I’m going to Vet School

So recently I have been doing my A levels, enjoying a long summer holiday and also spending lots of time with friends and family.

Just last week a place at Surrey University was confirmed for me to study Veterinary Medicine and I am overjoyed with this news! It has been a very lengthy journey for me to reach this stage since being in year 8 and showing my first interest in wanting to be a vet.

I cant wait to keep this blog updated with what is going on at university and continuing in my Veterinary Journey.

Microchipping

There has been a slight lack of blogs recently due to a busy work schedule but I thought it was about time to do another one so I do hope you enjoy it!

You may have heard recently in the news that from the 6th April this year it will be compulsory to have your dog micro-chipped. The purpose of this is to help to reunite lost dogs with their owners and the microchip makes it easier to do this, particularly for rescue centers.

At the moment in Britain it is a legal requirement for a dog to wear a collar with a tag holding information about their owner so that if they are lost they can be reunited. Some dogs are micro-chipped already however many strays that are micro-chipped often have out of date information about their owners linked to them and therefore this makes it difficult to reunite them with their owner.This is of course problematic because if a dog cannot be reunited with its owner it can be put up for adoption, however many unfortunately end up being euthanised as there are not enough willing people to adopt these dogs.

From now on puppies at the age of 8 weeks will be micro-chipped and if any dogs are found stray without a microchip will be required to be micro-chipped by their owners within a certain time frame, with the failure to do so leading to a fine.

I am in huge agreement towards this new law surrounding micro-chipping. I watch many programmes including The Dog Rescuers that is on at the moment, which highlight the number of dogs that get lost each year from the owners. Having a microchip will more than likely ensure that dogs are lost for much shorter periods of time and therefore the whole ordeal is likely to be a lot less stressful for both the animal and the owners.

Of course like anything when a law changes some people are in objection. Microchips can be costly to implant and whilst it isn’t an extremely painful procedure to insert a microchip, it can of course be slightly painful and discomforting for the dog which some people object to.

Overall in the long run I think that it is a much better solution rather than having some dogs micro-chipped and others not. It is likely to take a while in order to ensure as many dogs are micro-chipped as possible due to the sheer number of dogs in Britain, however with 60% of dogs currently micro-chipped it is definitely possible. Hopefully it’ll mean there are fewer cases of lost dogs and as a result leading to fewer dogs being euthanised.

Hope you enjoyed reading this blog! More coming very soon!

Extended Project Qualification

I have just recently completed my EPQ which I researched and wrote up a dissertation on focusing upon how justifiable the use of animal testing in toxicity testing specifically is, considering a low success rate (6%) in human clinical trials. It was an extremely worthwhile project that I thoroughly enjoyed completing.

To complete my EPQ I wrote a dissertation that was just over 7,000 words. It was extremely useful and I learnt a lot about how dissertations should be written and formatted which is likely to be useful for future studies, particularly research projects. I also completed a marked presentation where I presented my findings and conclusion to a panel of school governors. In preparation for this presentation I completed 3 practice presentations to Medical Society, my form group which consists of many students from different years and also my assistant headteacher who runs the EPQ program at my school. These all developed my communication and confidence and I was extremely happy when I received positive feedback which confirmed this personal development.

Through completing the EPQ I have learnt a lot about both the topic of animal testing but also myself. It has been a very informative process and one where I have also learnt the importance of time management. I believe that through completing this EPQ I have shown resilience as I was able to maintain my energy and enthusiasm over a long period of time and also take any struggles and issues positively making them much easier to overcome.

I believe that the information that I have learnt regarding animal testing and animal welfare is invaluable considering the career that I wish to lead in Veterinary Medicine. One of the reasons for this is because animal testing provides a large contribution to not only human medicine, but also veterinary medicine as animals too require medication and treatment.

I would definitely recommend completing an EPQ to anyone that is considering it and is able to do it! Whilst anyone who has completed it will admit that it is a lengthy and time consuming project, it is definitely worthwhile and based on the fact that you can choose to base it on whatever you want, is extremely interesting. For some courses it can also contribute to lower grade offers from university which is important to consider.

I really hope you enjoyed this post, thank you for reading it! Now that my EPQ is completed I hope to be blogging more so please keep an eye out!

Boosters

Boosters are given annually to many different animals which protects them from various different diseases. The boosters that are given are often changed by manufacturers depending on the types and strains of different viruses in certain years.

It is a common misconception held by some pet owners that boosters are not necessary for their pets and the reason that vets give boosters annually is for a profit driven reason. This could be because they see very little evidence of the diseases vaccinated against within society, however the reality is this is because of the number of animals that are vaccinated which creates a herd immunity, just like humans getting vaccinations.

Rabbits are given a vaccination annually to protect them against myxomatosis and Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease, (RHD), which are two diseases that can be fatal in rabbits.

Dogs are given boosters annually after 2 injections 2-4 weeks apart in the beginning to protect them against different diseases including distemper, pavovirus and parainfluenza.

Cats are given annual vaccinations to protect them from diseases including, feline infectious enteritis, cat flu, feline chlamydophilosis, and feline leukaemia virus.

Regular boosters given to animals enhances the animals immunity and helps to protect them against many diseases, of which most are fatal, which is why they are so important. Whilst they may be expensive, they are needed for a reason which is not for the benefit of the vet but for the benefit of the animal.

Zoonotic Diseases

A zoonotic disease is a disease that can be passed between humans and animals. When a vet identifies that an animal is infected with a zoonotic disease they must notify any relative authoritative organisations as stated by the RCVS Day One Competencies. There are different zoonotic diseases that pose a threat to humans and animals, some of which I will be discussing and exploring within this blog.

Avian Influenza:

Avian influenza is more commonly referred to as bird-flu and is a virus which can be spread between birds and humans. This happens when the birds excrete their faeces which then dries and can be inhaled by humans. In 2007 there was an outbreak in a Suffolk turkey farm but the following year in 2008 the WHO declared the UK as free from Bird Flu.

Birds suffering from avian influenza often refuse their food and may have diarrhoea. Swelling on the birds may be present around the necks and eyes and it often causes sudden death, sometimes with no prior symptoms.

Humans suffering avian influenza often suffer symptoms similar to a common flu. This includes a fever, sore throat and a cough. In some people the symptoms can be a lot more severe including pneumonia and vomiting.

Rabies

Rabies can be carried by seven different animals including cats and dogs. It is spread through being bitten or scratched by an animal.

Symptoms that are experienced includes aggressive behaviour, high temperatures and a heightened sensitivity to light. Animals can also experience frothing at the mouth, a difficulty in breathing as well as possible seizures.

Bovine Tuberculosis (bTB)

Bovine Tuberculosis affects many cattle, as well as badgers, which is one of the main reasons they are culled within society. There is a low risk of humans getting bTB from eating meat or drinking milk, however, farmers that come into regular and close contact with cattle that may be infected are at a much greater risk.

There are various different symptoms that can indicate that cattle may be infected by bTB. Some of these symptoms include a reduced appetite and as a result weight loss, or Chronic Mastitis which is an udder infection. Human symptoms from bTB include a persistent cough and a fever.

Foot and Mouth Disease

Foot and Mouth Disease is a viral infection that affects elephants, hedgehogs, rats, sheep, goats, deer, cattle and pigs. Transmission can occur through salivary exchange, milk and also dung, as well as the virus being carried through the air.

It is the most contagious animal disease and for this reason it means that any infected animals must be killed and incinerated when infection is discovered. It is simply not an economically justifiable option to aim to treat all of the animals.

The importance of identifying animals infected with zoonotic diseases is extremely important as they pose a risk to both humans and animals which can potentially cause an outbreak. Whilst treatment is available for many zoonotic diseases, for others it isn’t which only makes it more worthwhile that an outbreak is prevented.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this blog! Many more coming shortly 🙂

Red Squirrels

Recently on holiday to Scotland I came across many signs and posters highlighting the presence of Red Squirrels. It became my task to see at least one before we left, but unfortunately I didn’t manage to. I thought since I’m now back, I would do some research and blog about it!

Red squirrels are often affected by the presence of grey squirrels which is why the number of red squirrels has decreased over the years. Adult male red squirrels are unaffected, however females trying to breed, and the younger squirrels including the juveniles (squirrels less than a year old) are. As a result, fewer squirrels are being born therefore the population of squirrels is decreasing.

Not only a threat to the habitat, grey squirrels can also be a threat to red squirrels because of Squirrel Pox Virus. Many of the grey squirrels in the wild have resistance to this disease, as their immune system has antibodies to fight it off, however red squirrels are vulnerable, and therefore the presence of grey squirrels amongst red squirrels proposes a greater threat.

A main difference between grey and red squirrels is the amount of time they spend on the ground. Red squirrels in fact only spend around a third of the time on the ground whereas grey squirrels spend over two thirds of their time. This may be one of the reasons that red squirrels are harder to see, which is probably the reason I was not lucky enough to spot one.

Red and grey squirrels have very similar diets, both eating the same sorts of nuts and seeds, however grey squirrels are able to digest oak acorns and gain a greater nutritional benefit from eating them. Squirrels are adapted to their diet, and can in fact determine if a nut is rotten or not without opening it up. One of the threats between the species of red and grey squirrels is of course the competition for food, and if there are shortages, sometimes there can be aggressive behaviour in order to feed themselves and their offspring.

Overall, the red squirrel population is likely to continue to decrease, and people do fear the species one day becoming extinct. There are different programmes to try and increase the population, however as the population of grey squirrels continues to rise it becomes increasingly difficult for their survival.

I hope you have enjoyed this short blog and feel free to comment below! It would be great to hear if anyone has been lucky enough to see a red squirrel!

More blogs coming soon!

 

 

Hearing Dogs Experience

For the past week I have been completing a week of work experience at the Hearing Dogs in Saunderton. It was an absolutely amazing placement and I was lucky to get so much hands on handling experience throughout my week which has really boosted my confidence with dog handling.

The Hearing Dogs for Deaf People is a charity funded by donations as it receives no government funding. It is situated in Saunderton on the site of a previous farm, where buildings have been renovated for their purpose. The grange has many offices and two main kennel blocks with lots of fields and open space in order to walk and exercise the dogs.

During my week I spent most of my time with the dog welfare team. The dogs in training spend they’re day, mostly 9-5, in the kennels and the welfare team are responsible for looking after them. They then go home at the end of the day to a B&Ber where they are then brought back the next day. This B&Ber voluntary service is extremely popular because the dog can be cared for during the day whilst people are at work etc and holiday cover can be provided for by other volunteers.

My day usually consisted of fixing bedding and topping up waters, taking dogs for lead walks or into the fields where they can be ran without a lead, playing with them in the compound, helping with grooming and general cleaning and tidying. The welfare team are not only trying to get the dogs active, but also used to people and social situations, therefore the importance of lots of human interaction and playing with them is in fact extremely important.

I spent one morning with two of the trainers with some of their different dogs. Each trainer has on average four dogs, and also access to a shared training flat with a bathroom, living room, bathroom and sometimes dining room. Their aim is to train them in an environment that is as similar to the environment it will be working in.

Training the dogs consists of them responding to many sounds in the household. They will then alert the deaf person by a nose touch or sitting down with their front paws up on the deaf persons legs. The deaf person will then ask what it is and the dog will lead them back to the sound. This is the case for most of the sounds such as the telephone, a cooker timer, doorbell, alarm clock (where they will wake up the person by jumping up or a duvet tug). In the case of fetching the deaf person as asked by another person they can also lead the deaf person back to them which is helpful for simple daily tasks like calling someone for dinner.

The danger sounds including a smoke and fire alarm, and the shop alarms as well, will alert the dog to then lie down when the deaf person asks where is it. This is to avoid the deaf person being lead back to the danger, and allows them to make the decision on what to do.

Seeing this training, which takes 18 weeks, in action and different dogs at different stages was fascinating and great to see the dog I had been walking daily and exercising doing its job so well.

The dogs provided by the hearing dogs charity are usually cocker spaniels, cockerpoos, poodles and Labradors. They provide companionship and security to many deaf people, allowing them to get on with daily life and feel that they are safe as they know they can no longer ignore a sound!

It was a very rewarding and great week of work experience and I have learnt a great deal. Seeing how important dogs can be in someone’s life is amazing and what the charity is doing is incredible.

I hope you have enjoyed this blog as much as I have writing it. If you live near the Hearing Dogs they do have Thursday Tours which are very informative and great fun which you should get along to!

New blogs coming soon so keep your eyes peeled!

Dairy Farm Experience

Last week I was lucky enough to spend the week at a Dairy Farm in Thame. Specifically a Waitrose farm, which I am told is very prestigious! Not knowing much about dairy and cows at the beginning of the week, I was taught and shown lots by the different farmers, a farrier and also a vet and on the whole now have a much greater understanding, and knowledge of dairy farming and cows.

The first day I arrived and helped to feed the calves. They are fed twice a day, each getting 1kg of corn (pellets), water and 5 litres of milk split between the two feedings. I also topped up all the pens with straw and gave silage to the older calves that were 1 1/5 – 2 months of age, who were now off milk and getting 3kg of corn a day. The farm farrier was also working and busily trimming their hooves. Whist he was doing the hoof trimming, he showed me how he treated a foot ulcer and the Digital Dermatitis found on some of the hooves.

The foot ulcers are caused by the pressure of the pedal bone on the base of the hoof, commonly as a result of the cows being stood on concrete ground for long periods of time. Cows hooves are not designed to be on concrete, rather grass and earth, therefore this is a common problem. To treat the ulcer, the farrier cut around the hoof revealing the ulcer and allowing it to drain. He then covered it in copper paste, which protects the ulcer from bugs and germs and then placed a block on the outer claw to raise the hoof of the ground, allowing the ulcer to fully heal.

Bovine Digital Dermatitis is a disease that affects soft tissue found above heel bulbs of the hoof. It causes high sensitivity of the area and can potentially lead to lameness if left untreated for a lengthy period of time, which would be damaging to milk yeild and the general health of the cow. It can also be passed between cattle, therefore the sooner it is treated, the better. He treated this again with copper paste and made a note of the different cows that had the disease to be checked more regularly. On the farm they have foot baths, using the chemical Formalin, that the cows go through after milking, also helping with the maintenance and reduction of the Digital Dermatitis within the herd.

The Vet arrived on Tuesday for the general checks, where he took multiple scans of the cows to identify if they were pregnant or not, and also if they were bulling and therefore whether it would be suitable to artificially inseminate them. I also sat in on a Herd Health meeting, where they discussed lots of aspects of the health of the cattle, including the births and deaths of calves. A few days later, I spent part of the afternoon with the farm manager, helping with the artificial insemination and even got to feel the reproductive system of the cow by putting on a long glove and getting a bit messy!

Looking after the bull calves was sometimes challenging as many of them could not find the teats linked with the milk easily. To help them, I would let them suck my fingers and then gently guide them to teat where they could then feed properly. Yes it was messy but felt rewarding to see them feeding so eagerly after, and the slobber didn’t bother me one bit!

A barn of heifers on the farm had ringworm, and all had the tell tale signs on their skin. Learning from the farmer, they all recover from it and find that if they have the ringworm when they are young they usually remain better immune from it in the future and therefore can be beneficial in the long term.

Not only did I help directly with the animals but I also helped with a lot of other farm aspects. The changing of bedding, cleaning of food troughs and barns, powerwashing pens, building and collapsing of pens and assembly of the electric fence were all other examples of other jobs I undertook.

Working in the parlour for one out of the two daily milkings for a few afternoons was a great experience! I got given the job of spraying the teat sealant,  helped with the washing down of the parlour and different parts of the machinery and also helped with herding the cows in. They milk 20 cows at a time, each cow producing an average of 30 litres of milk daily, from the both milkings, which is then collected by a tanker every second day.

One of the highlights of my week was definitely witnessing the birth of a calf, something I have never personally seen before. It was amazing to watch, and to then see the calf grow for the further four days that I was there and being able to feed it daily I felt extremely lucky.

Farm work is definitely messy work, and found myself covered in all sorts every day, but I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and have learnt a great deal from it. The kind of knowledge you gain from experience is invaluable compared to that you could get from simply reading or questioning an expert.

I am extremely grateful for having the opportunities I have talked about above, and to be able to share it with you, and I hope now that it wont be long until I can really put all my new knowledge into action!

Thank you very much for reading this! Feel free to rate and or comment, I’d love to hear what you have to say!

Tomorrow I start a week of work experience at the Hearing Dogs Charity so there will be a new blog all about that on Friday! Other than that, more blogs to come soon…

Puppy Dog Eyes

The science behind puppy dog eyes is a recent discovery that has been made by scientists. A hormonal mechanism behind the action of puppy eyes, makes owners of dogs often softer towards their canine friends. Humans are heavily reliant on eye contact to fully interpret and understand the real feelings that someone feels towards a situation, therefore the use of ‘puppy eyes’ often leads to an increase in fondness towards the dog.

The oxytocin hormone is the chemical messenger behind the puppy eyes, and can often be referred to as the ‘love hormone’. In humans, the mother to child bond is often strengthened by eye contact, when the hormone oxytocin is activated. This process similarly happens between dogs and their owners, when they gaze into each others eyes.

When they make eye contact, the hormone is released in the humans body. There is an increase in fondness, and a greater connection meaning that the owner then wants to play and connect with the dog. Studies have shown that from this interaction between the human and the dog, there has as a result been an increase in the levels of the hormone in the dog as well. This is thought to strengthen the bond between the owner and dog and perhaps this is one of the scientific reasons as to why dogs are said to be a mans best friend and why the connection between human and dog is often so significant. The significance in fact is similar to that of a parent and their child!

Thank you very much for reading my blog post. I am hoping to continue more frequently with my blogs so feel free to check regularly!

For more information please visit:

http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20150416-dogs-can-bond-like-babies

 

Badger Culling

Culling is the deliberate removal of wild animals which is carried out by humans in order to reduce the population of this wild animal. The culling of wild animals is carried out worldwide, and occurs to many different species. In this blog I will be focusing specifically on the culling of badgers.

In the United Kingdom, the use of badger culling is used to aim to reduce the spreading of Bovine Tuberculosis. Bovine Tuberculosis is particularly common amongst cattle, but can also infect other species including deer, pigs and goats.

In August 2013, a pilot culling of badgers began in Gloucestershire and Somerset. It later stopped as failed, as often when humans interfere and begin killing the badgers, the badgers that are not killed yet still infected tend to leave their natural habitats, making the spreading of the Bovine Tuberculosis more likely, and also likely to affect a larger number of species.

There are many disadvantages with the culling of badgers. The first is the effect that this killing will have on the food chains. Changes in food chains because of the killing of badgers is likely to affect many different species either directly or indirectly. Furthermore, the suggested increase in Bovine Tuberculosis, due to the change in where the badgers ‘roam’ does not support the use of culling to decrease the presence of the disease. In addition to this, the cost of the process of culling is extremely high. To cull badgers over 150 square meters it could cost between £1.35 million and £2.14 million, which does not justify the £610,200 savings from the cull.

Possible advantages of the culling are the prevention of the spread of Bovine Tuberculosis, however as highlighted above, this does not always work as expected. Moreover another advantage of culling would be to prevent the presence of Bovine Tuberculosis further down the food chain. If the disease was to infect more of the food chain it could potentially compromise the health of the public.

The culling of badgers is a very controversial one, where the public are often split. Farmers, especially cattle farmers, often support the culling of badgers as it promotes the health of their cattle, however many are against it, as humans are interfering with nature and potentially could cause drastic changes to food chains.

The need for suitable and effective alternatives is becoming increasingly important. The question should be asked as to why cant vaccinations be given to the badgers. Of course this would be an extremely costly operation and very time consuming, due to the large population of wild badgers. In the future hopefully there will be more available alternatives which are cheaper and more effective, and greatly reduce the need to kill the badgers.

For more information on badger culling, there is lots of information available online e.g:

http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/newsandeventspggrp/imperialcollege/newssummary/news_10-2-2010-10-44-17

Thank you very much for reading my post! I hope you enjoyed it. More posts shortly!