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Working with Guide Dogs

21 Sep, 16 | by Kristy Ebanks

By Dr Mary Fraser

As vets and veterinary nurses we’re taught how to work with animals and clients. However, when working in practice I noticed that some colleagues found it awkward talking to owners of guide dogs or hearing dogs as they didn’t know what was expected of them, and were worried about offending someone by saying the wrong thing. So with this in mind I set about designing a study where we talked to owners of guide dogs to find out more about their experiences, identify what worked well in practice and why, and also discover what went wrong. I hoped that from this, we would be able to design some training for current students and practitioners in how to work with owners of assistance dogs.

So, what were the findings? Well, the first thing to mention is that overall the findings were very positive with many good experiences. Everyone had something good to say about their vets. This often focussed on consistency and routine: meeting familiar staff, including reception, nurses and vets who knew the dog and owner. Difficulties arose where new staff were present who didn’t know that the owner would weigh the dog before going into the consultation, that the dog shouldn’t be given treats or that it shouldn’t be distracted as it was working.

Good communication is essential to vet practice

Do you remember older vets talking about the ‘art’ of veterinary practice? This also applied to working with guide dog owners. Some owners found that if nothing was said in the consultation and they couldn’t see what was happening to the dog they felt isolated. They also worried about their dog as they didn’t know that it was only jumping because it was having its temperature taken – warning the owner about what was going to happen would have been helpful.

Sometimes vets didn’t fully appreciate the bond between owners and their dog. Every owner worries about their pet and many will treat them as part of the family. For guide dog owners though there is an even stronger bond. People rely on their dogs to go about their daily life and they spend all of their time with them. From this, owners were able to pick up subtle differences in their dog’s behaviour, or detect changes in movement through the harness (things that showed the dog was ill, sometimes before even the vet could pick it up on clinical examination). This, however, led to difficulties, as owners felt that sometimes vets didn’t believe them when they said there was something wrong with their dog.

Like any other dog, guide dogs need preventive healthcare and may need to be given medication at home. Many guide dog owners will be perfectly happy to apply drops or flea medication or give tablets, but they might not. So just take the time to ask if they are OK with the format the medication comes in. If not, do you have a different preparation that might be more suitable? We came across some ingenious methods of adapting syringes or droppers to make them more user friendly to both the owner and the dog. Where dogs were receiving multiple medications, then think about ways that they can be differentiated. If sending owners home with instructions then what format would suit best; emails or MP3s might be worth thinking about, although most owners were happy to remember instructions and knew they could phone the practice if they had any queries.

So where do we go from here? I hope that some practitioners/students out there will read the research and find it helpful in practice. I would be delighted if the vet schools could incorporate some of this into their communication training, but I know their curriculum is already full! Training staff in sighted guiding would also be beneficial to practices, so if you want to find out more please go to Guide Dogs website. I was recently asked what was the most important point to take from this research and my answer was ‘just ask if you can help.’

Acknowledgements: Thanks to Pamela Munro, Emma Brown, Julie Millar of Guide Dogs Scotland and all the owners and dogs who gave up their time to take part in the research.

Photograph: Shona Black with guide dog Woody. Photograph courtesy of Pamela Munro, Guide Dogs Scotland.


The women in leadership discourse

17 Aug, 16 | by Kristy Ebanks

By Elizabeth Chan

It is fantastic to have this opportunity to talk about the research I have been involved in (Career aspiration in UK veterinary students: the influences of gender, self-esteem and year of study), although I feel the need to start with a disclaimer: until Sabrina Castro approached me to ask her to supervise her student project, I lacked enthusiasm. I felt I lacked the skills that were needed to contribute to the women in leadership discourse and was a reluctant role model.

Initially we carried out our research in order to explore whether the disproportionate representation of female vets in leadership positions arose from a lack of interest, or whether female students demonstrated equal career aspirations to male students, but subsequently become less successful in their pursuit of leadership roles. Although an overly simplistic question, we indeed identified a gender difference in leadership experience and ambition in veterinary students: not only were the female students less likely to aspire to owning a practice, they were also less likely to have previously held a leadership role, such as in the Students’ Union (SU). Particularly in a female-dominated course, we would have expected male and female students to have similar experiences and ambitions, and we concluded that the gender imbalance in veterinary leadership was not simply caused by women tending to work part-time or eschew senior positions because of family commitments, but instead is a consequence of factors exerting their influence before women enter the workforce.

Does this matter? We have had female RCVS and BVA presidents and will soon have a female BVA president this year, as well as female heads of several UK veterinary schools. One could argue that these positions are available for those women who want them, and the gender-discrepant career aspirations could be interpreted as female students simply choosing to pursue other roles. However, that would ignore our findings in that the female students surveyed had lower confidence and self-esteem than the male students, not to mention the surprising finding (at least to me) that knowing a female practice owner had no effect on the female students’ career aspirations. Given that one of our initial arguments for supporting women into leadership roles was to provide role models, this is a significant issue and one to which I will return.

I might buy the ‘female students want other roles so it’s not an issue’ argument if this was accompanied by comparable confidence and self-esteem to the male students. Gender bias is not simply the way an individual analyses someone’s attributes and character traits as a consequence of their gender – being surprised that a female colleague isn’t nicer to work with (‘too bossy’), or considering it to be more acceptable for a male employee to be ‘tough’ – the phrase ‘too aggressive’ appears three times more frequently in women’s performance appraisals than those of men according to research in a recent Harvard Business Review1. More important here is the way an individual feels about his or herself, as a function of their gender. It is a woman thinking ‘I couldn’t take on that line manager role – I don’t like conflict’, ‘I can’t sit on that committee – I’m not assertive enough’ or ‘I can’t apply for that position – I don’t have sufficient confidence in my decision-making’. Confidence and self-esteem have high context stability – in a particular environment, these will remain consistent. Therefore, aiming to improve female students’ confidence and self-esteem as a way to bolster their leadership aspiration would be a demanding task. An alternative strategy would be to demonstrate to women and girls the plausibility of taking on leadership roles, despite having less confidence in the attributes they perceive as being essential for these positions. Which brings me to the issue of female role models.

I was initially surprised and disappointed that when I discovered seeing female practice owners did not seem to encourage female students to consider similar careers (and interestingly this actually appeared to increase male students’ aspirations to own a practice; at the time we overlooked the significance of this finding and it was left unreported). However, review of the literature reveals female leaders can inadvertently dissuade other women from considering similar roles. There is a tendency for women to view other women in leadership positions as ‘not like me’. We assume they have the ‘other’ character traits (assertiveness, decisiveness, able to take criticism), which we consider that we ourselves lack. It was only when a senior colleague told me she hated conflict and had been dreading a potential argument that I began to wonder if most women leaders achieve these roles without feeling they have strengths in these presumed leadership traits. In gender studies, women are typically found to favour relational leadership styles and a more connected approach to working relationships. Veterinary practice increasingly emphasises client relations, shared decision-making and communication; it therefore makes sense that those who excel in these attributes would form the profession’s leaders. If this is the case, we need to think how we role model leadership, particularly to female students. Maybe being an uncomfortable decision-maker, conflict-avoider and reluctant task delegator is not incompatible with having a voice on female leadership, and it may even represent better role modelling to advertise these (seemingly lacked) attributes!

So what now? Our findings included some reasons for optimism. Our observed gender differences in leadership aspiration are smaller than the leadership representation currently seen in the profession. Also, the proportion of male students who would consider reducing their hours for childcare reasons is larger than the proportion of male vets who work part time. Career aspiration was significantly associated with SU experience, and it was great to see all of the SU positions being filled by women at the RVC this year. Hypothetically, these findings could translate to a more balanced gender representation in the profession’s future, both in terms of leadership roles and work hours; work is needed to follow these trends and to explore the support mechanisms needed, such that those who are inclined towards leadership feel empowered to pursue their ambitions.

1 CORREL, S. & SIMARD, C. (2016) Research: Vague Feedback Is Holding Woman Back. August 8, 2016

The full article is available here

Immaculate contraception

15 Feb, 16 | by gmills

By Marie Kubiak

Meerkats are a charismatic and popular exhibit in zoo collections and they are typically maintained in their natural family groups. One dominant pair in each group is responsible for breeding and can produce up to four litters of one to six pups a year. As such, successful breeding can quickly result in overpopulation of an animal with IUCN conservation status of ‘Least concern’, with limited opportunities to relocate animals within the zoo community. Additionally, if social structure of a group breaks down and the dominant pair are displaced then inbreeding between younger members of the group can result. In either scenario, contraception is useful in managing unwanted breeding. Deslorelin acetate implants are advocated for contraception in many mammalian species, including meerkats (Suricata suricatta) but recommendations are based entirely on anecdotal reports with no objective data to demonstrate efficacy or safety.


This study followed two groups of meerkats: one group with contraception, using deslorelin 4.7 mg implants every 12 months to prevent inbreeding following social structure breakdown; and one group without contraception, to assess the efficacy of this treatment on breeding cessation. The group that used contraception produced no further litters for the entire 600-day observation period, while the control group continued to breed. Following control group expansion, the control group was also given deslorelin implants after 12 months for population management reasons, resulting in suppression of further conception, although one female successfully carried her litter to term. This litter was exceptionally large at seven pups and conception may have occurred in the hyperstimulatory stage in the two weeks following implantation.

No adverse effects on health or behaviour were associated during daily observation and annual clinical examination of all animals. Effective contraception appeared to result from implant placement in both sexes. As the meerkats were kept under the same dietary and management conditions, it would be expected that if environmental factors alone were responsible for the cessation in breeding in the group that received contraception, then a similar failure to reproduce would be seen in the group that did not receive contraception during the same time period. No disruption to the social hierarchy was noted following contraception and, interestingly, it appeared that the dominant pair in each group maintained their social status even when one received contraception and breeding was not occurring.

It was noted in this study that implanted males had a notable reduction in testicular size and this may be a useful criterion for assessing implant efficacy and monitoring duration of action. A duration of action of at least 12 months is expected based on the findings from this study.

More details about this case can be found here:


What is interprofessional working and how does it affect your working veterinary life?

30 Nov, 15 | by Kristy Ebanks

By Tierney Kinnison

Veterinary Record has recently published a number of papers that can give the detail; here I draw the strands together. Two papers (the practice effect and the personal effect) used Social Network Analysis (SNA) to map interactions between veterinary practice team members and to identify trends across practices in England. This formed the starting point of the empirical research for my PhD. The SNA produced a vast amount of data, which could be analysed in a number of different ways depending on the focus and questions being asked. This, I think, highlights the usefulness of SNA – relatively unheard of in many fields of work and study – in studying team interactions.

With all these data, we chose to focus the first paper on ‘the practice effect’ and the second on ‘the personal effect’. The practice effect deals with how interactions between staff are affected by the size of a practice and the presence of branches. Small practices were relatively cohesive, with interactions between most individuals, while the density of interactions tended to decrease with increasing team size. However, even in smaller practices, everyone was not connected to everyone else; hence, decisions about whom to interact with were made. In practices that do not rotate staff between branches there tended to be a lack of information/knowledge flow across branch sites, creating sub-teams. These results have implications for practices aiming to grow in size.

The second paper focused on ‘the personal effect’; the concepts of key people, interprofessional interactions and the links between social and work interactions. Key people were identified individuals through whom information/knowledge travels and who tend to link other groups together, as often they were appointed leaders, such as directors, practice managers and head nurses, but they could also be emergent and situational leaders. Analysis of interactions between professions identified a hierarchy with veterinary surgeons at the top. In order to create a well-functioning and informed team, we tentatively suggested that interactions should instead be based primarily on experience and knowledge, as opposed to purely what profession someone is. Social and work interactions were linked, suggesting that we interact at work with those people who we like (rather than on their expertise), or we become friends with those people whose work interactions we value. Crucially, higher order interactions were much more likely between those who socialised than those who did not.

The third paper (errors in veterinary practice) evolved from the second part of my research, case studies, which aimed to explore the trends identified through the SNA in more depth. During the case studies I spent several weeks with two practices and observed the teams as a whole, as well as observing and interviewing selected individuals, who were representatives of each profession. I was looking for good interprofessional working and learning and found many examples of this. However, on occasion, I also saw errors, defined in the most encompassing sense, to mean any behaviour that could lead to any potentially negative consequence for patients, clients, the practice or the team. These errors were primarily, though not exclusively, communication based and involved, for example, mistakes on records, missing information given face-to-face and mistakes in face-to-face communication. Identifying the systems nature of these errors (rather than placing blame on an individual) and using potential solutions may reduce error in veterinary practices, and is likely to be important in large organisations where information flows less easily as a function of their size.

We have had a very positive response from members of the veterinary professions towards these articles, as well as our Veterinary Record letter (VR 2015 177, 345). I hope through this brief piece that the background to the research will be better understood, and that the veterinary community will use this type of research to create a workplace where all professions and occupations are valued for their individual expertise, which when brought together, can form a complementary skills set, best placed to suit the evolving needs of our patients and clients in the 21st century.

Professor Stephen May from the Royal Veterinary College and Professor David Guile from the Institute of Education, University College London are co-authors in these series of articles.

We need to talk about error

3 Nov, 15 | by Kristy Ebanks

By Catherine Oxtoby

A paper that has recently appeared in Veterinary Record exploring the causes and types of error in veterinary practice is the first phase of a three year PhD into mistakes in veterinary practice – a hugely neglected area of research in our profession. It wasn’t until I started researching the background to errors and mistakes in other industries that I realised how little attention our profession has shown to a topic which is the driving force of policy and procedures in other sectors.

What we found, was that vets are no different to anyone else. Our brains are wired the same way – we make mistakes for the same reasons, it’s just that when a vet makes a slip during surgery the consequences are serious. It’s all about context, rarely about competence and almost never about a lack of care. Psychological limitations, system failures in the form of poor communication, poor teamwork and badly designed equipment or packaging were major causes of error, not simply a vet having a bad day. It is vital that we understand that mistakes don’t happen because someone was being careless – it’s much more complicated than that, and blaming the clinician does nothing to prevent it happening again. What we need are simple tools to support clinicians, and training in non-technical skills to help reduce mistakes.

Patient safety influences many areas of practice – not just the obvious example of ‘why things go wrong’. Reporting and discussing error, the reactions of our piers and seniors in the aftermath of mistakes and the way we look at our systems to prevent recurrences, all reflect the culture and ethos of a practice, its visons, values and leadership. Actively engaging with the concepts of patient safety drives quality, empowers staff and increases efficiency as well as saving lives and law suits. The final two years of the PhD study will be spent investigating safety culture in veterinary practice – the force which drives attitudes and behaviours. I believe that this is where efforts to improve should be targeted, as it is the culture of the place which determines its willingness to embrace the changes which may be required for interventions such as surgery checklists and reporting systems to really work.

I hope the paper will shine some light on a difficult and sensitive subject in the profession. The vast majority of veterinary surgeons and nurses are dedicated, compassionate people who care deeply about both their patients and their clients, but they are also human beings. We need to recognise the things which impair their performance and build resilience into our personnel and systems to ensure consistent quality of care, through a better understanding of the true causes of veterinary medical error.

More details can be found here


Lumbar pain presenting as praying position-like posture in a dog and a cat

30 Jun, 15 | by Assistant Editor


An article recently published in Veterinary Record Case Reports describes the case of a 10-year-old, male, intact Border collie presented with a 12-month history of progressive paraparesis and lumbar discomfort and a 5-year-old male neutered, domestic short-hair cat presented with a one-week rapid progressive history of unusual stance and gait. Both pets adopted a ‘praying position’-like posture and a gait characterised by raising the pelvis while keeping the elbows flexed.

Neurological examination indicated lumbosacral localisation in both patients. The dog adopted this unusual posture only intermittently and thus it was challenging to attribute the lumbosacral discomfort to the presenting posture. However, this unusual posture could be elicited later in the disease process by applying pressure on the lumbosacral junction. The cat presented acutely and continuously in this posture in addition to lumbosacral pain, plantigrade gait and a flaccid tail.

Advanced diagnostic imaging of the lumbar spine revealed caudal lumbar disc disease in both animals. MRI in the dog showed a focal bulging of the annulus fibrosus at the dorsal aspect of the L7-S1 intervertebral disc, which was causing compression of approximately 50% of the spinal canal. Both the left and right intervertebral foraminae of L7-S1 were filled with intermediate to low signal T2 weighted images (T2WI) and T1 after contrast (T1+C) material above the intervertebral disc. A CT scan of the cat revealed a large amount of hyperattentuated material within the spinal canal extending from the endplate of L6 vertebrae to the cranial third of L7 vertebra and occluding most of the vertebral canal.


Lateral and ventrodorsal radiographs (a and c, respectively) and sagittal and dorsal CT images (b and d, respectively) of the lumbar spine of case two. Lateral radiographs (a) show a subjectively narrowed L6-7 intervertebral disc space. Radiodense material is visible within the vertebral canal above the cranial third of L7 vertebrae (a, d, arrow). A large amount of hyperattenuated material within the spinal canal is located midline and ventrally occluding 80% of the height and 75% of the width of the vertebral canal extending from the caudal endplate of L6 vertebrae to the cranial third of L7 vertebra leaving only a rim of normal signal dorsally (b, d, arrow). L, left; R, right

Lateral and ventrodorsal radiographs (a and c, respectively) and sagittal and dorsal CT images (b and d, respectively) of the lumbar spine of case two. Lateral radiographs (a) show a subjectively narrowed L6-7 intervertebral disc space. Radiodense material is visible within the vertebral canal above the cranial third of L7 vertebrae (a, d, arrow). A large amount of hyperattenuated material within the spinal canal is located midline and ventrally occluding 80% of the height and 75% of the width of the vertebral canal extending from the caudal endplate of L6 vertebrae to the cranial third of L7 vertebra leaving only a rim of normal signal dorsally (b, d, arrow). L, left; R, right


The praying-position like posture and gait vanished with suitable treatment in both pets. The owner of the dog elected conservative treatment of exercise restriction and oral steroids leading to it being only mildly paraparetic. The cat underwent a L6-L7 dorsal laminectomy removing calcified intervertebral disc material resulting in resolution of nearly all neurological deficits.

It is suspected that the praying position-like posture resulted in greater pain relief for the dog and cat. Adopting a praying position-like posture results in ventroflexion of the caudal lumbar spine and decreased impingement of the nervous structures due to an increased distance between the dorsal aspects of the vertebral bodies of the adjacent vertebrae. A praying position-like posture has been previously described in different pathologies. For instance, acute abdominal pain can present with a prayer-type posture, abdominal distension, restlessness, vomiting, diarrhoea and collapse. Another report described severe cervical pain and an intermittent praying position-like posture and gait in a bulldog with C4-5 ventral cervical disc extrusion.

The two cases raise the importance of considering a praying position-like posture as clinical presentation for caudal lumbar disc disease in dogs and cats.

Thorn free

17 Jun, 15 | by Assistant Editor


In a recent case report, Marthinus Jacobus Hartman and colleagues report the successful laparoscopic removal of a thorn granuloma from the abdomen of a wild captive cheetah.


Image: Mark Probst

Image: Mark Probst

An 11-year-old cheetah was presented for routine laparoscopic ovariectomy during a cheetah sterilisation project in Namibia. While under anaesthesia, a mid-abdominal mass was palpated and visualised by ultrasonography as a highly vascularised round 6 cm diameter well-vascularised mass, not associated with any specific abdominal organ, in the mid right abdominal cavity (Fig 1). Ultrasound-guided fluid aspiration revealed a cloudy and turbid-appearing fluid, which on centrifugation had a sizeable cellular pellet.

FIG 1: Sagittal transabdominal ultrasound images of the thorn-induced granuloma. (a) The granuloma is seen between the measured callipers with the echogenic exudate caudal to the mass. (b) Image slightly more medially. Colour flow Doppler illustrates the vascularity of the mass

FIG 1: Sagittal transabdominal ultrasound images of the thorn-induced granuloma. (a) The granuloma is seen between the measured callipers with the echogenic exudate caudal to the mass. (b) Image slightly more medially. Colour flow Doppler illustrates the vascularity of the mass


The differential diagnoses considered before surgery were intraomental neoplasia or a foreign body granuloma.

The cheetah was prepared for laparoscopy for ovariectomy and surgical removal of the mass. A single incision laparoscopic surgery (SILS) port was placed immediately caudal to the umbilicus, and the mass embedded in omentum (Fig 2) was found, secured and freed using coagulation without major haemorrhage.

FIG 2: Ometalised granulomatous mass suspended by a Babcock forceps with some free blood in the peritoneal cavity

FIG 2: Ometalised granulomatous mass suspended by a Babcock forceps with some free blood in the peritoneal cavity


After introduction of the extraction bag through the SILS port (Fig 3) and intra-abdominal deployment (Fig 4), the mass was placed into the bag (Fig 5) and retrieved through the port. Ovariectomy was completed and the peritoneal cavity was lavaged before the surgical site was routinely closed.

FIG 3: Introduction of an extraction bag via the 5–12 mm single incision laparoscopic surgery port

FIG 3: Introduction of an extraction bag via the 5–12 mm single incision laparoscopic surgery port


FIG 4: Deployment of the extraction bag inside the peritoneal cavity

FIG 4: Deployment of the extraction bag inside the peritoneal cavity


FIG 5: Resected mass is placed into the extraction bag

FIG 5: Resected mass is placed into the extraction bag


The patient recovered uneventfully.

Subsequent macroscopic examination of the excised mass revealed a firm yellow-white soft tissue mass containing a 25 mm thorn-like structure (Fig 6) resembling that of the Sickle or Chinese lantern bush, a common thorn tree in Northern Namibia.

FIG 6: Thorn foreign body removed from the granuloma

FIG 6: Thorn foreign body removed from the granuloma


This is the first report to describe the laparoscopic removal of a foreign body-induced granuloma from the abdomen of a cheetah. Granuloma formation in this species has not been well described. Similarly, reports on laparoscopic surgery in this species are sparse, particularly those describing the laparoscopic excision of abdominal masses. They have, however, been used for laparoscopy in dogs, horses and tigers using three or four separate ports. The use of these bags or pouches has also not been described with SILS.

Entrance of the thorn into the abdominal cavity remains speculative, but it could have either entered percutaneously or via the gastrointestinal tract

This technique promises to be especially useful in wild carnivores, allowing rapid recovery and lowering the risk of postoperative surgical wound complications.

A much more detailed account with further pictures and a video clip of the procedure can be found here.




Nominations sought for Veterinary Record Innovation Award

18 May, 15 | by Assistant Editor

VR Innovation

Veterinary Record is launching a new award to recognise innovation in the veterinary sphere.

The Veterinary Record Innovation Award is open to individuals and veterinary teams whose innovation has brought about a change or improvement in any aspect of veterinary practice. This change might relate to a particular aspect of clinical practice or have had a broader impact on veterinary activity.

We welcome a broad range of nominations, which might include, for example, a clinical innovation in medicine or surgery, work that has influenced policymakers, a campaign to improve animal health and welfare, a practice educating owners on responsible ownership, or something that has changed how the business of veterinary practice is conducted.

Nominations can be made on behalf of a candidate but self-nominations will also be considered. Nominations should be between 500 and 800 words, and explain what the innovation is, what the impact has been and why it should be considered for the award. Evidence to substantiate the nomination should be included. In addition, video nominations can also be included. Entries should be entitled ‘Veterinary Record Innovation Award’ and e-mailed to The closing date for nominations is July 1, 2015.

The award will be presented at the BVA Members’ Day in Edinburgh on September 24. The awards ceremony will also include the presentation of the Veterinary Record Impact Award (formerly the William Hunting Award;VR, November 23, 2013, vol 173, pp 497-498), which recognises the research paper published in Veterinary Record in the previous year that is considered to have had the most significant practical impact.

2014 – a year of One Health

29 Dec, 14 | by Assistant Editor


In 2014, Veterinary Record published a series of articles exploring the links between animal, human and environmental health. While the fundamental idea behind One Health is by no means new, as outlined in an article by Abigail Woods and Michael Bresalier in June, it is beginning to be taken more seriously in the veterinary sector and further afield, due, at least in part, to the increasing complexity of global health problems in both animals and people.

The series seems to have captured imaginations, with the articles being discussed on social media, as well as within the pages of Veterinary Record; the journal has received a large number of letters on the topic this year (for example, here, here and here). In fact, there has been such interest that what was originally conceived as a series lasting 12 months will now be extended into 2015. It was found that there were simply too many interesting and important One Health topics and experts willing to write about them to cram into one year.

All of the articles in the One Health series are, and will continue to be, free to view.

The scene was set in January by Paul Gibbs, in a widely read article charting the recent history of the discipline.

In February, Patrick Wall discussed the role of One Health approaches in maintaining food safety, highlighting the fact that vets play an important part in ensuring human health by safeguarding the health of food-producing animals.

The next article in the series, written by Daniel Mills and Sophie Hall, looked at the human-animal bond, demonstrating that the One Health approach is by no means limited to infectious zoonotic diseases, but that animals can impact on the mental health and broader physical health of people. This article also contained one of the most striking images in the series (below).


A therapy goat being taken to visit residents of a care home. Image: Kristin Streff/AP/Press Association Images

A therapy goat being taken to visit residents of a care home. Image: Kristin Streff/AP/Press Association Images

Chris Oura’s article, published in April, looked at vectorborne pathogens, giving examples of how One Health approaches have been successfully used to control Japanese encephalitis virus in Southeast Asia, West Nile virus in the USA and Rift Valley fever in Saudi Arabia.

In May, Matthew Dixon, Osman Dar and David Heymann discussed emerging infectious diseases, including the One Health lessons learned following the first two pandemics of the 21st Century: SARS and influenza. They argued that the paradigm for One Health interventions needed to shift from a multidisciplinary response to disease outbreaks to the surveillance and prevention of zoonotic diseases.

As already mentioned, Woods and Bresalier’s article on the history of One Health gave an overview of the history of the concept, showing that its roots go much farther back than most people previously thought.

In July, Dilys Morgan gave an example of One Health in action, outlining the work of the Human Animal Infections and Risk Surveillance (HAIRS) group and in particular its response to the emergence of Schmallenberg virus in 2011.

Next, a team of researchers from the University of Glasgow including Sarah Cleaveland looked at whether a One Health approach could be used to tackle rabies. Among their conclusions was that there is compelling evidence that a One Health approach could work to eliminate the disease, but that it remains unclear whether the necessary collaborative partnerships could be built.

Kendra Stauffer and Lisa Conti’s article in October looked at how One Health can play a key role in emergency preparedness plans. Citing One Health issues that arose following Hurricane Katrina and the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, they discussed how some governments are beginning to include One Health considerations when preparing for disasters.

Andy Stringer’s article, published in November, discussed how improving animal health can have positive impacts on the livelihoods and health of poor people, especially those in developing nations.

Finally, in an article published this month, Peter Sandoe and colleagues looked at obesity in companion dogs and cats. They noted that obesity in people is, in some ways, linked with obesity in their pets, stating that a two-way approach is needed to tackle this complex issue. 

The breadth of topics covered in the series shows that the One Health approach is relevant to a wide range of health issues. In 2015, Veterinary Record will continue to publish feature articles on this important topic, with the aim of promoting One Health and stimulating debate.

Feeling hen pecked? You need a management plan

9 Apr, 13 | by sarahbrown


Injurious pecking (IP) is a ubiquitous problem on loose-housed laying hen farms and is a welfare and economic concern, associated with increased mortality and decreased productivity. The term ‘injurious pecking’ encompasses a range of behaviours including gentle and severe feather pecking cannibalistic pecking and vent pecking. Beak trimming is commonly used in commercial systems to limit the damage caused by IP and, although this is considered a mutilation in the EU, member states are allowed to authorise beak trimming where feather pecking and cannibalism may pose a problem; however, IP is still evident in beak-trimmed flocks. Consequently, there is a pressing need to identify other practical means of controlling IP on farms. The large number of risk factors associated with IP, and a lack of understanding of the relationship between the different forms of IP has made it difficult to provide concise evidence-based advice on how best to reduce IP in practice. Furthermore, advice is often generic and difficult to relate to practical issues on farm. A study recently published in Veterinary Record aimed to overcome these limitations.1

Sarah Lambton and colleagues, from the University of Bristol, carried out a systematic review of existing scientific and commercial literature to ensure known risk factors associated with IP were comprehensively addressed. The risk factors identified were then discussed with stakeholders (including industry representatives, Defra, RSPCA, retailers, poultry veterinarians and external academics) and, from their knowledge and expertise, 46 practical management strategies were developed to aid the prevention, reduction or delay in onset of IP.

IP was measured in 100 flocks of loose-housed laying hens from 63 farms; 53 treatment flocks employed a bespoke management package comprised of these management strategies and their subsequent IP compared with control flocks which were managed as usual. It was notable that both treatment flocks and control flocks may have been employing a variety of the listed management strategies before the intervention of the team at the University of Bristol. Scoring of plumage damage and observations of gentle and severe feather pecking, vent pecking and cannibalistic pecking were completed and management strategy use was recorded at 20, 30 and 40 weeks of age.

In general, gentle feather pecking was the most frequently observed behaviour, followed by severe feather pecking, vent and cannibalistic pecking and most forms of IP increased in both prevalence and rate with age. Plumage damage score, rates of gentle and severe feather pecking, likelihood of vent pecking and per cent mortality at 40 weeks all decreased the more management strategies were employed, regardless of whether it was a treatment flock or control flock. However, when compared with control flocks, treatment flocks employed more management strategies, had lower plumage damage and severe feather pecking. The successful knowledge transfer and uptake in treatment flocks, the authors say, are the result of various approaches adopted by the researchers, such as one-to-one discussions.

The authors conclude that the reduced levels of plumage damage and severe feather pecking in flocks through employing an IP management package show that such a package can be successfully used to reduce the level of IP in commercial laying hen flocks, with potential beneficial effects on both welfare and productivity.  Sarah Lambton added, ‘It is clear that the more management strategies combating IP that are employed, the lower the levels of IP, regardless of whether they were employed as part of a formal management package.’

Based on this work, a FeatherWel Guide to improving feather cover, incorporating the 46 management strategies, is being rolled out to hen producers, where it appears to have been well received. 2


1. Lambton, S. L., Nicol, C. J., Friel, M., Main, D. C. J., McKinstry, J. L., Sherwin, C. M., Walton, J & Weeks, C. A. (2013) A bespoke management package can reduce levels of injurious pecking in loose-housed laying hen flocks. Veterinary Record doi:10.1136/vr.101067

2. Reducing feather pecking: an objective assessment. The Ranger

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