Vet News – Small Animal News

Vet NewsWe have a NEW member of the Vet News Editorial Team in the form of Harriet Woodhall, who has taken on the mantle of covering articles of interest in the small animal sphere. So, big welcome to you Harriet and thank you for your first article, which this month is on Canine Diabetes Mellitus.


But before we start….. an intro 🙂

Vet News, Small Animal Editor, Harriet WoodhallHarriet Woodhall

I’m 17 and will be applying for Vet School in September. I live just outside Cambridge along with two (adorable) black Labradors and some chickens. Aside from researching and studying I’m very interested in the conservation of wild species and enjoy playing piano.



Canine Diabetes Mellitus

Harriet Woodhall (Vet News Small Animal Editor)

It is estimated that approximately 1 in 500 dogs develop diabetes and although there are certain breeds that are more susceptible, (Golden Retrievers, Keeshond and Poodles being just a few), all breeds of dog can be affected, most often when middle aged or older.

The disease is caused by inadequate/complete lack of insulin from islet cells in the pancreas. Insulin is the hormone responsible for controlling the concentrations of glucose in the blood – this is achieved by preventing glucose production in the liver and making sure that excess glucose is put into storage.

Common signs of diabetes mellitus include polyuria (production of too much dilute urine), polydipsia (excessive thirst) and polyphagia (losing weight despite increase appetite). Cataracts are also often seen in diabetic dogs due to increased glucose levels. Along with the clinical signs, hyperglycaemia (high blood sugar levels) and glycosuria (sugar in the urine) are often enough of an indication for diagnosis. Diabetes is best diagnosed early, as when left untreated serious secondary complications can arise such as diabetes ketoacidosis.

Dog having temperature taken from earLike humans, dogs can have insulin therapy, most having two insulin injections a day. Bitches should be spayed, as the hormone progesterone produced by the ovaries has a negative influence on insulin. In combination with injections it is recommended to have diet, exercise and weight control. For dogs, a diet high in fibre and complex carbohydrates is suggested, so glucose is more easily controlled and released more slowly.

Researchers in Barcelona have recently been able to cure diabetes in Beagles with gene therapy. The Beagles were given two extra genes which work together to reduce hyperglycaemia. One gene produces the insulin needed and the other produces an enzyme called Glucokinase, responsible for regulating the uptake amount of glucose from the blood. The genes are transferred by adeno-associated vectors, also a new technology. Using a non-pathogenic virus, the genes can be injected into the hind legs of the dog in a single session.

As the first successful study of its kind, there will need to be more evidence using a larger test sample. However, it seems the future use of gene therapy could provide a more effective and practical method of controlling diabetes in dogs



Callejas D, Mann CJ, Ayuso E, Lage R, Grifoll I, Roca C, Andaluz A, Ruiz-de Gopegui R, Montane J, Munoz S, Ferre T, Haurigot V, Zhou S, Ruberte J, Mingozzi F, High K, Garcia F, Bosch F. Treatment of Diabetes and Long-term Survival Following Insulin and Glucokinase Gene Therapy.


Vet News – Farm News

Vet NewsEmma’s article this month is on the concerns that the Schmallenberg virus may be present in wild animal populations, acting as a reservoir for the important infection.


Scientists believe that SBV may affect wild animals

Emma Plowright (Vet News Farm Animal Editor)

Scientists in Europe are concerned that wild animals may be acting as a ‘reservoir’ for the midge-bourne Schmallenberg virus (SBV) which has been detected on nearly 1,000 farms in England and Wales.

A team from the Universite de Liege in Belgium who have been monitoring the disease in wildlife have noted that it can also affect roe deer and red deer. One member of the team has called for “specific surveillance of wild animals for SBV”

If pregnant ewes are infected, the virus causes deformities and neurological abnormalities in. An expert at the University of Nottingham has stated that although we can confirm that deer get the disease, it is not currently known how they will be affected.  The placental structure of a deer differs from that of cows and sheep meaning that, at present, it is not known if the virus can cross the placenta.

SBV has a huge economic impact and figures from the University of Nottingham show that some farms are suffering up to 30% losses; this can have a devastating effect on farmers’ livelihoods. Professor Trevor Drew of the UK government’s Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency spoke recently of the difficulties in trying to control the disease: it is midge Bourne and “It is just impossible to control midges across an area the size of Europe”

Alick Simmons, the UK’s chief veterinary officer, has stated that he believes the disease “will either through vaccination or through natural spread become less of a problem over time”, adding that several vaccines are currently being developed. He also pointed out that some areas which were affected by the virus last year were not affected so severely this year.



Vet News – Farm News

Vet NewsThe second of our Vet News articles this month comes from our Farm News Editor, Hannah Johnstone:


Liver Fluke becoming an increasing threat to sheep in the UK

Hannah Johnstone (Vet News Farming Editor)

Liver Fluke is a flat worm which has a complex life cycle heavily dependent on prevailing weather systems, with the optimum being moist and warm. Liver Fluke infestation has a number of steps in the cycle, firstly eggs are deposited by both sheep and cattle in faeces, the eggs in the faeces hatch and are then carried on the intermediate host known as the mud snail. The mud snail then deposits fluke cysts onto grass which the livestock consume. Once within the livestock the young fluke hatch in the intestine to then migrate to the liver, the young fluke are now egg laying adults which takeover the bile system. The cycle covers a 6 month period but is very dependent on weather conditions.

Liver fluke affects both sheep and cattle and is mainly seen in western areas of the UK and becoming more common in eastern areas. Over the end of last year liver fluke infestation is increasing in frequency affecting sheep of all ages.  The disease has 3 different forms Acute this type is common around August to October; sheep die suddenly from haemorrhage and liver damage. It is the worst type and 10% of sheep are at risk having a massive knock on affect financially. Sub-acute; the sheep become weak; lose their appetite, depressed with rapid loss of body condition as well as poor fleece quality. Chronic; has similar affects as sub-acute seeing severe emaciation which can cause profits to half by reduction of lamb crop and ewe mortality. With the first 2 types; blood samples show raised liver enzymes and chronic liver fluke can be diagnosed by eggs in faecal samples. Liver fluke is treatable though use of triclabendazole and improved nutrition.

Vulnerability of sheep varies; farms with high stock intensity are vulnerable as well as areas prone to flooding. But the key factor affecting vulnerability of sheep in the UK is the weather. At the end of 2012 sheep were ten times more likely to suffer compared to 2011. David Wilson farm vet and spokesman for NADIS (national Animal Disease Information Service) stated “The very wet summer conditions will have resulted in heavy contamination of many pastures with Liver Fluke infective stages during the summer and autumn”. It is these infective stages that are putting livestock at major risks “many infected animals will subsequently suffer from chronic fluke disease, causing ill thrift and poor production if not effectively treated”. As the weather continues to become increasingly moist and wet, the figures of sheep with liver fluke will remain high having potentially a huge burden financially on farmers through not only loss of sheep but the cost of treatment needed.



Vet News – Farm News

Vet NewsAnother month has passed and quite an interesting month it has been, with several topics of interest to keep our intrepid Vet News Editors on their journalistic toes. Rather than lump all of the Vet News goodness in one post, it was thought that it might be best to give each article some more room to breathe, as it were. As such, each of our editors gets a whole blog post to bring you their article of choice – you won’t get that at The Times! (or maybe you would)

So, to kick start us is Els de Vrijer, with her article on Johne’s Disease.


Wet weather increases risk of Johne’s disease

Farm Editor, Els de VrijerEls de Vrijer (Farm News Editor)

Several studies have been carried out in Scotland recently, which show that the wet weather which has been seen throughout 2012 will increase the risk of Johne’s disease to cattle in the forthcoming year. Rupert Hough, from the James Hutton Institute, recently announced at a conference in Dundee that acidic and wet conditions are likely to increase the risk of the disease spreading. This is because these soils are high in iron and organic matter, providing perfect conditions for the disease to grow and survive in. The scientists took soil samples from eight farms across Scotland, and 75% showed the presence of Johne’s disease. What’s more, the studies have showed that the bacterium which causes the disease can live for up to three years in the acidic soils, whilst bacterium which live in alkaline soils are not likely to survive for longer than one year.

Johne’s disease is caused by the bacterium mycobacterium avium paratuberculosis, and does not only infect cattle, but other ruminants too. The organism is closely related to that which causes tuberculosis in cattle. The presence of mycobacterium avium paratuberculosis causes progressive changes to the intestine. In the lower part of the intestine, the ileum, infected tissues attempt to regenerate and produce healthy tissue, causing a thickening of the intestine lining, preventing nutrient absorption. The main symptoms are therefore profuse diarrhoea and weight loss, but also infertility. The presence of the bacterium can also make the cattle more susceptible to other disease such as mastitis, and causes a significant decrease (10%-25%) in milk yield.

Preventative measures should be taken regardless of the weather, such as rearing young calves separately to minimise risk of contact with adult faeces (calves are very vulnerable to Johne’s disease), and avoiding grazing young stock on land that has been spread with slurry or manure. In addition, from these studies it is clear that improving drainage, using double fencing and liming fields can avoid providing the optimal conditions for this bacterium. Testing for Johne’s disease is essential, as this disease is often fatal and results in massive losses for farmers; it costs the US dairy industry $200-$250 annually.