The Secret Life of Cows – An Udderly Charming Little Book


The Secret Life of Cows – An Udderly Charming Little Book

The Secret Life of Cows – An Udderly Charming Little Book


By Iona Freeman - a forth year vet student from RVC whose current interests include avoiding her research project at all costs.








The Secret Life of Cows was first published in 2003, but it wasn’t until last year when it was re-issued with an eye-catching cover that it became a major sensation with vet students across the country receiving one in their stockings. The book is a charming collection of personal anecdotes from Rosamund Young and her cattle farm in the Cotswolds. She knows the cows individually and can tell which cow has produced the milk in her tea by the taste alone. The book itself is a beauty and would look good on any shelf; the inside is decorated with a “family tree” highlighting the links that connect her herd and the shared history between her and her cows. Most cows are descendants of the original herd and the names themselves are notable with Fat Hat, Fat Hat II and Popette being a few examples.

While many of the stories concern determined mothers and missing calves, one of the the most endearing is about Meg, calf to Wizzie who according to Young ‘told her daughter she was the best and the calf believed her’. Once winter and the inevitable mud set in, Meg is described as hating getting muddy feet and one night managed to climb a flight of narrow steps to the top of a granary store to avoid the mud below. She spent the night in great splendour and then taught two other cows the same trick. After spending many cold days and nights in barns over AHEMS I’m sure many of us can sympathise with Meg.


My favourite story from the book is actually about a lamb, Audrey, and a pig, Piggy, (although her full name was Gayle Elspeth Rosie) who were firm friends and would graze together all day. Apparently, if Piggy was late to the meeting point Audrey would go to her sty and wake her up by tapping her with her hoof.

These stories are the real draw behind this book and written in Young’s easy-to-read style, it is a great book to dip in and out of if you’re busy with University or placements (added bonus it’s only 133 pages). All the stories are self-contained so it’s great if, like me, you become a part-time reader during term time. It feels at times like a nostalgic Disney film, and is a fascinating account of a unique, organic beef farm in the British countryside in 2017.

Whilst Young presents an simplistic view of the modern beef industry, I felt there was a bit of subtle condemnation of a ‘normal’ beef enterprise. Whilst I’m sure they can learn from her, I think she could probably learn from them as well.
The Secret Life of Cows is a great book if you’re looking for a quick read or a present for family, friends, or any bovine buddies you may have. It definitely left me wanting more and with a greater respect for these amazing animals.

ISBN: 9780571336777


The first of three: RVC's IVSA takes on Leipzig


The first of three: RVC's IVSA takes on Leipzig

The First of Three: RVC's IVSA takes on Leipzig

By: Dylan Yaffy

It may seem like ages since the RVC’s Global IVSA Exchange back in October, but for a group of 15 RVC students eager to complete phase 1 of the 3-part exchange, the wait flew by. Just to catch everyone up to speed, RVC exchange officer, Tavishi Pandya, organised 3 IVSA exchanges for the spring term, the first of which involved a group of students looking to cure their January blues with a visit to Leipzig, Germany.

Having formed friendships with the German students back in October, even a 5:00am trip to Stansted wasn’t dampening the excitement across the group. Upon arrival to Berlin, our hosts welcomed us with a huge jug of mulled wine, and with a glass warming ours hands we made our way into Berlin for a day of sightseeing. Despite poor weather, our hosts brought us around the city pointing out important political and historical sights, such as the remains of the Berlin wall and the Brandenburg Gate. Unfortunately our tour was cut short as we rushed off to the train station after hearing word that Storm Friedrike was playing havoc with the trains across the country. We spent the next few hours waiting for a train to Leipzig while posing as “disgruntled tourists” for photographers of some local papers. It wasn’t until the next morning (Friday), when we were finally on our way to where we’d spend the next week.


Despite the train delays, we arrived with more than enough time on Friday to enjoy day 1 of the Leipzig Veterinary Congress. Think London Vet Show or Birmingham BSAVA, but mostly in German. After the day of free coffee, food and veterinary products, we made our way to the Leipzig Veterinary University’s student bar to catch up with the rest of our hosts. After a short night’s sleep (a recurring issue of the week), we were back at the Vet Congress Saturday for a series of english talks on equine reproduction. We also ran into some friendly RVC faces, like Holger Volk, who seemed quite shocked to see us attending Germany’s largest vet conference. Saturday night brought us to a fancy dress party with the entire veterinary faculty, including staff and alumni.


After a well needed lie in Sunday morning, we received a private tour of Leipzig Zoo from one of our hosts who has worked as a zookeeper during his time in vet school. Highlights include their ape enclosures, whose inhabitants are subjects of ground breaking behavioural research at Leipzig’s Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. Sunday night was a bit more relaxed than those previously, giving us the opportunity to rest our eyes and be serenaded by the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra.

Monday was our first glimpse of the Leipzig Veterinary University campus and their accompanying farm. The day was filled with practicals and lectures, including the chance to diagnose pregnancy in cattle, practice equine ultrasonography and learn about proper handling and care of marmoset monkeys. As expected, the day ended with another pub night. Starting to see the trend?

Tuesday began with a special guest lecture from the president of the European Society of Veterinary Neurology, Dr. Thomas Flegel, who helped us work through a neuro case they had just treated in their small animal hospital. After lunch, the group split, with some deciding to nap while the others visited the Völkerschlachtdenkmal (Monument of the Battle of the Nations), which commemorates the defeat of Napoleon in Leipzig. Upon returning to the university, there was one final lecture from a specialist at Leipzig’s farrier school, before we got the chance to give horseshoeing a go on our own specimens. Tuesday night found us all scoring 0s at a local pub quiz before dancing until the early hours at another one of their student nightclubs.

Unfortunately the week had blown by as fast as it had approached, and our final day in Leipzig was spent exploring the city and spending one last night with our hosts in their student pub. Another early morning, but on time, train to Berlin on Thursday followed by a flight back to Stansted had the 4th year students in the group arriving right on time for their purple scrub top ceremony. For these students, the Leipzig exchange was a great segue into their first proper clinical rotations, while for the rest of us it was a well-needed break from lectures and the stress of impending exams.

It’s always nice to visit another vet school and get a feel for how different regions and cultures translate into a different curriculum and teaching style. Our hosts in Leipzig kept downplaying their school and making poor comparisons to their week at the RVC, but I think I speak for the majority of our group when I say that we were blown away by their university and student life. After an amazing week, the RVC IVSA chapter can’t wait for their next 2 exchanges, to Estonia (Tallinn) and Greece (Thessaly) later this spring- make sure to check out the next JAVS for more!


Surrey - Southern Zoological Symposium 2018


Surrey - Southern Zoological Symposium 2018

Surrey Southern Zoological Symposium 2018

By Daniel Gillett, Surrey

Surrey’s entry to the Southern universities zoological symposium rotation may have involved inevitable speed bumps and complications but looking back was a hugely enjoyable success. 157 students turned out for the weekend to experience hands-on practicals, 8 diverse lectures and the result of the committee’s attempts to entirely self-prepare meals. All topped off by a wonderful night of music into the wee hours of the morning at the Mandolay Hotel, we are very proud to have had the opportunity to introduced Surrey to the visiting students and speakers.

Aiming to ensure a wide variety in subject matter, our external speakers joined us from many different areas of the zoological world with varying backgrounds both clinical and non-clinical. Our intention to inspire the future exotic pet, zoo, wildlife and research vets of the world will hopefully have been fulfilled. Our thanks to Susie Pritchard of Heathrow (a partner of the university), Ty Capel of ZSL, Maru Urbina of Wildlife Aid Foundation, Alan Wilson of RVC, Annie Bentley of Monkey World and Dr Martin Whitehead of Chipping Norton Veterinary Hospital. In addition, we would like to thank Surrey’s own Barbara Bacci and Dan Horton for stepping in to lecture at the last minute. Each speaker brought their owner unique style and insight with a healthy dose of humour and received a warm reception.

At the universities stunning pathology centre, Dr Maru Urbina of Wildlife Aid (who opened the event for us on Saturday morning) guided students through wildlife post mortems on cadavers from the foundation including hedgehogs, squirrels and a variety of birds. Feedback from this practical was excellent and we cannot thank Dr Urbina and Wildlife Aid enough for their time and specimens. Dr Elizabeth Anne-King of Medivet Canvey Island and her nursing team offered us their time, expertise and animals to lead an engaging and exciting animal handling session with ferrets, lizards, tortoises and snakes – for many students, this was their first time handling these species but we are certain it will not be their last! Invertebrate First Aid with Sarah Pellet offered a fascinating experience into the basic work vets can do with undervalued and sometimes feared species in first opinion practice.

Each member of our committee – Daniel Gillett, Charles Holloway-Wheatley, Megan Ballman, Sam Burch and Becca Hearne – deserve credit for delivering this event after over a year of preparation. Special credit goes to Verity Peake for masterminding and powering on with the event despite any-and-all difficulties and to our academic lead Dr Dan Horton. A thank you to our sponsor PALS VetLab and to their representative Mary Pinborough for delivering a case-based learning session for us and a thank you to our charity partners Animal Neighbours (whose director Sharmini Paramasivam also delivered a case based session) and Wildlife Aid Foundation.



AVS Congress 2018


AVS Congress 2018

AVS Congress 2018

By Lizzie Lamb, Bristol and AVS Congress Ball coordinator 2018


On the weekend of the 3rd- 4th February 2018 nearly 300 veterinary students from across the UK gathered in Bristol for AVS congress. It took over 18 months to prepare for, and a committee of 22 students to organise the various aspects of the congress; from booking lecturers, organising the bar crawl, ordering food, arranging hosting and running the social media. I think I can speak on behalf of the rest of the organising committee that we had never appreciated how much work goes into a weekend like this, before we got involved ourselves.

There were 4 streams covering small animal, equine, farm and exotics; all with pre-clinical and clinical lectures and practicals across the weekend. Highlights included equine tendon scanning, exotic animal handling, abattoir tour, practice using laparoscopic equipment, a debate on current hot topics in the farm industry and a CPR practical among others.


We also had keynote speeches from TV vet Steve Leonard and recent Bristol graduate Holly Ravenhall. Both talks were informative and inspirational, and we enjoyed hearing funny anecdotes from exotic and mixed practice veterinary work. Friday evening saw all of the delegates travelling into central Bristol for a bar crawl up Park Street, made even better by the large bar tab provided by one of the sponsors. This was a great way to start to the weekend and we hope everyone enjoyed it as much as we did stewarding. 

Despite the lack of sleep over the weekend, everyone was in high spirits at the AVS ball on Saturday evening.  With this being my role on the committee I was so pleased that the evening was a success; with a 3 course dinner, a performance from Bristol University Big Band the Hornstars, AVS president handover (congratulations to Dave) and some classic cheesy music to end the evening. Although the weekend was not without its hiccups (the food order being cancelled at lunchtime Friday resulting in a mass exodus of committee members heading to Costco to buy 250 pizzas and breakfast for all of the delegates being a prime example); the hard work of all involved was evident as congress was pulled off without major event.

Overall, Congress 2018 was a huge success which is down to the hard work of AVS central committee, Bristol AVS congress organising committee, all of the speakers from the weekend and the enthusiasm of all of the delegates who travelled to Bristol. It was a really great event to have been a part of, and has definitely been one of my highlights of my final year as a vet student.



The forgotten pet: the realities of ensuring good rabbit welfare


The forgotten pet: the realities of ensuring good rabbit welfare

The Forgotten Pet: the Realities of Ensuring Good Rabbit Welfare

By Sophie Ingledew, Cambridge 

 Photograph: Pixabay 

Photograph: Pixabay 

When I was nine years old my first pet rabbit died of fly strike. At the time I was traumatised
and, looking back, I realise that he had suffered for a long time before he was taken to the vets. I vowed to myself that I would never let it happen to another rabbit of mine. Little did I know how common this kind of story still is today, 13 years later . . .

As of 2017, there are 1.1 million pet rabbits in the UK, and it saddens me to think of the extent and significance of the poor rabbit welfare seen nationally. The reality is that the UK is in the
midst of a serious rabbit welfare crisis. While these animals are the third most common mammalian pet, many people simply do not know how to look after them. In 2006, the
RSPCA warned that rabbits were the ‘most abused pet’ in England and Wales (1). More recently, the PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) report (2) has identified some major issues with the way in which many people are keeping their pet rabbits and compromising their welfare. For example, in the wild, rabbits depend on complex social hierarchies, and as a pet, need
to be homed with at least one other neutered rabbit to avoid loneliness. Yet 56 per cent of pet rabbits in the UK are living alone (2). 

Misconceptions: an easy and cheap pet
Despite their seemingly low ‘shop value’, rabbits are not cheap animals to keep. A staggering 92 per cent of rabbit owners underestimated the minimum lifetime cost of rabbit ownership, which is around £6500– £9000 per pair of rabbits (2).  It is possible that this underestimation of cost may manifest as reluctance to seek veterinary assistance when it is welfare needed, especially when the cost of the consultation alone is likely to be more than the cost of the rabbit itself. Twenty-five per cent of rabbit owners stated that the reason they bought a rabbit was because their children wanted a pet (2). Rabbits are not easy animals to keep, nor do they make great pets for children. They are prey animals and being picked up can make them feel frightened and insecure. Furthermore, children tend to lose interest in the
rabbit and the parents end up being the primary carer for a pet that, in reality, they did not want responsibility for.

‘A hutch is not enough’
In 2016, Rabbit Awareness Week (RAW) ran a campaign entitled ‘A hutch is not enough’, to raise the issue of inadequate space and housing imposed on many pet rabbits. The traditional view of rabbits living in hutches was born out of the 19th century when the rabbit meat industry exploded in the UK, and has carried over into housing of the domestic pet. In the wild, rabbits carry out high levels of exercise over vast amounts of space, and so a little
hutch and a tiny run at the bottom of the garden simply isn’t enough.
Consequently, 35 per cent of UK pet rabbits are living in inadequate housing (2). 

Diet – a major concern

Many of the clinical health problems seen in rabbits are a result of an inappropriate diet. It is of great importance for a rabbit’s health that approximately 80 per cent of their diet is made up of fresh grass or hay, along with some greens and a handful of pellets. While this information should be common knowledge, 31 per cent of rabbits are being fed less hay than required (2). For many years now, and with solid evidence behind them, vets have been recommending against feeding muesli-style feed and advocating extruded pellets. Yet 25 per cent of rabbits continue to be fed a museli mix as part of their main food (2). 

Legal Protection
The responsibility of the owner for their pet’s welfare is enshrined in the Animal Welfare Act (2006).However, 27 per cent of owners have never heard of this legislation (2). While most rabbit owners do not intend to cause harm to their pet, ignorance can cause suffering by
Nonetheless, not all the blame can fall on the public. The English government has constructed ‘codes of practice’ on how to provide for the welfare needs of both dogs and cats, but has not done so for rabbits. It argues that there is plenty of information already available on
how to care for rabbits. While this argument is valid (good resources are provided by the Welsh government and organisations such as the PDSA, Rabbit Welfare Association
and Fund and Animal Welfare Foundation, to name but a few), this information is not necessarily easy for a potential rabbit owner to find. Furthermore, this lack of interest in
rabbit welfare from our government is likely to perpetuate the misconception that rabbits are easy and cheap to look after.


Awareness within the Veterinary Profession
There is no doubt that there is awareness of these welfare issues within the veterinary profession. In 2014, the BVA Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey found that 1 in 5 British vets were concerned about rabbits kept as pets. A second survey by the BVA in 2017 highlighted that 85 per cent of vets had serious concerns about rabbit health due to the wrong diet.
The BVA also supports the RSPCA led Rabbit Welfare Vision Statement, which aspires to help improve rabbit welfare by promoting methods such as effective training programmes for all those working with rabbits. The Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund has just completed a successful year of rabbit CPD programmes and is calling on delegates to make suggestions for this year’s schedule.

Does this translate to awareness within the rabbit owner population?
Although, as vets, most of us are aware of the problems faced by many pet rabbits, there seems to be a barrier to translating this information to the owners. For example, 80 per cent of female rabbits over the age of five are at risk of uterine carcinoma, yet 44 per cent of rabbits have not been neutered (1) A truly worrying statistic is that 50 per cent of rabbits have not had a primary vaccination course (2).  The two diseases that we offer routine vaccinations against, myxomatosis and rabbit haemorrhagic disease, are often fatal. Practising vets are a trusted source of information and are ideally placed to continuously educate owners on the basic needs and medical requirements of pets, yet as a profession we are failing to convince owners that their rabbits are worth vaccinating. 

Who is responsible for providing this information?

Although vets are in a prime position to provide advice and guidance for current rabbit owners, 32 per cent of rabbits are not registered with a vet (2). In addition, 8 per cent
of rabbit owners did no research before buying their pet (2). How are we supposed to educate people who we, as vets, do not have contact with?

31 per cent of rabbits are being fed less hay than required

Perhaps one strategy could be to make it a legal requirement for rabbit sellers to provide the necessary information. After all, every rabbit owner must come in to contact with them when purchasing their pet. Forty per cent of owners get their rabbit from a pet shop (2) yet
there is currently no law that states breeders or pet shops have to provide information on how to care properly for these animals upon making a sale. 

Raising the Profile
The findings of the most recent PAW report (2017) highlight that although some  improvements have been made in recent years, there is a still a need to raise the profile
of rabbits as complex animals that require dedicated ownership. We need current and prospective owners to be more aware and understanding of their needs.

Both vets and pet shops have a role to play in educating the public on these matters. It’s clear that engaging with owners before they purchase their pets is essential in improving the health and wellbeing of rabbits. Discouraging owners from buying a pet rabbit unless they
have carried out adequate research is essential to ensure that these intelligent and social creatures are not forgotten at the bottom of the garden.

1 ‘Rabbits “now the most abused pet”’. Last
accessed February 27, 2018.
2 PDSA Animal Wellbeing Report (2017)
paigns/pdsa-animal-wellbeing-report. Last accessed February 27, 2018.


Straight from the horse’s mouth - a report from Liverpool SEVA Congress 2018!


Straight from the horse’s mouth - a report from Liverpool SEVA Congress 2018!

Straight from the horse’s mouth - A report from Liverpool SEVA Congress 2018

By Jessica French, Liverpool and member of the SEVA Congress Committee


The Student Equine Veterinary Association (SEVA) was formed through the mutual interest in equine practice between students across the UK vet schools. Since 2013, an annual congress has been held, open to all veterinary students to meet like-minded people, learn from some of the best in the equine business and cement the SEVA bond between universities. This year ‘The University of Liverpool hosted it’s very first and much anticipated SEVA Congress, and as a congress attendee, I’m here to give a first-hand account of congress events…straight from the horse’s mouth so to speak!

The eagerly anticipated congress began on the Friday night when Liverpool’s ‘Leahurst Campus’ was invaded by a hoard of eager vet students who had travelled the length and breadth of the country to see what our university had to offer. The specially selected set of ‘horsey nerds’ which made up the SEVA committee had been working tirelessly for months to prepare the congress and make sure every eventuality was prepared for. The ‘Lord Trees Bar’ was in full swing, the pizza wagon was busily satisfying hungry travellers and Liverpool vet school’s much-loved band; ‘One Dissection’ took to the floor. Soon the marque filled with students having an out of tune singalong and exhibiting some rather questionable dance moves (largely coming from our very own SEVA committee members)! At the end of the night, Liverpool students swept the campus on a mission to find their guests for the weekend in which the usual vet student hosting set-up was organised. Hosts were supplied with enough food to feed a small army (not that anyone was complaining come Sunday morning when ‘hangover breakfast’ was a necessity) and we were left to play the well-known game of human Tetris (As many will have experienced at AVS Sports Weekend), it never ceases to amaze me just how many people you can squeeze on an airbed!  

We arrived on Saturday morning bright eyed and ready to learn like the self-proclaimed nerds we all were! The committee had split the congress attendees into three streams to keep numbers low for maximal hands on opportunity in the practicals, something which is always well sought after at any student congress. My day began with orthopaedics which started with the semi-controlled mummification of the equine practice horse models. Next, we were let loose with, what could be mistaken to any passers-by as several implements of torture to practice testing for and paring out foot abscesses. During this practical one student commented while brandishing a hoof knife “I’ve been told you hold it like you’re stabbing someone” and there was definitely some dangerous knife wielding going on, though I’m told no one was harmed during this practical so, a good start I guess! Next Lesley Barwise Munro, ex-BEVA President and Senior Veterinary Surgeon for Newcastle Racecourse gave a brilliant demonstration of how a Lameness work-up should be done on one of our glamorous teaching ponies, Knotty. It was a fantastic ‘learn by doing’ approach, though I think Knotty was less than impressed about being “volunteered” to be poked and prodded by multiple students (I’m told she was well compensated for her time and patience). These practicals were fantastic for cementing the hands-on aspects of equine orthopaedics, as so many of us are well-known ‘practical learners, the SEVA committee ensured to cater to this at every opportunity throughout the weekend, which we all benefitted from.

Next, we were greeted by a scene which, on first appearances looked like something from the ‘Godfather’ film. We walked in to be met by several severed horse heads and I couldn’t help but think to myself ‘what are the maths students doing right now?’ I highly doubt spending their weekends elbow deep in horse carcass! However, as we all got stuck in, we were pleasantly surprised by just how useful this set of practicals were for cementing basic dental principles. Vicki Nichols, BEVA President 2016-17 and Advanced Veterinary Practitioner in equine medicine and dentistry (AKA the tooth fairy), gave an excellent ‘Equine dentistry guide for dummies,’ providing useful ways to remember the minefield of equine dentistry!  This was definitely one of the practicals I gained most out of thanks to Vicki herself, as despite her intimidating knowledge, she made us all feel completely relaxed with her fun attitude and approach to teaching! As well as getting excellent instruction and visualisation of equine dentition, we all tried our hand using the various dental instruments. Overall when leaving the practical we were all in agreement that we were feeling much more confident in tackling basic equine dentistry.


After a lecture lunch provided by ‘Protexin’ where Gemma Davidson delivered an inspiring talk about what to do if you feel a career in clinical practice isn’t for you, it was lecture time…. Now I was sceptical after spending a year on rotations and being incredibly out of practice sitting in a stuffy lecture theatre for extended periods, that my attention wouldn’t waver, but I was pleasantly surprised to be proven wrong! Jeremy Kemp Symonds (who has too many degrees to count!) did a fantastically relevant lecture on Strangles, based on his time working with ‘Bransby Horses’. Then, the final lecture of the day was by Catherine Dunnett, founder of ‘Independent Equine Nutrition who really drove home how good management of nutrition could aid or even solve a plethora of equine conditions which is something many of us take for granted.  

  The Liverpool SEVA Committee: Proving this lot can dress in something other than gillets and country boots!

The Liverpool SEVA Committee: Proving this lot can dress in something other than gillets and country boots!

 One of the most anticipated events of the entire weekend was the chance to dress up in our finery (a welcome break from our daily ensemble of waterproofs and wellies) and visit what could possibly be the most ideal location for SEVA ball ever, Aintree Race Course, home of the Grand National! It was a fantastic night with a raffle which raised £1750?? Wilberry Wonder Pony with some excellent prizes donated by our sponsors and other local businesses. A touching speeches was made by Professor Debbie Archer, much loved soft tissue surgeon at Liverpool University. She thanked everyone involved in making SEVA happen, and discussed her own personal ties to the Horse Trust, one of the key sponsors of the SEVA event, and commented that her suturing practical may be a little ‘interesting’ the next day following the copious amounts of wine consumed! There was not a dry seat in the house following the speech from the Wilberry Wonder Pony Charity, discussing its origin and the work it now does putting research into finding a cure for osteosarcomas and granting ‘Wilberry’s wishes’ to sufferers with a passion for riding.

To let our stomachs settle after the three-course meal, before vigorous dancing ensued, we had our own race night where each table could try their luck at backing the winning horse – it’s safe to say, based on the results I should never take up betting for a living! The friendly, competitive nature vets are known for kept things interesting with plenty of heckling and cheers and the lucky winning table were rewarded for their picking prowess with a round of drinks at the bar. Once tables were cleared and all bets were off, the dancing began! Vet students and clinicians alike sung and boogied away to classic party tunes while the kindly donated Aintree photographer was busily snapping away to capture what was definitely one of the best nights of the vet school social calendar. 


To let our stomachs settle after the three-course meal, before vigorous dancing ensued, we had our own race night where each table could try their luck at backing the winning horse – it’s safe to say, based on the results I should never take up betting for a living! The friendly, competitive nature vets are known for kept things interesting with plenty of heckling and cheers and the lucky winning table were rewarded for their picking prowess with a round of drinks at the bar. Once tables were cleared and all bets were off, the dancing began! Vet students and clinicians alike sung and boogied away to classic party tunes while the kindly donated Aintree photographer was busily snapping away to capture what was definitely one of the best nights of the vet school social calendar!


On Sunday morning, feeling slightly fragile but fuelled with bacon butties, we braved the miserable north-western weather to spend our Sunday learning about grass sickness and pre-purchase exams. After all, if it’s anything vet students are good at, it’s getting our bums out of bed hideously early the morning after a party!

Don’t break the horse during the vetting – stellar advice from clinician, Luke Edwards during the first lecture of the morning, Equine pre-purchase exam. Luke, using sarcastic humour and a dead-pan expression managed to keep the attention of even the most hungover of students and made pre-purchase exams seem like a walk in the park. The next lecture was a fantastic run through of equine Parasitology by Liverpool’s own Jane Hodgkinson and for the final years came as welcome revision of our third-year lectures which had been long since pushed to the dark depths of our brains! A further lecture was given on Equine Grass Sickness by Dr Jo Ireland who in partnership with the Animal Health trust has done extensive work on this topic. The SEVA committee did a fantastic job in finding lecturers who really knew their topic inside out and had a passion for their subject, as these are the speakers which really excel at delivering information to students.  

Next the triple-threat of Danny Chambers, Ebony Escalona and recent Liverpool Grad, Amelia Hutchinson re-ignited everyone’s interest and passion for veterinary which is sometimes easily lost when bogged down with work, life and exams. Their humorous approach and willingness to share embarrassing anecdotes from their experiences in practice (I don’t think anyone can top Danny’s first weekend on call!) hit home that none of us are perfect, we will all make mistakes and most importantly, that it’s ok if we do! These kinds of talks are, in my opinion, just as important (if not more so!!) as the educational ones and it was fantastic to hear afterwards how many students their talk struck a chord with. It was great to hear so many students talking animatedly following this talk about their chosen career paths and giggling at their own embarrassing stories. After almost a lifetime of people drilling it into you that you must be perfect it was an incredible relief for someone to come along and tell us all its ok if we’re not! If you are not familiar with the Facebook pages these guys have set up, I implore you to check them out as whether you’re straight out of vet school or have been in the career years, even if you no longer work in clinical practice, it’s a fantastic support network for all vets! 


My final afternoon of the congress was made up of more practicals; first Professor Debbie Archer walked us through the procedure of inserting a tracheostomy tube. I can’t express how useful this was as the first time any of us are likely to perform this procedure is in an emergency situation, so it was nice to have a little heads up on what to do! After that, we got the rare chance to play with an endoscope, guiding it through a makeshift larynx, shortly followed by suturing practice with Ben Curnow who gave us some handy tips, most notably, the “Dulux colour chart” of ‘Hibi’ concentrations on what dilution should be used for what. If Ben ever fancied a change of career, I’m convinced there would be a job waiting for him in interior design! After mostly avoiding needle-stick injuries from suturing, we moved onto nerve blocks lead by one of our much-loved equine interns Pablo Jimenez who patiently walked us through all the landmarks for various blocks around the eye. The following week on rotations we had the opportunity to put these blocks into practice and Pablo was practically bursting with pride with high-fives all around when we all remembered his teaching. Our final activity of the day was a seminar lead by ace equine intern, Kim Davies on common colic presentations in first opinion practice, where to refer or not to refer was indeed the question.  

It’s a good end to any congress when you feel like you know more when you come out than when you went in and even better when you find you’ve learnt things about yourself. For example; I now know for sure I want equine medicine to feature in my future career …. And also, that I can make a dam good bacon sandwich at the speed of light when we all got up late after the party on Saturday night. So, all in all, the SEVA Congress has tested, enhanced and allowed us all to gain skills essential in the veterinary career and I think I can speak for everyone when I say we did a lot, we learnt a lot and we had a whale of a time doing it!


The ‘Puguccino’ has a bitter taste.


The ‘Puguccino’ has a bitter taste.

The ‘Puguccino’ has a Bitter Taste.

By Mike Frill, Cambridge 

Fads are nothing new. For years they’ve driven the sales of Rubik’s cubes, Tamagotchi’s and fidget spinners, only to enjoy their 5 minutes of fame, and be left on the shelf to gather dust. The latest craze is different though, and it worries me. In the past year, ownership of brachycephalic dog breeds has reached an unprecedented record high, and French Bulldogs are now the most popular dog breed in the UK.

'Pug cafés’ are the latest manifestation of the brachy-mania to plunder my social media; from Shoreditch to Nottingham and Liverpool, the pop-up coffee shops attract droves of snorting pooches and their fanatical owners. Even if you don’t go, you’ll be sure to see a smattering of photos of your friends who are there. And they’re in good company too; David Beckham and Kelly Brook are the latest in a long list of celebrities to show off their flat-faced dogs online. A recent survey found that almost half of vets believed that clients who choose brachycephalic dog breeds are swayed by social media or celebrity idols. Big brands are well aware of this too. Costa Coffee and Three mobile and countless others have all used short snouts to promote their products. Pugs and Bulldogs are no longer the ridiculed oddities they once were, so it isn’t surprising that they’re enjoying a surge in popularity


Animals bring people together, and that’s always special. But it’s the dogs I fear for here. Pugs and Bulldogs, more than ever, are developing serious respiratory problems because of their increasingly extreme facial features. An increasing demand for dogs with flatter faces means that brachycephalic dog breeds have been bred far too quickly for the rest of their body to catch up, and it is seriously reducing their quality of life. In fact, brachycephalic dogs can expect to live three years less than those without such features. Their fame has come at a cost to them.

Can’t everyone can hear how Pugs labour themselves around? Well, no, actually. 60% of owners of brachycephalic dog breeds don’t recognise that their animal is experiencing respiratory difficulties. Perhaps they don’t know that they should listen. It would be obvious in any other breed, but Pugs and Bulldogs seem to be immune. In the eyes of most people, these symptoms have become characteristics of these breeds. The big ‘puppy eyes’ and rolls of blubber are cute, and we’re suckers for that kind of thing. The neotenic features of their puppy complex blend their obvious breathing problems into one adorable blur.

The BVA has a strong stance on the issue. Its weekly publication, the ‘Veterinary Record’ recently announced that they would no longer publish adverts that use brachycephalic dogs to sell their products. It’s a brave move, and more publishers need to do the same. Changing the media portrayal of brachycephalic dogs, even if the audience is mainly vets, is the start of convincing the world. The BVA’s #BreedtoBreathe campaign aims to do just this: to advise the public on what it really means to have a brachycephalic dog. It encourages vets to engage with owners and carry out pre-purchase consultations. The official statement writes the scripture that tells vets how to communicate with owners about the brachycephalic problem. It gives a platform for advances to be made on, and I’m sure that this is just the start. Starting within professional publications, the nationwide media has catch on and change the way it influences owners.

 MRI Scan of (1) a brachycephalic dog and (2) a non-brachycephalic dog

MRI Scan of (1) a brachycephalic dog and (2) a non-brachycephalic dog

It’s a start, but nobody ever changed the world by tweeting about it. To address the root of the problem, we have to consider regulating dog breeding, or brachycephalic dog breeds could soon hit the point of no return. Recent changes to the law cracked down on puppy farming and have seriously improved the lives of many breeding animals. Though it feels like a missed chance to licence breeders and have a direct say on who breeds dogs, and in what interest. You’d be hard pushed to find a group that actively lobbies the government in support of this, and it’s hard to envisage a future where brachycephalic features improve without it.

The writing is on the wall for brachycephalic dog breeds, and we need to act fast to change that. Progressive improvements to hereditary conditions requires responsible actions from everyone, and that means targeting the right people: vets, the media, and those sipping a latté at the Pug Café.