You don't need to be signed in to read BMJ Blogs, but you can register here to receive updates about other BMJ products and services via our site.


A new differential for canine pneumothorax

6 Dec, 16 | by gmills

By Cameron Knight

An article recently published in Veterinary Record Case Reports describes a case of fatal pneumothorax in a dog secondary to malformation of a single lung lobe. Within the published literature, most canine cases with a similar presentation are diagnosed as congenital lobar emphysema (CLE). However, in this particular dog, CLE was ruled out by a panel of veterinary and human paediatric pathologists. Histological lesions closely resembled congenital pulmonary airway malformation (CPAM), a disease that is well recognised in children, but that has never been reported previously in any veterinary species. This report proposes that CPAM be considered in the differential diagnosis for canine spontaneous pneumothorax, and clarifies the distinction between CLE and CPAM.

The case describes an eight-month-old female boxer dog with progressive respiratory distress and no previous history of disease, trauma or toxin exposure. Pneumothorax was diagnosed and repeat thoracentesis and oxygen supplementation were performed for three days. CT confirmed bilateral pneumothorax and showed variably sized bullae in the right middle lung lobe, leading to a presumptive diagnosis of CLE.

During anaesthetic induction for lung lobectomy, the dog developed cardiopulmonary arrest and died. A postmortem examination was performed, which confirmed severe bilateral pneumothorax with atelectasis of all lung lobes, and revealed a small, pale and flaccid right middle lobe with several ruptured bullae (Fig 1). The primary bronchus supplying this lobe was flattened, with a slit-like, rather than circular lumen. In addition, the right subclavian artery had an aberrant origin from the left subclavian artery, rather than from the brachiocephalic trunk.

Fig 1: Right lung of a dog that died from spontaneous pneumothorax. (A) The right pleural cavity, with the cranial (RCr), middle (RMd) and caudal (RCd) lobes of the right lung labelled. The caudal lobe has been reflected dorsally to better expose the middle lobe. All lobes are severely atelectatic. In addition, the middle lobe is pale and flaccid. (B) The right middle lung lobe at higher magnification. Several collapsed bullae (yellow arrowheads) are present along its ventral and ventrocaudal margins

Histological sections of the right middle lobe were difficult to recognise as lung tissue. They consisted predominantly of thick fibrovascular trabecular networks outlining collapsed, empty cavities lined by a simple cuboidal to simple squamous epithelium. All other lung lobes in the dog had normal histological architecture.

A diagnosis of CLE was ruled out histologically. CLE requires overinflated alveoli or hyperplastic alveoli, whereas the affected lobe in this dog lacked alveoli. Instead, after consultation with seven human paediatric pathologists, a diagnosis of CPAM-like disease was reached. The term CPAM refers to a spectrum of human airway malformations characterised by abnormal development of various portions of the tracheobronchial tree. CPAMs are well recognised and relatively common in people, and are characterised by multiple irregular pulmonary cystic structures lined by varying types of epithelium. The distinction between CLE and CPAM in humans is not merely academic. Importantly, CPAM may progress to malignant neoplasia, while CLE does not. Lobectomy is generally indicated for CPAM lesions, while CLE may resolve spontaneously and can often be managed conservatively.

While CPAM-like disease has never been reported in the veterinary literature, there are 11 reports of CLE in dogs. After reviewing these, it is possible that some reported canine cases of CLE may, in fact, represent CPAM-like disease. This case highlights the necessity for histological distinction between these two diseases, and describes a novel condition that may result in spontaneous pneumothorax in dogs.

More details, images and discussion about this case can be found here:

Intubation complication in a rabbit

15 Apr, 16 | by gmills

By Daniel Pang

A report of an unexpected and novel anaesthetic complication in a rabbit, the presence of faecal matter in the oropharynx impeding attempts at intubation, was recently published in Veterinary Record Case Reports.

The incidence of anaesthetic-­ and sedation-­related mortality in apparently healthy rabbits is 1.4 per cent, six to eight times greater than in dogs or cats, and respiratory complications represent a substantial fraction of these deaths.

Unfortunately, undiagnosed respiratory disease and hypoventilation due to anaesthetic agents can cause significant respiratory depression. Endotracheal intubation provides a secure airway, facilitating positive pressure ventilation, reducing the risk of fluid aspiration and limits workplace pollution with anaesthetic gases. However, many rabbits are maintained anaesthetised with a face mask, rather than secure airway, because they are challenging to intubate. They have a relatively large tongue, narrow oral cavity and small glottis, which combine to limit visibility of, and access to, the larynyx. Simpler, novel methods of securing an airway such as supraglottic airway devices (eg, Laryngeal Mask Airway, V­Gel) have shown promise in clinical use.

A healthy, adult New Zealand white rabbit was anaesthetised for a CT scan as part of a larger study evaluating different methods of providing a secure airway to facilitate ventilation. Following induction of general anaesthesia (intramuscular dexmedetomidine and midazolam, followed by intravenous alfaxalone), the rabbit was positioned in sternal recumbency and orotracheal intubation with an endotracheal tube was attempted with a blind technique. Initial attempts at intubation by an experienced anaesthetist were unsuccessful, with intubation finally achieved after five minutes. This contrasted with an average of two minutes to perform intubation in similar rabbits by the same anaesthetist.

The study protocol required CT scans of the oropharynx to be performed before and after intubation. These ‘pre’ and ‘post’ scans allowed us to identify the cause of the difficult intubation: faecal matter present in the oropharynx before intubation, which was pushed caudally to cause a physical obstruction during attempted intubation (Fig 1). This was also confirmed at postmortem examination.

pang pic

FIG 1: CT images (sagittal plane) of a three-month-old New Zealand White rabbit pre-intubation (top) and post-intubation (bottom) with a 2.5 mm ID endotracheal tube. The pre-intubation image shows two areas containing material of mixed gas and soft tissue attenuation. These were confirmed as faecal material at necropsy examination – a discrete faecal pellet in the oral cavity (orange arrow) and dispersed faecal material in the caudal oropharynx, immediately rostral to the larynx (orange arrowheads). The endotracheal tube (green arrowheads) is visible in the post-intubation scan (bottom) passing dorsal to the faecal pellet (orange arrow). The pellet visible in the pre-intubation scan in the oral cavity has migrated caudally to merge with, and compress, the dispersed faecal material in the laryngopharynx

The source(s) of failed orotracheal intubation attempts in rabbits are usually unknown, although there is a tendency to blame anaesthetist inexperience or anatomical impediments. This report identifies a previously undocumented source of a difficult intubation. A pre­anaesthetic examination of the oral cavity in rabbits may be warranted, but is unlikely to rule out the presence of foreign material in the oropharynx.

The full article is available here:

CSI North Yorkshire

17 Dec, 15 | by gmills

By Tim Hopkins

Raptor persecution is an emotive issue in Britain. In an attempt to increase the population of gamebirds, some unscrupulous gamekeepers (sometimes directed by managers and employers) continue to illegally kill raptors. For conservationists and welfare groups, the shooting, trapping and poisoning of these wild birds represents the worst of the gamebird industry. Aside from the welfare concerns (for both game and raptor) and the disease risks from the release of many millions of captive birds annually, persecution continues to have a significant conservation impact on a number of species, in particular the hen harrier (Circus cyaneus) and golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos). Historically, some British species were pushed to extinction due to such pressure, although all have since returned to breeding. Parts of the gamebird industry continue to dispute the scale and impact of raptor persecution and believe that the conservationists and welfare bodies are attempting to piecemeal outlaw their traditional hunting sport. For any given incident, the reliability and transparency of a postmortem investigation is paramount.

Veterinary pathologists, police and NGOs are hindered in confirming shooting by decomposition, scavenging and concealment of the carcase by the perpetrator. Furthermore, the identification of ballistic objects within a carcase is rarely enough to prove cause of death – it is often an incidental finding. An article published recently in Veterinary Record Case Reports details a confirmed shooting in an otherwise ambiguous postmortem examination of a hen harrier using advanced imaging techniques.

The bird was fitted with a tracking device as part of Natural England’s Hen Harrier Recovery Project, which enabled its recovery after death. Despite the advanced state of decomposition, a postmortem examination was performed at the Zoological Society of London’s Institute of Zoology. The bird had a broken tibiotarsus, which was radiographed, and minute metallic radio-opacities noted. Without an obvious gross ballistic remnant, the authors needed a diagnostic tool that would determine the composition of the foreign object and its effect on the surrounding tissue. Several modalities were considered but ultimately rejected as they failed to preserve both the foreign body and the microscopic structure of the bone. Histology, for instance, would have provided accurate descriptions of the bony trauma but no information about the chemistry of the object. Conversely, many spectroscopic techniques would have provided accurate descriptions of the metallic object atomic makeup but destroyed the surrounding bone in the process. Scanning Electron Microscopy with x-ray Dispersive Spectroscopy (SEM-EDX) was the only tool that fitted the bill.


Fig 1: Plain craniocaudal radiograph of the left tibiotarsus and tarsometatarsus showing three radiodense objects (white and black arrowheads)

Fig 1: Plain craniocaudal radiograph of the left tibiotarsus and tarsometatarsus showing three radiodense objects (white and black arrowheads)


SEM-EDX was carried out at the University College London’s Institute of Orthopaedic and Musculoskeletal Science. With great care, the bone was prepared for imaging, which included a thin coat of gold palladium to reduce scatter during scanning. The images were spectacular and conclusive. The fragment had tunnelled into the cortex of the tibiotarsus, fracturing the bone and trabeculae. On its way, it had disintegrated. The fragment was predominantly lead on EDX. The lack of any significant bone resorption or remodelling suggested this injury had resulted in rapid death. Case closed.

That was until we noticed that there were minute amounts of niobium on the spectrum. Niobium is not used in ammunition or firearms manufacture, so where had it come from? The explanation took several months. EDX, like any diagnostic tool, is subject to artefacts, operator error and sensitivity and specificity constraints. After consulting with the University of Bristol’s Department of Earth Sciences, the authors ran the scan data through third party software – DTSA II (Desktop Spectrum Analyser, National Institute for Standards and Technology). DTSA was able to discriminate the spectral peaks and showed that the aforementioned niobium was a misread of the peaks caused by the gold palladium coating. Additionally, it revealed the presence of arsenic and antimony, common additives in lead ammunition manufacture.

This case demonstrates the application of a novel forensic modality to the veterinary field. SEM-EDX has also been used in human forensic science to demonstrate gun shot residue (GSR) – microscopic remnants of the ammunition primer and propellant – on victims, shooters and firearms. This information often forms a vital piece of the investigative puzzle. In the future, it may be possible to determine that an animal was shot by a particular firearm or person by matching the GSR EDX data.

Novel modalities are increasingly important for NGOs and police seeking to stamp out illegal persecution. Confirmation of shooting in such ambiguous cases may increase pressure on the game industry to reform its practices. The imminent use of GSR EDX to match individuals with shooting incidents may be enough to dissuade gamekeepers too.

More details about this case can be found here




Dog gets a raw deal

21 Jul, 15 | by gmills

An article recently published in Veterinary Record Case Reports describes a case of small intestinal segmental volvulus in a dog secondary to dietary obstruction. Small intestinal volvulus is an infrequently encountered condition in small animal practice. Within the published literature, there are notable contrasts in the clinical history and examination findings described as well as the success of the surgical intervention itself. This cases serves to propose both a cause for the volvulus and also describe its successful management.

The case describes a four-year-old golden retriever that had been vomiting intermittently and had been lethargic for a few days. The owners described the diet which the dog was being fed as consisting of a chicken bones and raw food (BARF) diet along with boiled potatoes and pasta. There was no history of foreign bodies having been consumed.

On clinical examination, there was an area of mid-abdominal intestinal thickening within the abdomen, but no discrete foreign body was palpated. Biochemistry, electrolyte and haematology blood samples were unremarkable, while abdominal radiographs were consistent with an intestinal foreign body (Fig 1).

At exploratory coeliotomy, segmental small intestinal volvulus was identified, and successfully excised by enterectomy without previous derotation. The patient made a smooth recovery from anaesthesia and surgery. Upon dissection of the excised portion of intestine, bones that were anatomically typical of those contained in chicken legs were found.

BARF diets have been recently increasing in popularity among dog owners. This is not currently mirrored by the profession where the vast majority are still cautious on their use especially in regard to the food hygiene and nutritional imbalance risks. This having been said, there are increasing numbers of the profession now considering whether BARF diets can be used in dogs, and if so how they can be nutritionally balanced.

This case demonstrates that intestinal volvulus, which is often considered to have an acute onset, may have a more delayed presentation, and still be successfully surgically managed. Additionally, it demonstrates that intestinal obstruction with secondary volvulus can occur due to dietary obstruction when a dog is fed a BARF diet.

More details, images and discussion about this case can be found here

Fig 1: (a and b) Right lateral and dorsoventral abdominal radiographs showed gastric as well as intestinal dilation, increasing the suspicion of gastrointestinal obstruction

Fig 1: (a and b) Right lateral and dorsoventral abdominal radiographs showed gastric as well as intestinal dilation, increasing the suspicion of gastrointestinal obstruction

Researchers investigate what really goes on in small animal consultations

5 Nov, 14 | by Assistant Editor


New open access research published in Veterinary Record indicates that almost half of veterinary consultations last longer than the 10 minutes allocated and that preventive medicine consultations last just as long as consultations for a specific health problem. The results raise issues to do with practice management, as well as the importance of educating veterinary students about comorbidities. 


Consultations are a major part of small animal practice, with small animal vets often meeting a large number of clients and patients each day. Generally speaking, 10 minutes is allocated for each consultation, but the amount of time required to address all of the client’s concerns can often exceed 10 minutes. Furthermore, consultations are often complex interactions in which a wide range of potential health problems are discussed.

In human medicine, large amounts of research has been conducted into the nitty gritty of how consultations work and the types of issues that are discussed. This has shown that more lengthy consultations tend to lead to more issues being discussed and better detection and management of certain conditions. However, until now, veterinary consultations have been less well understood.

A group of researchers at the University of Nottingham recently sought to fill these knowledge gaps by conducting some in-depth research into small animal consultations in the UK. They wanted not only to better understand how long consultations last and what happens during a consultation, but also to develop a tool that would make it easy to analyse veterinary consultations in depth. Their results are reported in two articles recently published in Veterinary Record (found here and here), both of which are open access.

Natalie Robinson, one of the authors of the studies, explains the idea behind them.

‘When the Centre for Evidence-based Veterinary Medicine was first set up at the University of Nottingham, one of our first questions was “What should our research priorities be?”’, she said. ‘We needed to make sure our research was relevant to first-opinion practitioners, so examining the veterinary caseload to determine what practitioners see and do every day was the first logical step. By examining consultations in greater depth, we can start to identify the important decision-making points during the consultation. This will allow us to generate new evidence which can support veterinary decision-making and hopefully lead to improved patient care.’

Eight small animal practices in England and Scotland took part in the study. The team observed a large number of consultations in detail, and recorded what they saw using a specially developed tool.



The research showed that small animal consultations often ran over the allocated 10 minutes



One of the studies assessed how long consultations tended to last. The researchers timed 182 consultations involving 203 animals in two of the participating practices in England.

They found that there was a huge range in the length of consultations. The shortest consultation observed lasted for just 51 seconds, while the longest lasted for 36 minutes and 45 seconds. Almost half (48 per cent) of consultations exceeded the 10 minutes allocated. Perhaps unsurprisingly, consultations in which more problems were discussed, or which involved more patients, tended to last longer.

‘One of the things that surprised us is that preventive medicine consultations lasted just as long as consultations for a specific health problem’, said Dr Robinson. ‘Preventive medicine consultations are often seen as “quick and easy” but the results would suggest that this is not necessarily the case. In fact it would appear that preventive medicine consultations may be even more complex than other types of consultations, with even more problems discussed, and so are an important part of the healthcare of our pets.’


Looking at consultations in more detail

In another part of the study, a total of 1720 consultations (involving 1901 patients) were recorded and analysed. The results make interesting reading.

The first key finding was that a total of 4486 problems were discussed for the 1901 patients, an average of 2.4 problems per patient. In almost two-thirds of consultations, more than one problem was discussed. The highest number of problems discussed in one session was eight.

‘Interestingly, fewer problems were discussed for rabbits than for cats or dogs,’ said Dr Robinson. ‘While there could be a range of reasons for this finding, it could be that vets and owners are less familiar with identifying health problems in this species. Previous work within our group has suggested that vets feel there is less information available for rabbits than for dogs or cats, so it could be that rabbit medicine is an important area for the generation of new evidence.’ The previous study she refers to was published in Veterinary Record earlier this year.



In almost two-thirds of consultations, more than one problem was discussed. The highest number of problems discussed in one session was eight.


More health problems were also discussed in consultations involving older animals, while when younger animals were presented, preventive medicine was more likely to be discussed.

While the results answer some questions, they also raise others. For example, if consultation length varies so widely, should vets begin to offer different types of appointments? The authors suggest that practices could set up geriatric clinics specifically aimed at older animals in which appointments are longer, ensuring enough time for all problems to be discussed.

They also note that the findings could have implications for veterinary education, as they show that comorbidities are common and consultations can be complex.

‘We need to make sure that training in consultation skills adequately prepares veterinary undergraduates for the realities of first-opinion practice,’ said Dr Robinson. ‘The findings suggest that first-opinion consultations often involve dealing with multiple problems and comorbidities within a single consultation, meaning the decision-making process is often complex.’

‘Ultimately, we need more evidence to support decision-making in patients with comorbidities, which will benefit not only undergraduate education, but also the wider veterinary profession and the patients they treat.’


On the right track: should UK veterinary schools introduce tracking to degrees?

3 Jul, 14 | by Assistant Editor


Currently, veterinary students at schools in the UK are trained to be ‘omnicompetent’ (able to treat any species) upon qualifying as a vet. However, in some vet schools elsewhere in the world, degrees include either full or partial ‘tracking’, meaning that students focus on a particular area or species for either some or all of their degree. Two studies recently published in Veterinary Record assessed attitudes towards tracking in UK veterinary degrees among key stakeholders.

Ever since the UK’s first veterinary college was founded in 1791, the way that vets are trained has been the subject of debate and controversy. This is hardly surprising when considering the wide variety of work that vets undertake; from ensuring the health and welfare of companion animals to maintaining the safety and wellbeing of food-producing livestock, they play a key role in several industries. For the profession to work, therefore, vet schools need to produce graduates with a very wide range of skills and expertise.

Currently, in the UK, veterinary students are expected at the end of their five-year degree to be ‘omnicompetent’ and qualify with the ability to practise in any area or on any species. Most schools do, however, offer opportunities for students to focus on some areas that are of more interest to them, for example, through elective choices. Outside of the UK, some vet schools have taken a different approach, allowing students to specialise or ‘track’ at some point during their studies. In 2001, the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands introduced tracking to its six-year veterinary degree, allowing students to take specialised modules in each year except the fifth, with the final year being spent only studying their specified field. Some schools in the USA also offer tracked courses, with students deciding how they want to specialise at the beginning of the course.

There is currently debate about whether UK vet schools should follow suit. Some proponents of tracked degrees suggest that expecting students to master so many different areas is unrealistic, while supporters of the current system say that UK vet schools produce competent and well-rounded vets capable of treating any species.

To try and find out what current opinions were on this subject among key stakeholders, a team of researchers at Bristol university vet school and the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies in Edinburgh conducted a mixed-methods study, which was recently published online as two research papers (here and here)  in Veterinary Record .

‘There is ongoing debate in this area, but little evidence regarding what stakeholders think, which is why we chose to conduct a broad-based survey,’ said Emma Crowther, one of the authors of the papers. ‘The mixed methods approach allowed us to quantify stakeholder opinion, and to understand some of the reasons behind those opinions.’

A survey was distributed to three groups – current UK veterinary students, staff at UK veterinary schools and vets currently practising in the UK. Participants were asked about their opinions on both partial tracking (where students are trained in all species, are able to focus on one area but then graduate with the ability to practice in all areas) and full tracking (students take a species-specific final examination and are qualified only to practice in their chosen species).

A total of 203 university staff, 700 students and 158 practitioners returned completed questionnaires and their responses made interesting reading.

The majority of respondents (69 per cent) either strongly disagreed or disagreed with full tracking, with 19 per cent either agreeing or strongly agreeing (the remainder had no strong opinions either way). There was much more widespread support for partial tracking, however, with 79 per cent of respondents saying that they were for the idea. Only 14 per cent disagreed or strongly disagreed with partial tracking.

‘Respondents mentioned a number of advantages and disadvantages to tracking, and often expressed opposing views,’ said Miss Crowther. ‘The comments were grouped into six major themes relating to choice, flexibility, competency and knowledge, stakeholder implications, specialisation, and ‘what is a vet?’.

The study also assessed how the career aspirations of current students matched up to the reality of the profession’s employment as it currently is in the UK. There were significant differences in aspirations for students at different stages of their degree. Significantly more final-year students wanted to go on to work in small animal practice compared with first-year students. First-year students were more likely to aspire to working in mixed practice, but by the fourth year, this proportion had decreased. The results also showed that the career aspirations of final-year students were similar to graduate employment figures.

‘Although final-year students’ career aspirations aligned well with likely employment opportunities, the data indicates that students’ aspirations in the early years were not so well matched, which would have implications if tracking were introduced early in the curriculum’, explained Susan Rhind, who also co-authored the papers.

Taking both the quantitative and qualitative data into account, the authors conclude that there is widespread support for partial tracking among key stakeholder groups in the UK.

With the debate still ongoing, it is unclear whether UK vet schools will act on these results potentially overhauling the way that vets are taught in the country and aligning veterinary education more closely with some of the other educational models around the world.

Pick of the litter: how interviews help vet schools choose the right undergrads

2 Sep, 13 | by Assistant Editor


Each year, staff at the seven UK veterinary schools face a huge challenge – how to whittle down hundreds of young, hopeful A-level students to just a few future vets. What’s more, the task is becoming more difficult each year. Data from the Royal Veterinary College show that total applications to undergraduate veterinary science courses rose by a quarter in the space of five years – from 6781 in 2007 to 9029 in 2012. This is compounded by the fact that the percentage of A-level students achieving top grades (A or A*) has increased from 21.6 to 26.3 in the past decade (according to stats from the Joint Council of Qualifications), making it more difficult to differentiate based on academic ability. On average, there are nine applicants for every place on veterinary degree courses in the UK.

To make sure they pick only the candidates most suited to the course and the profession, interviewers look for a wide range of qualities. Desirable traits may include critical thinking, mental ability, motivation, communication and empathy. However, gauging these characteristics using a personal statement and exam grades can be difficult, and in order to more accurately assess applicants, all seven of the UK schools use some form of interview in their admissions process, evaluating both academic and non-academic attributes.

In order to investigate the interview process for veterinary undergraduates, a team at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies and the Roslin Health Institute in Scotland, designed a study, recently published in Veterinary Record, which focused on one cycle of interviews of school-leaving applicants to the veterinary medicine course at Edinburgh university. The study had two main goals; first, to evaluate the influence of the interview on selection decisions and, secondly, to investigate the impact of discussion after the interview between interviewers on their decision-making.

All of the applicants in the 2008/2009 admissions cycle were first shortlisted based on their applications. Shortlisting criteria related to their references, academic history, personal statement and work experience. Following this, 181 students were invited for a 20-minute interview.


Before each set of interviews (usually comprising eight candidates), the interviewers were first asked to independently rank each candidate in descending order of merit based on their application and supporting material and also to make a provisional decision of ‘accept’, ‘reject’ or ‘hold’ for each candidate. Immediately following the interview, members of the selection panel were asked to repeat this process without discussing with their colleagues. Finally, after the selectors had discussed the candidates and reached a consensus, they were again asked to rank and make a decision on the candidates.

The authors used statistical analysis to investigate the levels of agreement among members of the selection panel during different stages of the interview process.

Before interview, members of the selection panel agreed only slightly about selection decisions (58 per cent agreement), but after interview they agreed significantly more (78 per cent agreement). The results also showed that interviewers’ perceptions of applicants often changed before and after interviews, as the level of agreement between each interviewer’s pre-interview and post-interview decisions was on average 67 per cent. In contrast to this, there were very high levels of agreement between the interviewers’ individual post-interview decisions and the consensus decisions achieved through discussion with their colleagues (84 to 90 per cent). The pattern described here also applied to the rankings the interviewers made before and after the interviews.

For most candidates (around 60 per cent), the selection decision did not change before and after the interview. However, many of the candidates had their provisional decisions changed for the better, for example, from hold to accept, after their interview. Of the candidates who were given a hold decision before interview, around half were moved to an accept decision afterwards. Inversely, some candidates’ provisional decisions were changed from accept or hold to reject after the interview.

The authors then further explored which attributes had the biggest impact upon interviewers’ decision-making and these were found to be: communication skills, overall knowledge gained from work experience and the ability to think on their feet. Candidates who performed well in these fields were more likely to have their selection decision changed to accept after interview, and vice versa for those who performed poorly.

The authors conclude that face-to-face interviews allow selection panels to achieve greater levels of agreement about who are the best candidates for the limited number of places. The results also showed that once the interviewers had formed their opinions during the interview, post-interview discussions with their fellow panel members tended to have little influence on those decisions.

In the medical and, more recently, veterinary professions, there has been a shift towards the use of multiple mini interviews rather than panel interviews. However, the authors state that their results show that there is still a place for the traditional panel interview in veterinary admissions procedures.

Neil Hudson, one of the authors of the paper, states:

‘Getting into Vet School is tough, with much competition for places. We wanted to make sure that the way we were selecting students was a good way of giving the students the best chance of showing that they are suited to our course, on top of what they have told us through their UCAS applications. It is a tough decision for selectors and what we wanted to do in this study was to try and ‘look at some science’ behind our decision making. What we found was that it was easier for selectors to agree on decisions made based on  interview than on paper applications alone. Furthermore, it was good to be able to drill down and see what potential attributes had the most influence on decisions. No selection system is perfect and what we have done here is say that the interview can, and should, play some part in the process, but it is very much for each school to adopt the blend of approaches that suits the candidates for their respective courses.’

Turning tables: Examining vets and clients

28 Jan, 13 | by sarahbrown


A recent Veterinary Record publication looks at the behaviour of vets and clients when given the opportunity to discuss animal welfare.                    

Dog vaccination appointments are a good opportunity to discuss welfare/ behavioural concerns

Dog vaccination appointments are a good opportunity to discuss welfare/ behavioural concerns


VETS are placed in high regard by owners when entrusted with their pets’ welfare, however, animal welfare, as defined by the BVA’s Ethics and Welfare group ‘relates to both the physical health and mental wellbeing of the animal.’ It has been suggested that the veterinary profession could do more to provide behaviour support.1

A paper recently published in Veterinary Record carried out a ‘fly-on-the-wall’ investigation into animal welfare discussions, videoing 17 booster vaccination consultations, involving six vets, over two small animal practices and then asking the owner to fill out a post-consultation questionnaire.2 Clients tend to visit their practice when their pet is unwell, so a booster vaccination appointment was seen as a good opportunity to discuss welfare issues.

On reviewing the video consultations, authors Mandy Roshier and Anne McBride identified five main topics of discussion: navigation (ie, directing the consultation), medical, husbandry, behaviour and cost. The vets were found to instigate discussion on all of these topics with the exception of behaviour, which was found to be shared between the vets and clients – it was also the least discussed welfare topic. The subsequent owner questionnaire, however, revealed that all clients had concerns about at least one behaviour of their dogs and five clients indicated that they considered this behaviour ‘a big problem’. Only one client mentioned their concern (jumping up on people) to the vet and this was not fully explored.  Another vet asked about a dog’s behaviour around other people; the client acknowledged that the dog was aggressive towards his wife but, again, the vet did not take this discussion any further.

The onus of identifying and reporting a behaviour issue lies with the owner, as it may not be obvious at the consultation, and the authors provide suggestions as to how vets can help to facilitate these discussions, such as developing trust and rapport, having a ‘safe’ environment to encourage disclosure and also creating opportunities to raise concerns.

Mandy had this to say: ‘In addition to vets, owners have the opportunity to access welfare information from a wide variety of sources, not all sources are reliable.  In this study, behaviour concerns were not mentioned and this leads us to ask how, or if these concerns are being addressed.  It is therefore important that vets enable their clients to discuss behaviour issues and provide appropriate support, be that directly or via referral.

This study highlights areas that could be researched further to understand the practising of behavioural medicine. It is apparent, however, that vets and owners need to work together to provide the best possible welfare for their pets.


1. McMillan, F. D. & Rollin, B. E. (2001) The presence of mind: on reunifying the animal mind and body. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 218, 1723-1727

2.  Roshier, A. & McBride, E. (2012) Canine behaviour problems between veterinarians and dogs owners during annual booster consultations. Veterinary Record dpi: 10.1136/vr.101125




Vet Record blog homepage

Vet Record blog

Highlights and insights into the research featured in the Veterinary Record. Visit site

Creative Comms logo

Latest from Vet Record

Latest from Vet Record