Work Experience Abroad – Un Stage à l’Étranger



Firstly, please accept my apologies for not blogging consistently recently. The main reason for this was that I was abroad for two weeks in France doing work experience with a veterinarian.

It will be so difficult to condense such a fabulous experience into one blog post, but I will attempt to do so this week.

It all started on the 25th of June when I left Southampton for Rennes in what I found to be a rattly and noisy plane. Whilst waiting for a train from Rennes to Guingamp (where I was staying) I met some nice people and had a delicious crêpe (big thank you to Angus!). Following a relaxing train journey (where a French boy gave me some sweets) I finally arrived in Guingamp and was met by the family I would be staying with, who were so kind and welcoming.

An eight o’clock start the next day showed me how the rest of the days would start. Farm number one was dairy (as were all of the farms I visited) where I was so surprised at the sheer size of the cow that the vet was called out to treat, being told that the cow had gut problems. After 15 minutes trying to restrain the cow, I heard the vet say something about the cow’s back. As my French is not perfect, that was all I understood. After the farm visit, he explained to me that when the bull was mating with the cow, he was so heavy that he had damaged her back, resulting in her being unable to defecate and having gut problems. I believe that the vet recommended a chiropractor! I saw another case like this later on in the experience.

Further into the work experience, we visited a farm with a cow that had milk fever. We had already come across this several times but this experience was particularly special to me as I was allowed to inject antibiotics into the cows. J’ai piqué la vache pour administrer les antibiotiques. The sheer force required to insert the needle surprised me. In addition to antibiotics, the vet also performed a perfusion, allowing me to hold the bottle that contained the perfusion solution.

Another interesting farm visit was to take a blood sample from a cow who had aborted her calf. In France if a cow aborts her calf, the farmer is obliged to contact a vet to take a blood sample for analysis. If a certain number of abortions occur in a small area within a certain length of time, the farmers get together and the authorities are alerted. In this way, diseases are managed.

During my time in Guingamp (and the surrounding areas) I was lucky enough to watch several surgeries, the most spectacular of which was a cesarean-section on a cow. It was a very long operation with a lot of blood and gore. Surprisingly, two calves came out of the cow, however they were both dead unfortunately.

Most of the placement was shadowing and carrying things, which suited me down to the ground as it was tough to concentrate on a lot of things whilst surrounded by another language.

Another quite interesting operation was a tail amputation on a cat. It was unknown as to how exactly the cat managed to injure its tail, but the vet suspected that it had caught its rail in a door, pulled it and pulled apart the vertebrae. Unfortunately the sole solution was to amputate.

On one sunny day, the family I was staying with were kind enough to show me La Côte de Granit Rose – The Pink Granite Coast. It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to, even though the next day I was a tad sunburnt.

This utterly fabulous experience went very quickly and the days were so packed full of exciting and interesting things that it was difficult for me to contain my excitement. Apparently it was just all in a day’s work for these talented veterinarians.

Microscopes, chemicals, mathematics, bacteria and everything else imaginable was featured.

When visiting farms, procedures were performed with whatever was there, quite different to the sterile environment I had learned to expect.

All in all, this has only strengthened my determination to become a veterinarian and I have truly realised that the vocation is my calling.

Animal Profile: Vaquita


Hello all, apologies for not posting for the last few weeks, I have been abroad doing work experience! A summary of this fabulous experience will show up here soon. I will also be fairly busy in the upcoming weeks but I will endeavour to post every week. Anyway, to keep you interested, here is an animal profile on the vaquita, the world’s most rare marine mammal.

Photo credit: Thomas Jefferson

Common name: Vaquita porpoise

Scientific name: Phocoena sinus

Class: Mammalia

Order: Cetartiodactyla

Conservation status: critically endangered

Population: 30

Habitat: marine, only in the Northern Gulf of California

Size: up to 5 ft in length and up to 120 lbs in weight.

Diet: ocean fish, for example the gulf croaker. They have also been known to eat squid.

Lifespan: approximately 20 years. Sexual maturity is believed to occur at 3-6 years.

Appearance: is mainly grey, with large, dark circles around its eyes. It also has dark patches on its lips that stretch to its dorsal fin, forming what looks like a smile.

Breeding: the mating season is from April to May and they have a 10-11 month gestation period, resulting in just one calf. A female vaquita will have a calf every two or so years.

Threats: fishing gear and commercial shrimp trawlers.

Other Interesting Facts:

  1. only discovered in 1958.
  2. to help increase the vaquita population, the Mexican government has recently announced a permanent ban on gill nets.
  3. the vaquita is the world’s most rare marine mammal.
  4. the vaquita is also the smallest porpoise in the world.
  5. seen either alone or in small groups of two or three.
  6. they use sonar to communicate with each other and also to navigate the waters of the gulf.


Do Dogs Spread Bovine Tuberculosis?


Photograph credit:

Firstly, what is bovine tuberculosis?

Bovine tuberculosis is caused by Mycobacterium bovis which is a slow-growing, aerobic bacterium. It is able to survive in the soil for up to a year and, despite its name suggesting otherwise, the bacterium can infect mammals other than cattle for example, deer, dogs, badgers, humans, cats and many more. However it dies present itself differently depending on the species and in cattle, is mainly a respiratory disease. Often it is found in the lymph glands of the throat and lungs and is passed out if the body in discharge of the nose and mouth, as well as in the breath of the infected animal.

How does it spread?

It is known that bTB (bovine tuberculosis) is transmitted between cattle, between badgers and also between the two species in what is know as a cycle of re infection. Animals become infected with bTB through inhalation or ingestion of the bacteria, which often happens though contaminated water and food. Between cattle, the disease is also transmitted via the placenta, to an unborn foetus and via infected milk. Badgers live in burrows (setts) underground with a group of badgers, and, as expected, close contact is unavoidable, hence bTB spreads quickly through the group. Close contact is also how the disease spreads between badgers and cattle, although it is not limited to this as an animal can also become infected after contact with sputum, faeces, urine, and also infected discharge from skin lesions or abscesses.

What is being done to control the disease?

Sadly, infected cattle are euthanised (nearly 40,000 last year) and there are many culls of badgers every year, regardless of whether or not the badger is infected with bTB. Farmers are also encouraged to keep infected cattle in isolation until they are euthanised so as to minimise spread of the disease and are also encouraged not to use slurry from other farms on their fields, just in case bTB was present there.


It is widespread opinion that badgers are responsible for large outbreaks or bTB and are believed to be the main spreader of the disease.

However, new investigations have found bovine tuberculosis in dogs, who are expected to have contracted the disease by eating infected meat. Infected livestock can still enter the food chain, as long as they do not have more than one lesion in more than one organ and feeding euthanised livestock to hunt kennels is a cheap way of dispose of carcasses.

Approximately fifty dogs are suspected to have been euthanised because of testing positive for bTB but a spokesman for the Master of Fox Hounds Association did not believe that there was a connection between bTB and fox hounds, despite being “aware of some new cases” of the disease.

Iain McGill has campaigned against badger culling and has said that he is “extremely concerned … that this disease is being carried by hunting hounds”. He also expressed concern that the government is ignoring significant evidence of this. Many wealthy Tory supporters are in favour of hunting with hounds, so this may play a role as to why the government are brushing off this new hypothesis.




The Times

Why Do Hares Box?


Photograph: J Bohdal /

Hares are often mistaken for rabbits, but are magnificent animals in their own right. It is often obvious to tell a hare apart from a rabbit when it moves – hares ‘sprint’ whereas rabbits ‘hop’. The ears of a hare are also considerably longer than those of a rabbit and have black fur on the tips. Additionally, their legs are much longer, so allowing the hare to sprint, its acceleration speed making even that of Usain Bolt look pathetic in comparison. Unfortunately despite their brilliant running ability hare populations are estimated to have decreased by up to 80% in the last century. This is most likely due to hare coursing and other means of human intervention.

The most iconic images of hares are often images of them boxing. Although most often seen in March – hence the term ‘mad March hare’ – this happens several times a year and is to do with reproduction.

Hares are typically solitary creatures, living the majority of their lives alone, only coming together to reproduce, mating ‘season’ happening several times a year.

So why do hares box? The obvious answer seems to be that males (bucks) will box each other over mating rights, the winner mating with the female (doe). This is definitely not the case though as boxing matches take place between a buck and a doe. It is widely regarded that a female will fend off an ‘overexcited’ male’s amorous advances by throwing a couple of punches.

Male hares partake in what is known as ‘mate guarding’, during which they closely follow a female to prevent them from being ‘stolen’ by another male. If a male is too persistent, for example if they chase her in an attempt to mate, she will ‘box’ with them in an attempt to fend off the male.


Animal Policies in Party Manifestos


Photo credit: In Memory of Vucko

The Conservative Party: Not much is mentioned about animal welfare in the Conservative manifesto, however what is mentioned, like most of the manifesto, is not in great detail and, in my opinion, does not have the same sense of importance as the other policies. It is said that the party wishes to implement “reforms to pet sales”, although it doesn’t specify exactly what this means. The manifesto also says that the party will make CCTV recording mandatory in all slaughterhouses. It is also a very public fact that the Conservatives wish to repeal the 2002 ban on fox hunting, promising that it will give a free vote in parliament to “decide the future of the Hunting Act”, which made the hunting of wild mammals with dogs illegal. Although it is a sporting activity, this party claims that holding hunts with dogs is a more humane way to control the fox population. Obviously this is a very controversial issue and it has met with a lot of opposition, including the Prime Minister, Theresa May, being heckled by opposers during the hustings in Maidenhead on the 27th of May.

The Labour Party: I found the Labour Party manifesto to be easy to navigate and straight forward. The party says that they will increase the maximum penalty for “those convicted of committing animal cruelty”. They also state that they will promote cruelty free animal husbandry and that they will will prohibit the third party sale of puppies. Labour have made it very clear that they wish to enforce a complete ban on any ivory trading (at present it is legal to trade ivory items made before 1947 as these products are deemed antiques) and that they support the ban on wild animals in circuses. The party also pledge that they will cease the badger cull and maintain the bans on fox and deer hunting and hare coursing. To protect marine life, they wish to reduce ocean waste. In an effort to increase biodiversity, Labour plan to plant more trees, providing a stable habitat for wild animals. They state that under a labour government, insecticides that harm bees will be prohibited.

Liberal Democrats: The liberal democrats gave sufficient detail on their manifesto regarding animal policies, pledging to “suspend the use of neonicotinoids until proven that their use in agriculture does not harm bees or other pollinators”, along with making penalties stronger for animal cruelty offenders, taking the maximum penalty from six months to five years. The party also wishes to introduce indentification requirements for the online sales of pets, in order to prevent the illegal importation of these companion animals. Additionally, they say that they will improve animal health and welfare standards in agriculture and ban caged hens. They also mention that they will take the illegal trade of ivory, fish and other wildlife.

The Green Party: the Green Party has so many policies relating to animals that they even have a separate manifesto for them ( the Green Party Animal Protection Manifesto)! Firstly, the Green Party states that they will introduce an Environmental Protection Act that will protect biodiversity and “promote … animal protection”. Taking ‘Brexit’ into account, they believe that the deal should include provisions to protect animal welfare. The party also boldly states that it opposes all forms of factory farming and promotes a reduction in meat consumption, as well as wanting to completely ban the ivory trade and being opposed to badger culling. In addition, Greens will apparently also work for a “complete replacement of animals in research and testing”, make CCTV mandatory in abattoirs and bring about an end to whaling and the keeping of cetaceans in captivity.

The Animal Welfare Party: As the name suggests, this party has many many policies geared towards animal welfare. The Animal Welfare Party is, to date, yet to release their manifesto, however they have provided a list of their key policies on their website. These policies include:

  • An end to all slaughter without prior stunning.
  • promotion of a plant-based diet, leading to an improvement in human health and therefore saving NHS funds.
  • Funds for alternative testing in order to phase out animal testing.
  • stopping live exportation of animals and reducing journey times for animals travelling to slaughter within the UK.
  • end the retail sale of all animals
  • ban puppy farms
  • “end the badger cull and oppose any repeal of the fox hunting ban”
  • an end to the exotic pet trade.

Plaid Cymru: There is not a lot mentioned in the Plaid Cymru manifesto on animal policies, however, they do state that they will “update and consolidate Welsh wildlife legislation, creating a new Wildlife Act for Wales”. The party also pledges to create and “Animal Abuse Register for Wales”.

Scottish National Party: The S.N.P. say that they will “set up a Wildlife Crime Investigation Unit as part of the police Scotland” and ban the issuing on electric dog collars. There may also be other policies that I am unaware of.


This post is impartial; in writing this post I do not mean to advocate any particular party, merely provide facts for those people whose vote is influenced by a party’s animal welfare policies and to encourage those who can to vote.



  • Plaid Cymru Manifesto
  • Green Party Animal Protection Manifesto
  • Animal Welfare Party key policies for 2017 general election

Animal Profile: New Zealand Sand Flounder


Common name: New Zealand Sand Flounder.

Scientific Name: Rhombosolea plebeia.

Class: Actinopterygii.

Order: Pleuronectiformes.

Conservation status: Least concern.

Habitat: Waters around New Zealand, in shallow waters and up to depths of 50m.

Size: Around 25 – 35cm in length.

Diet: Carnivorous, eats crustaceans, fish spawn and small fish.

Lifespan: 3-4 years.

Appearance: White belly with a green-brown upper side, the body being in the shape of a diamond.

Breeding: Maturity is reached at two years old. The number of eggs laid depends upon the size of the female, usually between 100,000 and 500,000. After about a week, the eggs hatch, the eggs having been laid in shallow waters in safe areas, such as a river estuary.

Threats: Man is the main predator, hunting the flounder for food.

Other interesting facts:

  1. These flounders do not have a swim bladder
  2. Spawning period depends on the temperature of the water, and therefore geographical location.
  3. It is a right-eye flounder. It has cartilage around both eyes when around 3 weeks old, but then the cartilage around the left eye is absorbed, the left eye moving closer to the right eye.
  4. Special pigment cells on its skin allow it to change colour to match it’s surroundings.
  5. Only leaves the seabed for courtship and spawning activities.



  • Wikipedia

Necrotic Enteritis


Necrotic enteritis is caused by the bacteria Clostridium perfringens and primarily affects broiler chickens (2-5 weeks old) and turkeys (7-12 weeks) raised on litter. However, commercial layer pullets in cages can also be effected.

The bacteria is found in dust and soil, faeces, poultry litter and feed although it is a pretty ubiquitous bacterium.

Symptoms of necrotic enteritis comprise severe depression, a reduced appetite, dark-coloured diarrhoea, ruffled feathers and closed eyes but the most obvious symptom is death. Many chickens with the disease die very quickly as it is a very short illness and so it can be financially devastating for farmers.

As well as mortality, the bacteria damage the small intestine and cause liver lesions.

Treatment for the disease is an antibiotic administered via drinking water. A new treatment is Phenocillin, its active ingredient being phenoxymethylpenicillin. This treatment is particularly impressive because it has zero withdrawal time, hence having no effect on egg production. Chickens usually respond well in 24-48 hours.

Prevention is a much better method of keeping your chickens safe as it is more effective than treating those affected with the illness. To prevent the disease and stop it spreading, it is imperative to manage stress and stress can upset the intestines. Vermin (rodents and wild birds) are also known to spread disease so these need to be controlled. Lastly, it is also important to collect and dispose of dead chickens regularly as cannibalism can occur, and hence spread disease.



Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction


Photo credit: The Independent

Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID), also called equine cushiness disease is a disease that affects the pituitary gland in horses and ponies. PPID is also linked to laminitus.


  • nerves to the pituitary gland degenerate, leading to enlargement of the pituitary and the production of excessive quantities of hormones.
  • as nerves continue to degenerate, the disease progresses and the gland is considered over active.

Clinical signs:

  • Disease affects over 25% of horses over the age of fifteen years and is more commonly found in ponies with risk increasing with age.
  • Hirsutism – excessive hair growth and retention of hair coat in the summer. This is the most reliable indicator of PPID.
  • Polydipsia and polyuria – excessive drinking and urinating.
  • Hyperhidrosis – excessive sweating
  • Infertility in mares. This is caused by changing levels of hormones affecting fertility.
  • Infections – horses with PPID are more likely to develop infections, such as ringworm, as a result of certain hormones which suppress the immune system being produced excessively.
  • Abnormal fat deposits particularly around the eyes (periorbital deposits).
  • insulin resistance


An ACTH test is used to diagnose PPID. This tests for the presence of the adrenocorticotrophic hormone.


Pergolide is used as a treatment. Interestingly, this drug can also be used to treat Parkinson’s disease in humans.

The drug is a dopamine receptor agonist. In a healthy horse, there is plenty of dopamine and when dopamine binds to dopamine receptors it inhibits the production of chemicals. Pergolide acts as dopamine and binds to dopamine receptors, hence stopping excessive production of hormones.





Development of Artificial Wombs


Hello all! This week, I didn’t know what I was going to write about, my mind has been focused on maths A.S. exams! Whilst looking around on the Vet Times website, I stumbled across something I found very interesting… Lambs being grown in artificial wombs! Naturally, I had to post about this.

We all know lambs as cute little animals who jump around their field happy as larry. However, like humans many are born with conditions that prevent them from being happy stereotypes, including being born premature.

The study that ‘grew’ lambs in artificial wombs, however, was part of the animal trials for testing the womb prototype on humans.

Firstly, the lambs participating in the study were removed from their mothers by cesarean section when they were 4 to 6 weeks away from complete gestation (21 weeks). It is believed that this level of gestation is equivalent to human babies being born at 23/24 weeks; extreme premature infants. The lambs were then ‘grown’ and monitored in a special ‘biobag’ for four weeks.

Picture credit: The children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

The lambs were inside what the researchers called biobags. These were sealed, fluid-filled plastic bags. An oxygenator circuit was connected to the sheep foetus, the foetus maintained within a closed ‘amniotic fluid’ circuit. The foetus’ heart drove circulation, keeping blood pressure and other markers at normal levels.

The lambs were seen to maintain stable haemodynamics and patency of foetal circulation, as well as having normal oxygenation and blood gas parameters. Appropriate nutritional support was given, resulting in the demonstration of lung maturation, brain growth, normal somatic growth and myelination.

After 3-4 weeks, the foetuses were said to be normally developed and were removed from the biobags. Many were then euthanised and further studied, although some were bottle-weaned. The oldest lamb of this kind is 1 year old.

Although these are the animal trials designed to help the development of assistance for premature human babies, I believe that this advancement could also help the farming community, who do lose some lambs every year to the sheep self-aborting, and hence lose money. If these ‘bags’ can be developed quite cheaply, this may provide a solution to the problem.

However, personally I am not comfortable with the use of animals in clinical trials for human development. Is it fair that lambs should be born prematurely by c-section, to survive for four more weeks, only to be euthanised? Or is this a necessary step for advancement of science? Feel free to leave your thoughts as a comment on this post.



Calving 101



In a sort of ‘sequel’ to my post Lambing 101, I decided to do something about calving, and hence Calving 101 came into being.

The gestation period of cattle is similar to humans; around 283 days and parturition takes place in three stages.

  1. Dilation of cervix. This stage takes place around 4-24 hours before delivery of the calf and usually goes unnoticed. Noticeable differences in cows and heifers are behavioural, with the animal isolating itself and showing signs of discomfort.
  2. Delivery of newborn. First, membranes will appear at the vulva of the animal. The head of the foetus will appear afterwards, the stage ending with the complete delivery of the calf. This stage should take around 30 minutes for cows and around an hour for heifers. If no significant change has taken place within 2 hours, the help of a veterinarian should be sought.
  3. Shedding of placenta. The placenta is usually shed from the body of the cow 8-12 hours after delivery of the calf. If it takes more than 12 hours, the placenta is said to be retained, dangerous territory is being entered and a veterinarian should be contacted immediately. Manual removal is dangerous and not recommended as it usually harms the animal. Often, the veterinarian will prescribe antibiotics to prevent infection and usually the placenta will pass by itself.


However, like with childbirth in animal, there are some problems associated with calving. These include, but are not limited to uterine prolapse, hypocalcaemia, calving paralysis and retained placenta.

Uterine prolapse: This can occur directly after the cow calves, usually happening not long afterwards, although it can occur before calving. Uterine prolapses are less common than vaginal prolapses but can still be dangerous and are definitely very irritable. A veterinarian should be contacted who will replace the uterus, cleaning the tissue before pushing it back into the cow.

Hypocalcaemia (milk fever): This is a metabolic disease caused by low blood calcium levels and occurs in between 3 and 10 % of cows with some breeds being more susceptible than others. The majority of cases occur within a day of calving as milk and colostrum production require a lot of calcium which is drained from the blood faster than it is being replaced. Warning signs include agitation and tremor of head and limb muscles and staggering until the cow falls over. Immediate veterinary treatment should be sought as the cow can die very quickly from this point. Treatment should be immediate and is the administration of 300ml or more of 40% concentration of calcium boroglutonate.

Calving paralysis: The paralysis of the hind legs and pelvic area after calving. This can be caused by the cow lying on one side for too long, and whilst this seems harmless, it can cause irreversible nerve damage. If the cow strained a lot during the birth, or the calf was in the birth canal for a prolonged period of time, her pelvic nerves will be extra sensitive and therefore more susceptible to damage. First calf heifers are particularly susceptible to paralysis. To help the animal, supportive care -food, water, shelter- is recommended and anti-inflammatory therapy is given (usually banamine but some steroids can be used). It is essential to provide care for the animal when it is in recovery, such as turning her when she is lying down to prevent further nerve damage as a result of lying for too long on one side.


Discussion topic (ethics):  Is it ethical to make cows breed twice a year? This practice has been installed in several countries already, so should it become commonplace worldwide?


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