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Artificial Intelligence and Veterinary Medicine

Veterinary professionals and pet-owners are increasingly taking advantage of AI, especially in the areas of radiography, triage and diagnosis. 

The National Academy of Medicine reports that “tasks for which current AI technology seems well suited include prioritizing and tracking findings that mandate early attention, comparing current and prior images..enabling radiologists to concentrate on images most likely to be abnormal…Over time, however, it is likely that interpretation of routine imaging will be increasingly performed using AI applications.”

Dr Rolan Tripp is a huge proponent of AI, in fact, he views AI as synonymous with the future of the profession: “I think most people don’t understand how huge of an effect this is going to have, any more than when a hundred years ago veterinarians saw that first tractor out in the field and laughed when it broke down. Many veterinarians today think AI is a fad, but it isn’t. It will revolutionize how we practice veterinary medicine, mostly in a good way.”

The RCVS Covid-19 Taskforce Extends Remote Prescribing Guidance

Temporary guidance outlined by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons has been extended by six weeks (from 25 June 2020). This means that veterinary surgeons can continue to prescribe prescription-only veterinary medicines remotely and without physical inspection.

Whilst many establishments, such as non-essential shops, seem to be returning to some sense of normality, many veterinary professionals are trepidatious about completely opening practices. Indeed, RCVS President, Niall Connell says: “the UK veterinary practice has not yet sufficiently returned to ‘normal’ to enable the temporary change in guidance to be halted”.

He continues, “We were particularly aware that there are still quite distinct differences in how veterinary practices around the country are able to cope with the ongoing restrictions, especially around social distancing in the workplace, so we decided the simplest and safest approach would be to maintain the status quo for a further six weeks.”

The temporary guidance will be reviewed again no later than 6 August 2020, and practices will be given three weeks’ notice of any changes to the guidance.

New Alert Service Notifies Veterinarians of Local Outbreaks

A new non-profit group, ‘Pet Disease Alerts’, has been established by the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) to alert veterinarians of localised Leptospirosis outbreaks. This disease is most fatal to unvaccinated dogs and can be transmitted to humans.

The new web subscription service marks a proactive, responsive and localised approach; potentially a new digital way of working for many veterinarians. “Because highly infectious diseases like Leptospirosis can spread rapidly, it’s essential for veterinarians and dog owners to have timely, local information about diagnosed cases” says the group’s CEO, Chris Carpenter, DVM. “With the immediacy of a text or email alert, the new service enables veterinarians and pet owners to proactively protect pets and their families.”

Overall, this development harnesses the immediacy of technology to promote the containment of disease, and heralds new potentialities in the way vets operate.

The RVC Receives £1.5m Grant

Independent charity, The Wolfson Foundation, has made a generous contribution to the Royal Veterinary College’s £45 million project. On 30th June, the Hawkshead Campus received the cash which will feed into a new three-storey building. 

In line with the one health approach, the building is designed to promote collaboration and innovation between clinicians, scientists and external partners. The ‘one health’ approach is really about taking a global and collaborative perspective on veterinary medicine. RVC Principal, Professor Stuart Reid, said “never has the concept of one health been of greater significance and our science addresses some of the most important global challenges that affect the livelihoods of the most disadvantaged communities worldwide.”

He added: “We are immensely grateful to The Wolfson Foundation for its support, which will allow us to continue making important advances in one health research and education.”

Euthanasia and Veterinary Wellbeing

Collaborative research teams from the Universities of Queensland, Macquarie and Flinders are currently researching the correlation between performing euthanasia and the mental health of veterinarians. Findings suggest the relationship is more complex and nuanced than previously suspected.

Thus far, there have been mixed results, with some studies reporting a positive correlation between symptoms of depression and euthanasia rates and others presenting no correlation. The current study therefore takes a more nuanced approach, considering veterinarians’ personal stances, their current state of mental wellbeing and vet practice cultures. Already over 100 veterinarians across Australia have taken part in the survey.

“Veterinarians after all, are our only known ‘experts’ in performing euthanasia and our most relatable source of information to anticipate the impact it can have on practitioners and when it is or is not distressing.”

Rabbit Owners Beg for Effective Calicivirus Vaccine

Australian veterinarians are facing strain as rabbit owners beg for effective treatment of the haemorrhagic virus previously known as rabbit calicivirus. Sadly, rabbits will show no symptoms and can die suddenly. Understandably, this has caused grief and apprehension for rabbit owners in Australia.

Launceston vet Sally-Anne Richter said the number of cases she had seen recently in her Mowbray clinic had grown: “We had a rabbit owner lose two of her rabbits recently, overnight almost,” she said.

Richter continued, “There is no treatment once the rabbit has it, we can’t treat it to fix it, and unfortunately they don’t present with many, if any, clinical signs, so that makes it really difficult.”

Atlantic Veterinary College, Canada aims to attract more Indigenous Students

Funding of nearly $30,000 has been awarded to the Atlantic Veterinary College by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. It will go towards attracting youth in Indigenous communities from across the Atlantic and the northern regions.

The money will allow the college to expand its AVC Vet Camp program by supporting travel, accommodations and tuition for up to nine additional Indigenous youth. Greg Keefe, Dean of the Atlantic Veterinary College, says Indigenous communities are under-represented in veterinary medicine and science disciplines. 

“We want to educate folks on the opportunities that are out there in veterinary medicine for Indigenous students and encourage those students to apply to and to gain entry into the profession.”

The outreach components of the project will begin as soon as public health restrictions allow, Keefe said. The veterinary camp will begin in 2021.

Your Guide to Lunch Break Meditation

Meditation expert, Jerry Sargeant, suggests that even a five minute bout of meditation can help you gain clarity and increase energy levels. So, imagine. It’s just you and the tupperware. Breathe in, breathe out, let’s begin our lunchtime meditation.

Sergeant’s guide focuses on maintaining awareness of breathing, visualising breaths and transporting oneself to an open space. He claims that “You should be able to meditate anywhere and use the noises you hear in your environment to go deeper, everything should be utilised to your advantage and nothing accepted as an annoying distraction.”

This entire process from the moment you sit to the observation of your environment until the end can be done within 5 minutes. “If you lead a busy life a short meditation at lunch time is a must for you.”

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