transmitted from animals to humans. This follows a Department of Health recommendation. The National Infection Control and Health Protection Agency would bring together health protection bodies, and liase with public health services. Zoonoses include avian influenza, in Hong Kong, vCJD, and conditions arising from Escherichia coli 0157. Potential terrorist threats using biological weapons such as anthrax are also to be tackled. Measures to tackle infectious diseases include education and vaccination programmes.


Beware of the bat

Rabies-like viruses could spread from bats

source: Andy Coghlan
New Scientist January 19 2002 p8

There is concern in Europe about rabies-like viruses, European bat lyssaviruses 1 and 2. These viruses affect serotine bats in particular, and humans can be infected by bat bites, with three deaths recorded over 25 years. There are fears that EBL infections could spread from bats to other animals, though there has been only one recorded outbreak, in Denmark, in 1998, when three sheep died. A bat found in the UK in 1996 was found to be EBL positive. This bat had bitten two people. People should immediately wash wounds if bitten by an animal, as well as seeking medical help.

Normal rabies vaccines are ineffective against EBLs. There have been successful campaigns to eradicate rabies in Western Europe through feeding wild red foxes with bait containing rabies vaccines, and this campaign could be affected. Australia also has rabies-free status, as is the case in most of Europe, but Australian bat lyssavirus, also related to rabies, has affected flying foxes, with at least two human deaths.

Meanwhile, classic rabies continues to be a problem, especially in Africa and Asia, where it is endemic, especially in dogs. There are up to 70,000 deaths of humans from rabies annually in those continents.



Animal crackers

Debate on effect of the moon on animals

source: New Scientist June 23 2001 p39

There is some evidence that the moon may affect animal health and behaviour. Michael Gilmore, who is working as a vet in France, wrote to Veterinary Record in January 2001 about a French belief that horses tend to be more vulnerable to colic when the moon is full. He asked other vets if they knew of similar beliefs. A vet from County Clare, Ireland, answered that Irish folk traditions hold that it is best to time calving for the waxing of the moon, which encourages healthy growth. Many farmers he knew would not castrate or dehorn livestock during a waxing moon, for fear that livestock could bleed excessively.

Meanwhile, a British Medical Journal paper by Chanchai Bhattacharjee in 2000, reported that animal bites tend to be more common in the few days prior to a full moon, with a peak on the full moon. He looked at 1,621 bite injuries from his work as Bradford Royal Infirmary casualty doctor. The bites were mostly from dogs, but some were from rats, cats and horses. Simon Chapman, an Australian researcher, however, argues that dog bite admissions do not seem to be more common when the moon is full.


Man’s even better friend?

Debate on genetically modified pets

source: Philip Cohen
New Scientist July 14 2001
starts p10, 2 pages long

Genetically modified pets are likely to become available, and work is already being carried out. Transgenic Pets of Syracuse aims to produce genetically modified cats which do not trigger allergies in humans, while others aim to genetically modify pets to produce healthier animals, for example, by correcting defects in their genes. Conventional breeding is a slower way of changing pets, and cats still have an allergen, ‘Fel d 1’. There could be other benefits, especially where guide dogs are concerned. A lot of time is invested in training these dogs, so improvements in their longevity would be useful.

Cloning is one way of producing modified animals, though cats and dogs have yet to be cloned. Techniques which are being developed as a way of saving endangered species can also be applied to pets, and many people may want their pets cloned, perhaps with improvements, such as more resistance to cancer.

There are welfare concerns relating to cloning, and it is uncertain whether technology can be developed to tackle health problems of cloned animals. The regulations covering genetically modified animals are stricter in Europe than in the US. There is some concern about the impact on the environment, and whether pet owners would want humans cloned once they have taken a first step of cloning pets.


Vets split on New Age treatments

British vets divided in their views on effectiveness of alternative medicine

source: Anthony Browne
Observer January 30 2000 p7

British vets are divided in their views on the effectiveness of alternative treatments such as homeopathy and acupuncture. There has been an increase in numbers of vets involved in alternative medicine, and demand for such services is strong. There is also an increase in usage of faith healing for pets. The British Association of Homeopathic Veterinary Surgeons has sought affiliation with the mainstream British Veterinary Association, which has rejected the application.


Send in the vets!

Career information for would-be vets

source: New Scientist October 20 2001
starts p64, 2 pages long

Vets can work in a range of fields, though 85% are in general practice. Government services account for 6%, universities for 4%, charities and trusts for 3%, and industry and commerce for 2%.

There are 8803 applicants for vet school in Britain in 1999, and only 631 of these were successful. Courses last five to six years, and tuition fees can be 5,000 pounds sterling.

Medical research on animals can attract criticism, but both animals and humans can benefit. Opportunities in government research include monitoring usage of veterinary drugs, and helping to control epidemics in farm animals. Academic research tends to pay less well than general practice, since vets in practice can earn some 40,000 pounds sterling by age 30 to 35-years-old, which is as much as an academic professor. This creates the problem that vets often leave academia to return to general practice. One solution is to allow vets to combine both research and general practice.


The caring profession

Career information on veterinary nursing

source: Your Cat April 2000
starts p50, 2 pages long

The work of a veterinary nurse can be tough emotionally and physically, but there are many rewards too. Duties include laboratory work, animal first aid, feeding and cleaning, general ward care, and helping vets during surgery, as well as telephone and reception work. Job opportunities occur in private veterinary practices, as well as animal charities such as the RSPCA. Qualifications required are give GCSEs at grade C or above, including maths, science, and English, and to enrol with the British Veterinary Nursing Association, you must be 17-years-old, and employed at an Approved Training and Assessment Centre practice. The British Veterinary Nursing Association's Pre-Veterinary Nursing course is another option, if you do not gain the right number of GCSEs, and this requires you to have worked in a veterinary practice for at least nine months full-time, or 18 months part time.