Monday, September 26, 2016

How Australian airlines are helping companion animals

Qantas is one airline committed to helping animals.

This weekend we left Australia on a jetplane to attend the inaugural One Welfare conference in Winnipeg, Mannitoba (you can read a bit more about One Welfare here).

Since most of the weekend was spent on a plane (of the Air Canada variety), I wanted to discuss some animal-friendly airline initiatives back home.

Those of you who have travelled in the sky are familiar with the little blankets given to passengers. And if you’ve been lucky to fly business or first class, you might even get a duvet or mattress cover.

Ever wondered what happens to those? For years, Qantas has donated them to humans in need.

But this year, Qantas teamed up with the RSPCA NSW to promote animal welfare and reduce waste by donating old blankets to animals in need. The blankets are cleaned and picked up by RSPCA NSW shelter trucks.

According to Customer Product and Service Development Phil [nice name] Capps,“We have donated blankets and duvets to people in need around the country for many years and we are really proud to extend our donation program to help animals. We are flying more people than we have ever before, which means we have more blankets to give, so it’s great they get a second opportunity for use by our four-legged friends.”

Images reproduced courtesy of Qantas.
RSPCA NSW uses the blankets for multiple species – including cats, dogs, ferrets and pocket pets.

It’s good to see that a product that might otherwise have limited use is being recycled in this way.

In another pet-friendly initiative, Virgin AustraliaCargo last month announced a partnership with pet transport company Jetpets to help unite rescue pets with foster carers and new owners – for free.

It means that cost of transport for adopting animals from non-profit organisations such as PetRescue will no longer be a barrier.

According to Virgin Australia Cargo Chief Executive Merren McArthur, “we understand that more and more Australians are making the great decision to adopt a rescue pet, so we’re delighted to be helping Jetpets and rescue organisations overcome distance and travel barriers so that pets can be matched with loving homes.”

Jetpets General Manager Belinda Gallpen added that while Jetpets has supported the work of rescue organisations like PetRescue for years, partnering with Virgin Cargo makes the process much easier.

“This allows more doors to be opened which increases the chance of pets finding loving adopter and foster homes.”

It’s great to see that Australian airlines are taking animal welfare seriously. We’re still looking forward to the day that animals will be able to be transported within the cabin so both animals and humans can relax a bit more.

Of course, not every individual animal or every species can be suitably transported in this way, but I do think the process would be much friendlier for animals travelling with people (and probably result in a few more people taking a holiday!).

Friday, September 23, 2016

How do you teach ethics, introduce a new baby to companion animals, do fish feel pain and how to avoid mosquito bites

dog, white dog, terrier
How do you teach ethical decision making?

What is ethics and how can we teach it? They’re some of the questions I was asked by Colin Klupiec, host of the education and social issues podcast series, More to the Point. You can listen to the podcast here or subscribe to More to the Point on iTunes.

(This is about 26 minutes so pour yourself a cuppa first).

In other news, Dr Kate Mornemont, animal behaviourist, shared her tips on preparing companion animals for the arrival of a human baby in the household. Read her post here.

If you’re interested in fish, Professor Victoria Braithwaite is giving a public lecture on whether fish feel pain, and if it matters, at the University of Sydney in November. This is the brief:

Fish, with their lack of facial expressions or recognisable communication, are often overlooked when it comes to welfare. Annually, millions of fish are caught on barbed hooks, or left to die by suffocation on the decks of fishing boats – should we be concerned about this?
Victoria Braithwaite explores the question of fish pain and suffering, and explains what we now understand about fish neurobiology and behavior that helps us appreciate how fish perceive and experience their world. Her work has helped her to interact and work with both fishing related industries and with the angling world to discuss and debate the implications of the scientific evidence. She argues that the science indicates fish should be offered similar kinds of protection currently given to birds and mammals.
Registration for the event is free, but you do need to RSVP here.

Finally, my friends and colleagues at the Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie in Italy put together this public health video about mozzies. It sounds a lot more exciting when spoken in Italian, but this will be of interest to anyone seeking to avoid mozzie bites, or if you’re learning Italian.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Married to the job: how do you leave veterinary practice?

Beach, leaving veterinary practice
Leaving practice: its a bit trickier than simply closing the door and running off to the beach!

Practice ownership, I am told, is something like marriage. It’s an immersive, 24-7, all-encompassing, stressful, wonderful, and full on ride. But what happens if you want to leave the profession? It’s not a casual relationship you can just walk out on. You can’t just resign and disappear into the sunset. There are employees, clients, financial loose ends, factors like succession planning and then there’s the question of what you do with yourself afterwards.

So I was fascinated to hear about a course designed for thoseconsidering leaving the profession. We know that being a veterinarian or nurse is a hard thing to let go of (see our interview with Sarah Page-Jones here).

We asked one of the speakers, Dr Vera Pickering, a bit about why it can be tricky to leave practice.

What are the challenges of leaving veterinary practice?

If you’ve been working full time for many years, being a vet is a big part of who you are – self-worth, identity, efficient time organisation. You have to reinvent some of yourself and still feel you are worthwhile and can achieve.

What sort of things do veterinarians need to consider when leaving the profession?

  • Need to keep busy physically as well as intellectually.
  • Keep in touch with veterinary relationships built up over time.
  • How to build new interests and relationships.

What do vets do after veterinary practice?

Some stay in the vet arena - working part time, mentoring individuals and businesses. Some develop other business interests. Others develop other friendships, skills,volunteering and sporting interests, e.g sailing, petanque, golf, hiking, fishing, working in refuges, helping the aged etc.

[Ed. I had to look up petanque]. 

Remembering that many have families with parents/children/grandchildren which take up a lot of time. Travelling is a big one on most lists, as a full-on work life often limits this.

It is distressing to suddenly feel that you are doing/achieving nothing in a day after having a full work life (applies to any full time fulfilling work), so there is a big adjustment to be made in having to think about what you are going to do, rather than have the work come to you. Easy for one to think of all the things one wants to do, but not actually do them.

Which is why planning helps. Thank you Vera for this food for thought. If you’re interested in learning more, check out VetPrac's course here. And just in case you're wondering no, we're not thinking of leaving veterinary practice, but its nice to see that those who are have some access to helpful resources, as selling any kind of business and changing your work life can be pretty stressful. 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Fuel for the week: Dr Mark Westman shares a recipe with a compelling story behind it

Dr Westman shares his  recipe with the team from the Veterinary Faculty Office.

As many readers will know, we’ve teamed up with colleagues Deepa Gopinath and Asti May to compile The Vet Cookbook. So today we’re sharing one of our recent submissions, a recipe from Dr Mark Westman, inspired by his friend Jessica Robinson.

Even if you don’t cook these treats, you might be interested in the story behind them. This is Dr Westman's submission.

Veterinarian with a special interest in shelter medicine (nine years working for RSPCA NSW, four years working for Animal Welfare League NSW), animal welfare (memberships with the ANZCVS) and virology (PhD in feline immunodeficiency virus and feline leukaemia virus). Co-founder of Pets in thePark, a charity concerned with caring for pets owned by homeless people around Australia. 

About this recipe:

During my mid-twenties I started getting fat. Not obese fat, but isn’t-life-great-pass-me-a-second-dessert fat. I am tall (6”4) and consequently I think I was able to conceal my excess weight pretty well. Until one day when I saw myself in my sister’s wedding photos with a gut, and a short time later a brutally honest nurse at work said very gently “Mark you’re getting fat”.

Like any typical male middle-class Caucasian faced with the reality of getting fat, I reached for the sweatpants and headband and started running. I used to hate running. I thought runners were idiots. As a kid I lived by the ‘I’ll only run if I’m chasing a ball’ mentality. But I persisted, because I thought it was the most efficient path to weight loss. And I started enjoying it. My aim was to be able to run 10km without stopping, three times weekly.

One night after running 10km with a friend at a slightly slower pace than normal, I realised I wasn’t tired. I decided to go out and do another 10km loop. It was the first time I had ever run 20km. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was on my way to becoming one of those people I used to despise. An ultrarunner.
Eight years later and running is now an essential part of my life. I run five times per week, and to date I have completed thirteen marathons, two 50km runs and five 100km races. Running keeps me physically fit, but even more importantly running helps keep me mentally strong and resilient. Life is always better after a run. I run when I am sad to make me happy (or at least less sad), and I run when I am happy to make me ecstatic. Even during the chaos of my PhD thesis submission, I still stopped and made time for a late night hour long run before sitting down for an intense writing session. Running reminds me that no matter what happens, the sun will rise the next day.

Two years before writing this entry I was involved in a fairly serious motorcycle accident. I broke a stack of bones, including multiple vertebrae, and was lucky not to be paralysed. One of the hardest realities I had to face was that the neurosurgeon who fused five of my vertebrae together told me I would never run long distances again. I accepted this and tried to be grateful to just be alive.
The biggest lesson I learned during this period was this: It is easy to be positive and optimistic when everything is going well, but it is infinitely harder to be positive and optimistic when you are being pushed in a wheelchair and shitting the hospital bed because you can’t go to the toilet on your own. The challenge during this period was to be that positive and optimistic person that I wanted to be, and always hoped I was, when everything wasn’t going well.

Dr Westman (in hospital with friends) spent a long time being a patient.
I was reminded during my recovery of a quote that I saw during Year 7 on a friend’s Slazenger pencil box, and later appeared under my profile in the Year 12 yearbook: ‘Now that the roof to our house has burned down, we have a clearer view of the moon’. My efforts to be positive during this period were assisted by messages of support and encouragement from friends and colleagues in the veterinary industry (including Dr. Laura Taylor, pictured), and even Phil 
Fawcett took time out to send a card of encouragement and photo of himself.

Twelve weeks after the accident, as soon as my boot was removed (I had multiple right leg fractures), I started running on a treadmill. Six months after the accident I entered and finished my first 10km race with my aunty. Ten months after the accident I completed a 50km run, and less than one year after the accident I finished a brutal 100km ultramarathon through the Blue Mountains. I sent my neurosurgeon a bottle of scotch and card to thank him for his excellent work.

Two years after the accident I am fitter and stronger than ever (20kg lighter than when I was at my heaviest). I have set new personal best times for every race distance from 5km to 100km. This recipe is for the bliss balls that help me through my ultramarathons. I recently attempted my first 100 mile race, and was on track until I got lost at the 83km mark. Unfortunately I didn’t realise I was lost until I had reached 93km. I didn’t have the willpower to run 10km back to the 83km checkpoint, which would have added 20km to the total race distance for me (I figured 175km was enough without adding 20km). Although disappointed, at least no animals or people were harmed, and sure enough the sun still rose the following day. A minor setback which I will one day be able to rectify.

Instructions for recipe:
Mix the following ingredients in a food processor/blender/Nutrabullet type contraption (my apologies -amounts are vague because as you may be able to tell from my getting lost story, I am a bit of a vague, imprecise runner sometimes)
  • -      Dried Turkish apricots (75% of total dry volume)
  • -      Pitted dates (15% of total dry volume)
  • -      Handful of desiccated coconut
  • -      Half a handful of cacao powder (cocoa powder for the poor students)
  • -      Zest from two lemons

Take spoonful of mixture, press it into a ball, and coat with desiccated coconut.
Repeat until the mixture has been completely used.

Eat, enjoy and run ultramarathons.

Thank you Mark for letting us share this. You can read more about the Vet Cook Book here, follow us on facebook here and send submissions to vetcookbook [at] 

Friday, September 16, 2016

Why are rehabilitation and physiotherapy important for treating dogs? Interview with Dr Janet Van Dyke

Dr Janet Van Dyke hiking in the Colorado Rockies.

Do you recommend rehabilitation or physiotherapy for your canine patients? SAT recently had the opportunity to quiz Dr Janet Van Dyke, a veterinarian with unique experiences in veterinary orthopaedics, sports medicine, physiotherapy and rehab.

What is your day job? 

I am the CEO of Canine Rehabilitation Institute,Inc., a company that I founded in 2002. We teach our courses around the globe though we are based in the U.S. I am involved in coordinating all international courses as well as our growing online library of continuing education programming. 

How did you become interested in canine rehabilitation and sports medicine? 

I had a surgical practice for 20+ years and had the opportunity to work with clients who were physios. They taught me what they would do for children recovering from similar surgeries to those I was performing on their pets. I was also privileged to work with many clients who competed with their dogs in canine sports and with clients who had working dogs (military, police, service dogs, etc.). These relationships lead me to pursue additional training in sports medicine and rehabilitation for people. I started to incorporate more and more of these skills into my daily practice, encouraging my residents and students to do the same.

Is canine rehabilitation and sports medicine just for athletic dogs? 

Theoretically, sports medicine would apply primarily to ‘athletic dogs’, but when you think about it, a Chihuahua who can get on the bed in a single leap is an amazing athlete, no? So all dogs can benefit from the application of techniques used in sports medicine and rehabilitation practice. We can rehabilitate aged dogs recovering from serious surgery, and we can rehabilitate elite athletes who require skilled manual therapies to return them to peak performance. Old dogs, fat dogs, immature (clumsy) puppies, injured pet dogs, covertly lame working dogs - all can benefit from these techniques.

Rehab and sports medicine are established fields when it comes to humans, why have we been slow on the uptake in the veterinary world? 

It started with equine rehabilitation/sports medicine in the 60’s when horses transitioned from beasts of burden to multi-million dollar sport horses. Canine rehabilitation did not take off until the late 90’s. So many of us were trained in veterinary school that dogs don’t need this extra care…they have 4 legs, so if one is not working, they have 3 more to protect that one…and that dogs are ‘too stupid’ to be given pain medications post operatively, as they would then play too hard and damage the surgical ‘repair’. We now recognize the fallacy of these statements, but it takes a long, long time to train an entire field of medicine to think a new way. We’re getting there…one responsible and caring veterinarian at a time!

What sort of conditions benefit from treatment with rehabilitation? 

The most commonly treated conditions would be orthopedic (anterior cruciate ligament injuries, patella lunation, hip and elbow dysplasia, etc.) and neurologic (intervertebral disc disease, degenerative myelopathy, neuronal injury), however we see many dogs for weight loss, many elderly patients to improve upon their activities of daily living, and many working and athletic dogs who have such mild (covert) lameness that no one can ‘see’ it, but their handlers notice a change in their abilities to perform.

In your view, what can veterinarians do to improve outcomes in patients presenting with lameness? 

The absolute key to improving outcomes is to be better at diagnostics. This is where physiotherapy makes all the difference in human as well as veterinary patients. So many of the impairments that our patients face are actually soft tissue (muscle, tendon, ligament, joint capsule, fascia) rather than bone and joint. These patients are lame but radiographically ‘normal’.

By applying better palpation skills along with special tests used in physiotherapy diagnostics, we can vastly improve upon the diagnoses, allowing us to tease out the specific soft tissues that are impaired, and to treat these issues specifically rather than resorting to rest and NSAID’s as is so often done. Even those patients with an obvious bone/joint issue (post op ACL for example) have soft tissue issues that left untreated prevent them from having a rapid and full recovery. 

Are there any helpful resources you could share with veterinarians? 

I highly recommend the textbook, Canine SportsMedicine and Rehabilitation, Zink and Van Dyke, ed’s, Wiley Publishing for anyone wishing to know more about this field. We invite all interested veterinary and physiotherapy professionals to attend our certification programs where they can learn the art, science and the business of canine sports medicine and rehabilitation. 

Any advice for vets and budding vets? 

Visit our website at for more information! I would also recommend joining the American Association of Rehabilitation Veterinarians. Despite the name, it is open to vets and veterinary students globally. A great resource:

Thank you Dr Van Dyke. Dr Van Dyke, alongside colleagues Dr Laurie Mccauley and Judy Coates, will be leading VetPrac’s Introduction to Canine Rehabilitation Workshop from October 14-18. For more information click here

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Keeping your dog 'appy, plus one lucky fish and insurance discounts for adopted greyhounds

The doglogbook dash. (Image courtesy SmartSports)

How to you ensure that your canine companion is happy? Animal welfare scientists at the University of Sydney have designed an app to do just that.
Doglogbook, which is now available for free via iTunes and Google Apps, allows dog owners to collect and review data about their dog’s health care, management and preferences.

We trialled the beta version earlier this year, but we’re on board to use doglogbook to track Phil’s overall happiness.

Phil is happy when he is walking on the beach. Even happier if he is over three metres from the water's edge, there's zero wind and the sand is not too hard but not too soft.
Professor Paul McGreevy said that the app will also generate data from citizen scientists that can be used by researchers. And the best part is this science is performed without compromising anyone's welfare.

(Image courtesy SmartSports)

Fellow blogger (Do you believe in dog?) and caninescientist Mia Cobb, also part of the expert doglogbook development team, reckons that the app will help owner’s become more mindful of their dog’s overall happiness and wellbeing – and might aid some very tough decisions.

“Doglogbook may also help take some of the pressure off owners in identifyingand acknowledging decline as dogs near the end of life,” she said.

(Image courtesy SmartSports)

Those who cohabit with working dogs can use the working dog channel in doglogbook to log training and track outcomes.

It’s great to see academic research resulting in a tool that everyone can use – and it if results in better welfare for dogs, and better informed science, it’s a win for everyone. We're looking forward to catlogbook and guineapiglogbook...

(Image courtesy SmartSports)
Meanwhile, in other news our colleagues at Brisbane Bird and Exotics Veterinary Service made the news when they saved a goldfish with a foreign body. Read more here.

Pet Insurance Australia is supporting greyhound adoption by offering a 25 per cent discount off one year’s premium for any newly insured greyhound pets. The following information is taken from a statement by Pet Insurance Australia. 

“This includes any Greyhounds from anywhere in Australia until the end of October,” Nadia Crighton spokesperson for Pet Insurance Australia says. 
“Meaning huge benefits for those wanting to welcome one of these precious hounds into their home.”
“We hope this great saving will help encourage people to consider re-homing a Greyhound,” Crighton says. “As we expect the numbers of needed homes will greatly increase over the next two months.”
Eligible benefits of the insurance won’t be attributable to injuries or conditions that were directly related to, or sustained, while the Greyhound was racing or training. Many adopted Greyhounds come with full medical history from their previous owners and trainers.
“Like with all pre-disposed conditions we encourage our clients to read the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) to ensure they understand exactly their pet insurance policy and what it covers.”
It is also highly advisable that new owners ask for the full medical and history of the Greyhound they are adopting. By using the promotional code PIAGREY25 or quoting this number over the phone customers will have direct access to the savings up until the 31st of October 2017.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Dog art, finding your calling and other news

Phil, as designed by the talented Yellow Wellies. 

Sydney-based artist “YellowWellies” created an awesome image of Phil. I’m not biased or anything, and I don’t know much about art, but I do know I like art featuring Phil!!!

Check out this stunning design here, and if you like it you can order a Phil-printed t-shirt, smartphone case, tote bag, diary, hoodie, cushion, coffee mug or, you know, all of the above.

Speaking of small dogs, check out the decorating job inhonour of this Chihuahua. There must be some miniature furniture shops around…

Is veterinary science your calling? A colleague shared this post about the idea of: “finding your calling”. The Venn Diagram is excellent, although working within that triangle of venn-overlappage is not guaranteed and doesn’t occur on a daily basis (but life is golden when you’re there).

And for those keen to be part of the first Vet Cook Book, we’ve set up a facebook page that you can follow.