Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Greyhound racing ban passed

Lovely Lepto is an ex-racer.
Legislation banning greyhound racing in New South Wales from July 1 2017 has passed the NSW parliament. The bill, introduced by the Baird Government, will see the appointment of an administrator to wind up the industry.

The debate about the ban has been extraordinary. The interests of greyhound owners, trainers, veterinarians, those employed by the industry directly and indirectly, have been pitched directly against the interests of the dogs. Some have argued that the welfare of them majority of dogs is and has always been good, it’s just a few bad cases. Some have argued that the behaviour of breeders, owners and trainers has generally been excellent – save for "a few bad apples". Others, including The Honorable Michael McHugh AC, QC who compiled the report, argue that animal welfare and Governance issues are systemic, entrenched and cannot be addressed satisfactorily without abolishing the industry.

When it comes to animal welfare, abolition of any form of animal use is the exception, not the norm. We are used to a form of incrementalimprovement, although in the case of the greyhound industry the argument made by McHugh is that this has failed repeatedly to achieve significant improvement despite recommendations and existing regulations. Industry pundits and animal activist groups alike were stunned by the Government’s announcement of a proposed ban.

But the ban has been vigorously defended and passed.

The question being asked by many is, what does this mean for other animal use industries? A thorough review of the McHugh Report is instructive in revealing where the greyhound industry went wrong, and I think it is a valuable teaching tool in animal welfare and animal management. Animal welfare science is an established field and it is indefensible for any industry to operate without regard to current knowledge, including the social and behavioural needs of animals, and basic principles such as the five freedoms (for example, freedom from pain, injury and disease; freedom to express normal behaviour).

The ban will yield its own animal welfare consequences, some unintended. For example, it is anticipated that many trainers will surrender or present dogs for euthanasia. It is critical that we carefully manage and aim to maximise the welfare of these dogs as the industry is phased out. Greyhound rescue groups are already working to maximise adoptions and rehoming, but they are going to need sustained assistance.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Greyhound rehoming workshop

greyhound; greyhound rescue; greyhound adoption
How can you help greyhounds?
What will happen to all of the greyhounds now that it looks like greyhound racing will be banned in New South Wales? It’s the question on the lips of those in favour of the ban, those opposed to the ban, and everyone associated with these dogs.

The RSPCA NSW and Greyhounds as Pets have teamed up to hold a greyhound rehoming workshop for animal shelter staff and veterinarians.

The team from Greyhounds as Pets, and veterinary behaviourist Karen Dawson, will discuss how we can optimise the assessment and rehoming of retired racing greyhounds.

The workshop includes:
  • An overview of greyhound behaviour and legislation
  • An introduction to behavioural assessment to assess the suitability of a greyhound as a pet
  • A practical workshop on greyhound assessments
  • Greyhound specific adoption information

Registration is free. We hope that the event is oversubscribed and that more can be held. Even though the issue seems to have gone quiet in the media, the welfare of these dogs remains a concern and this is something practical that any vet or animal shelter worker can do to help ensure the welfare and well-being of the maximum number of greyhounds possible. To register, visit here.

In other news we have had some more submissions for our cookbook, one excellent muffin recipe containing the memorable instruction, “Just make sure you get the proportions of dry to moist close to right. The batter should fall easily off your wooden spoon at about the consistency of grass-fed rectal contents falling off a PR glove.”

Thanks Jan for the pic. This made our day!
The day after we posted our first sample recipe (Asti’sKale Tabouleh) we received a grateful email from a vet in the Top End who made and enjoyed it. If you want to have a bit of fun and contribute to a good cause, please check out the cook book concept here.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Dental health month and a sample recipe

If Phil were a cake...thanks to Annabelle from My Little Panda Kitchen for these cupcakes which helped our team get through the day yesterday.
Its dental health month, which means my companion animal colleagues are all up to their armpits in canine and feline dentistry. During dental health month, routine dental work is discounted. It began as an initiative to increase awareness around dental disease in companion animals, and it’s been very successful in doing so. And that's a good thing.

A couple of decades ago, veterinary dentistry was pretty undeveloped. These days – thankfully – nerve blocks, dental radiographs and appropriate tools are the norm. And clients can see the difference in their pets. We’re starting to get owners presenting animals for bad breath, chewing on one side of the mouth or having a build-up of tartar. This week I even had a client who said to me before I could say a word, “I am fully aware that because cats live so much longer they need more dental work." 

Of course checking your own pet’s mouth is often not easy, especially if they happen to be a cat. Some cats are happy if you gently flip their lip. Mine are not. They’ve decided that if I need a nurse to assist me with animals at work, they’re certainly not going without the benefit of this at home (especially a certain Hero). If you're not sure about your own animals, ask your local vet. Many clinics perform free or discounted dental health checks during dental health month.

We anaesthetise our patients and perform pre, peri and post-operative pain relief so that they don’t experience anything like this, catchy song though it is (apologies to my dentist friends).

In other news, we’ve had a lot of interest in the VetCook Book so co-editor Asti May offered to share her healthy Kale Tabouleh recipe. Asti is a qualified veterinary nurse but also a chef. She is one of those people who can look in your cupboard, see a whole bunch of disparate things, and whip them up into some sort of gourmet meal. For those of us who lack that kitchen imagination, its pretty formidable.

If you’re keen to contribute please drop an email to vetcookbook [at] and we will send you the instructions.

Asti's Kale Tabouleh

vet cook book
Asti's kale tabouleh.
Preparation time: 30 – 45 mins
Serves 6 (well, depending on how hungry you are)

Salad Ingredients
1 bunch of kale
2 medium tomatoes
1 bunch parsley
1 bunch Thai mint
2 shallots
1 ½ Cups pearl cous cous
1 small red onion
Zest of 1 ½ Lemons

Dressing Ingredients
¾ Cup of plain unsweetened Greek yogurt
Juice of 2 lemons
½ Cup of extra virgin olive oil
1 Tb caster sugar
1 clove garlic smashed
1 ½ tsp Dijon mustard
Salt and Pepper to taste

To begin, we need to place some hot water on to boil for the pearl cous cous. Please follow the instructions on the packet. I like to add some olive oil into the water to help in separating the cous cous once cooked. Pearl cous cous could also be replaced with other smaller types of pasta, for example rissoni.
While you are preparing the rest of the salad the cous cous should be on the stovetop cooking. Once the cous cous is cooked, strain any water and rinse with cold water to cool, toss with olive oil and refrigerate.

Now to create your salad dressing, this can sit in the fridge and infuse overnight, and if there are any left overs it can be used for any future salads that need an extra zing! I like to make extra simply for this purpose. Before squeezing the lemons for juice, zest one and a half of the lemon rind and place aside to mix through the salad. To make dressing combine all ingredients into a jar with a lid and shake vigorously until mixed well. Store this in the sealed jar in the fridge.

Chopping is an opportunity to exercise mindfulness - just mind you don't chop your finger!

Now for the salad: Kale in all of its glory is not the tenderest leaf in the salad section so needs a little help in becoming satisfying to the bite and complimentary to all the other tasty ingredients we are about to put together. So this can be achieved in two ways: kale massage or quick blanching in hot salted water. Today we will massage the kale, kneading it as if it were pizza dough, this also brings out the intense green colour of the chlorophyll, so there is no doubt you are sharing not just a great dish, but a wonderfully healthy one [Ed. I like to imagine the kale is in a day spa and I am helping release the tension...].

Asti's kale tabouleh in progress.
Once the kale is massaged through, and feels more pliable, roll the leaves up tightly and finely slice at different angles making a kale coleslaw of the leaves. Place this in to a large mixing bowl. Finely slice the parsley and stalks, mint leaves, shallots and add to the kale mix. Finely dice the red onion and dice the tomatoes into small cubes. Toss all ingredients including the lemon zest put away from earlier.

Time to check that the cous cous has cooled down to fridge temperature, don’t mix the cous cous and kale until cooled as this will heat and wilt the salad! Once cool mix together and place in a sealed container in the fridge. In the morning you could take your salad, a serving bowl and nice loaf of bread into the clinic and share, or simply pack up a couple of small containers for you and that special colleague for a chat. Take the dressing in and let everyone dress their own.

Variations: Add in Capers (as seen in the pics below) or chickpeas instead of cous cous. I tend to go with whatever is conveniently available.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Veterinary mental health resources

Australian shepherd, dog, thoughtful dog
We all need a reminder of how to look after ourselves at times.

We recently spent some time with veterinarian and wellbeing advocate Dr David Bartram. Regular readers will know that mental health and wellbeing of all those working with animals is a cause we feel is vitally important.

This week Dr Bartram’s series of short, accessible and very practical videos about vets and wellbeing have gone live via the Zoetis VetVance site and these are a resource I’m keen to share.

In the videos, Dr Bartram discusses the following topics:
  • Mental wellbeing and veterinarians
  • What is depression?
  • Coping with stress (this was one of my favourites – there are different coping strategies for problems you can solve and things you can’t change).
  • Where and when to seek help
  • Enhancing personal mental wellbeing (these were also a standout IMO).

They’re quite brief videos, ranging from around two to four minutes each, with an emphasis on practical things you can do to deal with stress, get help when you need it or improve your wellbeing. And they’re suitable for nurses, vet students and anyone interested in stress and wellbeing. You do need to sign up to the site to access the videos, but it doesn't take long and it is free.

In other news, veterinary surgical oncologist and author of Lucky Dog, Dr Sarah Boston, had a terrifying situation when she was held up at gun point by a fearful neighbour. While it was distressing she wrote about the experience on her blog. It’s wortha read.

We’ve already had some submissions to the vet cook book but we’re keen for more. In answer to some questions, YES you can make your submission anonymous to readers but we do need to know your name and details for correspondence. NO, you don’t have to be a chef or even a cook. YES, you can send recipes for things on toast.  YES, parasitologists and ex-parasitologists can contribute. The dual fantasy is this: a) that we will produce a cook book that those working with animals will enjoy and find accessible; b) that in the process of whipping up recipes, people will come together, have chats, support each other and be nourished and thereby the world will be saved. Stay tuned for some sample recipes and please consider contributing. 

Monday, August 15, 2016

Talking the time to talk over tea: cooking for colleagues

Sharing a meal with a colleague can be therapeutic.

Something’s cooking at SAT and we need your help. 

The idea for this project came about when one of us was travelling home from a colleague’s funeral. Being a veterinarian can be a very tough job. Being a new graduate is uniquely stressful which is why there are excellent mentoring schemes, like various university mentoring programs for final year students (of which I am involved with one), and the Australian Veterinary Association’s mentoring scheme.

Being an experienced practitioner brings its own stressors, whether these are practice ownership, the ever increasing complexity of life, burnout or higher expectations of ourselves or others. While there are now some support structures for veterinary students and recent graduates, experienced practitioners may feel very isolated at times. Sometimes the best thing you can do is drop in for a cuppa with a colleague. A problem shared is a problem halved. A problem shared over food is a problem minus hypoglycaemia, which is bound to be better. Being stressed is bad enough, but everything’s worse when you’re hangry.

Imagine being greeting by these stuffed peppers after an intense evening of consults.
So “we” got the idea of collecting recipes and are building an editorial team. (We so far being myself, veterinary nurse and cook Asti May and an editorial team including veterinarian and food blogger Dr Deepa Gopinath).

Not everyone is a card-carrying chef, but there are a few people out there with a recipe or two up their sleeve. Something that makes them or others feel better. Something that’s fun to prepare for and/or with others. Something that gives you strength to get through the next massive procedure or session of consults. Something to bring people together (even those who, like one of the editors, are not known for their cooking). The aim is to raise awareness of the need to look out for each other, promote collegiality, have a fun and yes, enjoy some feel-good-calories along the way.

The aim is to compile and then publish this collection in some form, that form to be determined by the volume and nature of contributions received.

  • We’re looking for original recipes, but you’re welcome to share variations on known recipes. Please don’t copy any recipes out of books or other sources (e.g. online), and please acknowledge the inspiration behind any recipes (e.g. “adapted from…);
  • Non-vets are welcome to contribute – we’ve already had some interest from clients, friends and family of vets;
  • Try to keep it simple (not everyone is going to have edible flowers or gold leaf handy);
  • Co-written contributions welcome and encouraged;
  • Context is important. If you happened to learn this recipe when chatting to a client over a field surgery or because someone gifted you a tonne of pumpkins for treating their cat, please share the story! If it tastes best when consumed in front of a fire after (or before) a ten-hour shift, we need to know!
  • If it doesn’t fit into a category we can always make another category.

  • Treats to have with a cuppa
  • Things you can whip up in the staff room to boost morale between consults
  • Main meals and accompaniments
  • Snacks to get you through the day
  • More substantial dessert-type-treats & special occasions
  • Special occasions
  • Food for non-human companions
  • Veterinary themed snacks (because we know there will be endless variations of the cat litter tray cake…)
  • Non-alcoholic beverages

I am assured these beauties were simple to make.
To submit, simply email vetcookbook [at] and we will send you a submission template. Just follow the very simple formatting guidelines and send in by December 31.

We’re asking for a photo (or several) to accompany the recipe. Photos are even better if they include a) vets, nurses or vet students cooking; b) a serving suggestion (e.g. with matching beverage); c) animals. We fully acknowledge that this requirement may mean you need to make your dish, share it with friends and colleagues and enjoy yourself. Hurrah! There needs to be more of this in this world.

Once Phase 1 (the gathering of recipes) is complete we’ll move into Phase 2 which is turning this into a book. Any proceeds will be donated to veterinary mental health charities.

We’re really excited about this project and hope to bring you some updates and sample recipes soon.

Friday, August 12, 2016

What's so great about old dogs? We talk to Nancy LeVine, photographer and author of Senior Dogs Across America

Do you live with a senior dog? If so you will be familiar with changes – in their appearance, behaviour, energy levels and ailments. They’re also incredibly loyal, loving and much more settled than their younger counterparts. They know our routines and develop their own (Phil doesn’t get out of bed before 8am these days, no matter what excitement is going on), and while they might not be entitled to the label “cute” (see previous debate about this) they exude a unique beauty.

Nancy LeVine is an award-winning US-based assignment photographer whose project documenting SeniorDogs Across America has collected a truckload of accolades. It began as an exhibition at the Houston Centre for Photography in 2012 and, thanks to popular demand, is now a book.

But it’s about more than dogs. In the artist statement on her blog, Nancy says that the aging of her own two dogs sparked the idea of this project.

She writes
This was at a time when I had lived enough years to start imagining my own mortality. I entered a world of grace where bodies had once expressed their vibrancy were now on a more fragile path…I saw how the dog does it, without the human’s painful ability to project ahead and fear the inevitable, the dog simply wakes up each day as a new step in the journey.
At the time Nancy was working on her book, the US media was full of stories about political battles around topics like access to medical care for vulnerable people. Yet all she saw was people caring deeply for vulnerable dogs without any qualms.
Listening to the current fevered debate over Social Security and Medicare, I am left with a fearful pit in my stomach when I imagine a country that might abandon the fundamental promise to care for those who have gone the distance and need at least a minimum of support to help them ease out of life. Politics of the moment may dictate such a course, but, in our true American hearts, we are better than that. I have seen all along my journey as I photographed senior dogs surrounded by so much love, devotion and respect for a life lived long and well.
Nancy took some time out to answer our questions.

What are some of the changes you see in senior dogs?

Like humans, each dog ages differently.  Some very senior dogs are still in good shape.  Others are arthritic and have different health issues.

What is the nature of the beauty you see in senior dogs?

So much grace and gentleness.

How can we make the world a better place for senior dogs?

A deep attention to their comfort as they age.  When dogs age, they can have different degrees of pain from arthritis and other illnesses and sometimes people do not realize there are ways of helping with their dogs pain.  And it does not have to be expensive.  If you notice a slowing down or some other physical changes, it is important to see a vet so one can understand what the issues are and how to help with discomfort.  Just like with people, sometimes ailments do not have a cure but there is always pain management.  Dogs do not complain so it becomes even more important that we take all the changes our dogs exhibit seriously.  Make them comfortable!  A comfortable bed, area rugs or yoga mats on the floor if they tend to slip on wood floors.  Put yourself in their body and think what would make you feel more comfortable.  Ramps and not steps…

Any advice for vets or up and coming veterinary students?

YES!  Pain management.  When a young dog acts differently we think he/she must not be feeling well and we take them to the vet to see what the problem is. For older dogs, people will say ‘Oh, my dog is old’ and not imagine that there might be an infection that needs treatment or other ailments.  One should never subscribe to simply ‘My dog is old'. Always  investigate and be sure the dog is healthy but old. Some solutions/ treatments are simple and can vastly improve the quality of the senior dogs life.  Look deeply.

Thank you Nancy.

Senior Dogs Across America is published by Schiffer Publishing and is available here

You can also check out the book and read more about it on the facebook page

Monday, August 8, 2016

What is One Welfare?

Alternatively, according to the Centres for Disease Control, “The One Health concept recognises that the health of humans is connected to the health of animals and the environment”. 

So what is One Welfare? This newer phrase on the block is less well defined, but essentially it requires us to consider the welfare of humans and non-human animals simultaneously. For many readers this link will seem obvious, but when you think about the way human wellbeing and animal welfare are managed in real life, they're not always treated as being linked. One Welfare recognises that the welfare of animals and the wellbeing of humans and societies are not mutually exclusive, and quite often when you look deeper they’re inextricably intertwined. 

According to Dr Dale Douma, organiser of the inaugural international One Welfare conference, “When the concept of this conference was presented at a One Health conference in Switzerland it was clear that there was a need for social sciences to play a more prominent role in One Health initiatives.”

One Welfare is an umbrella under which experts in animal welfare can collaborate with experts in “human” services – social work, psychology, public health and so forth – to develop solutions that hopefully benefit the welfare and wellbeing of all species.

The conference Dr Douma refers to will be held in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in Canada, from September 26 to 28. It will focus “on both the positive and negative relationship between human and animal wellbeing.”

At this point I should declare I will be speaking about the development OneWelfare teaching portal, which received an Office of Learning and Teaching Grant and was led by Professor Paul McGreevy.

But aside from teaching, the conference will be addressing what One Welfare looks like in practice.

If you work in the fields of human or animal welfare, attending this conference will give you a chance to be part of setting the agenda for One Welfare. I may be biased here, but I believe it is very important for as many of those working with non-human animals as possible to have a seat at this table.

In the words of Dr Douma, “We hope that broad and active participation from those present will help to determine specific and critical activities for those engaged in this area to work on.  Hopefully there will be the opportunity to have future meetings where it will be possible to report back on successes and challenges encountered so that the international community can learn from one another and move forward more effectively.”

The conference dinner on September 26th will be held at the new Canadian Museum of Human Rights. The speaker is Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallairre, appointed Force Commander for the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR). He witnessed the country descend into chaos and genocide, leading to the deaths of more than 800,000 Rwandans. Ever since he has personally battled with post-traumatic stress disorder and become an international leader on PTSD in the Workplace. 

In addition, delegates can participate in a Psychological First Aid Course taught by the Canadian Red Cross. This will focus both on training for first responders as well as for those responsible for the care of employees in the workplace so that staff are not put at undue risk for mental health trauma.  This course is being designed specifically for the participants of this event.

For more information, visit this site. Earlybird rates are available until August 15.