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?


Liked this post? Feel free to share your opinions and/or follow me on Twitter, @ShoshShearing

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The Tuatara; From the Age of the Dinosaurs




Common name: Tuatara (Northern)

Scientific name: Sphenodon punctatus

Class: reptilia

Order: rhynchocephalia

Conservation status: threatened

Habitat: woodland and grassland of New Zealand

Size: 70-80cm

Weight: 600-900g

Diet: Carnivore, eats insects, birds eggs, frogs and small reptiles and mammals

Lifespan: 50-100 years

Appearance: Grey, green, brown scales along a typical lizard body

Breeding: Tuatara mate every 4-5 years. After a year, the female lays a clutch of egg.  Once eggs are laid, they take around a year to hatch.

Threats: In ancient times, predators were birds of prey. Nowadays, predators are introduced ones, such as dogs, cats and rodents

Other interesting facts:

  1. Males have no sexual organ
  2. Tuatara swim well
  3. Tuatara have a ‘third eye’ which can sense shadows and detect changes in light
  4. They are solitary, nocturnal animals
  5. Active at 7-22°C, only hibernating in colder winters
  6. Sleeps in a burrow, which is self-dug using their claws
  7. Their teeth are extensions of their jawbone. They don’t fall out and when they are worn down, they are not replaced.
  8. Has lived since Jurassic times, not changing m


I decided to do an animal profile on the tuatara because it is one of my favourite animals. Recently I was reminiscing with family and we remembered the time that I met a tuatara!

Anyway, if you enjoyed this post, please feel free to follow me on Twitter, @ShoshShearing



  • Wikipedia

Animal Profile: The Maned Wolf


imagePhotograph credit:


Common name: Maned Wolf

Scientific name: Chrysocyon brachyrus

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Conservation status: near threatened

Habitat: Grasslands and scrub forest of South America, namely Argentina, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil and Paraguay.

Size: 1m in height

Weight: 20-25kg but may weigh up to 30kg

Diet: Omnivorous, 50:50 diet of plants to meat, but can eat a higher proportion of plant matter. Small mammals are eaten, such as cuis, rabbits and agoutis, plants eaten include many fruits and sugar cane.

Lifespan: 7-10yrs in the wild, but may live up to 15yrs in captivity

Appearance: reddish-brown fur with fox-like markings; large, erect ears (an average of 7″ in length); long, deer-like legs; pointed muzzle; mane on neck which stands erect when danger is sensed

Maturity: 2yrs

Gestation period: 60-65 days

Threats: destruction of habitat; attack spread of disease from domestic dogs

Interesting facts:

  1. Only species in the genus Chrysocyon
  2. less than 2000 left on the wild
  3. nocturnal/crepuscular animals
  4. solitary animals, only coming together for mating purposes
  5. sexually monogamous animals
  6. produce what is known as a ‘roar-bark’, a sound rarely heard by humans




  • Wikipedia
  • Animalogic YouTube channel

Animal Profile: The Manatee



Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Common name: Manatee, also known as a ‘sea cow’

Scientific name: Tricheus

Order: Sirenia

IUCN Red List classification: Threatened

Habitat: Water dwelling, found in the Amazon, Africa and the West Indies


Lifespan in the wild: 40 years

Appearance: Thick, grey, wrinkled skin. Large bodies of 2.8-3.0 metres in length.

Weight: 400-550 kilograms.

Diet: Herbivore, eats water grasses, weeds, algae. Has a simple stomach, like a horse.

Manatees are often solitary mammals (with the exception of mother and calf). Fifty percent of their day is spent sleeping. When sleeping, the manatee surfaces for air every 15-20 minutes and when swimming, surfaces every 3-4 minutes.

These majestic creatures are mammals and they have a gestation period of 12 months. The weaning period for calves is a further 12-18 months and so the manatee only breeds once every two years or more.



  • Wikipedia

The Danger of Breeding for ‘Cuteness’


imageImage credit:

After reading an article in Vet Times, I became interested in the breeding of animals and how particular breeds have certain health problems that can be life limiting

I am particularly interested in brachycephaly – having a shorter skull shape than is typical for the species. Many breeders see brachycephaly as a desirable trait and is seen particularly in dogs, such as pugs and french bulldogs.

Brachycephaly is purposely caused by breeders who want to fulfil demand for a ‘cute’ look and is becoming more common in cats and rabbits.

In cats, brachycephaly is mostly seen in breeds such as Persians and Exotic Shorthairs.


Image credit:

From this photograph, it is clear to see that cats suffering from this condition have a greatly shortened muzzle, compared to the typical length. The top and bottom jaw do not align correctly and the teeth and jaw are misaligned. Naturally, this causes dental problems, mouth ulcers and difficulty eating. They are also prone to skin fold infections which are painful, at best.

Rabbit breeds, such as the Netherlands Dwarf and the Lionhead, are also known to suffer from the condition:


Image credit: RWAF

As in cats the jaws of rabbits with the condition are misaligned. In rabbits, it is essential that their jaws align, so as to prevent overgrowth of the ever growing teeth. As this is not possible in brachycephalic rabbits, they are prone to lacerated mouths, abcesses, chronic pain and even death.

These animals also have trouble breathing and will snore in their sleep because of this. Stenotic nares (severe narrowing of nostrils) are also a symptom of brachycephaly and severely inhibit the breathing of animals with the condition. As a result, these animals tend to have sedentary lifestyles and so are more likely to become obese.

Brachycephalic animals also have distorted tear ducts and so tears and puss overflow onto their faces, making the animal very uncomfortable and blocking the animals vision.

Lop eared rabbits, though not necessarily brachycephalic, are also suffering due to inbreeding. They gain middle ear infections and cannot communicate with other rabbits properly, leading to behavioural problems.



Turtle Hospital




Photo credit: Reef HQ

After the distressing topic of my last post, I wanted to write about something more cheerful this week, so I have chosen the magical turtle hospital in Townsville, Australia.

The Reef hospital is part of Reef HQ Aquarium in Townsville, Queensland which is part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. In recent years, James Cook University’s School of Veterinary and Biomedical Science has become a supporting partner of the hospital.

The hospital specialises in the treatment of ill and injured marine turtles and, according to the website, “operates under and promotes the C.A.R.E. philosophy”; Conserve, Act, Rehabilitate, Educate.

Marine Turtles are slow-growing and should live very long lives. However due to many threats this is not always the case. Threats include:

  • Fishing nets
  • Boat strikes
  • Litter
  • Plastic bags

Plastics bags particularly threaten these animals because they mistake them for food and usually end up being suffocated. Luckily, the Reef Hospital offers first class medical care for these beautiful creatures and educates the public in an effort to reduce threats to the turtles.

The hospital has had the privilege of caring for a rare hybrid turtle, a hawksbill green sea cross turtle nicknamed ‘Summer’, the first hybrid in Australian waters. The medical facility also cares for turtles suffering from turtle herpes, which causes fibropapillomatosis.

That’s it for this week, a short summary of the amazing work of the Reef Hospital at Reef HQ Aquarium, Townsville.