Catch up on this week’s top headlines in the veterinary sphere, presented by VetX International
Goodness Comes to Light in the Midst of a Pandemic
Despite the trials and tribulations the veterinary profession has faced – and is still facing – throughout the pandemic, goodness has shone through.
There was a huge surge in adoptions from animal shelters in the US. According to the PetPoint data management system, adoption rates among 1,100 shelter organizations across the country increased 11 percent last March (compared to March 2019). Similarly, the numbers were up 18 percent in April (compared to April 2019).
“Clearly, people wanted to do the right thing for shelters that put out a cry for help,” says Chumkee Aziz, DVM, DABVP (shelter medicine), the Houston-based board president of the Association of Shelter Veterinarians (ASV).
With clients being home all the time, veterinarians report clients noting behavior in their animals they didn’t observe previously. Many questions from curious pet owners are increasingly being addressed using telehealth services for collaborative pet care, connecting clients and their pets with veterinary professionals.
VetLife (UK) Reports an Increase in Calls to the Helpline
Vetlife is a charity that supports the veterinary profession through its helpline, health and financial support services. All members of the veterinary community are welcome to use Vetlife Helpline – including vets, vet nurses, students and other practice non-clinical staff. The number of calls to the helpline increased 25%, with 3,921 contacts made by members of the veterinary community compared to 3,117 in 2019.
Vetlife Helpline manager Rosie Allister said: “The past year has been the busiest Vetlife Helpline has seen. It has been a very difficult time for many people in the veterinary community, and we are glad so many people have been in touch.
“As well as calls relating to the effects of the pandemic, other stresses haven’t gone away – and we are still offering support for people experiencing stress, concerns about mental health, work demands, support at work and many other concerns.” As well as the Vetlife Helpline service experiencing an increase in demand, the Vetlife Health Support service saw a record number of referrals.
Vetlife Helpline is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year on 0303 040 2551 or via anonymous email.
Other useful helplines if you feel you are struggling:
Mental Health America – call 1-800-985-5990 or text “TalkWithUs” to 66746
State Wellbeing Programs for Veterinary Professionals – Numerous states have wellbeing programs to help veterinary personnel and their families.
National Suicide Prevention Helpline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Mind charity – call 0300 123 3393
Remploy aims to help people remain in (or return to) their role after experiencing mental ill health – call 0300 4568114
Rethink Mental Illness – call 0300 5000 927
Samaritans – call 116 123
Beyond Blue – call 1300 22 4636
Lifeline Australia – 131 114
Pets Have Replaced People!
A recent study by the University of South Australia has found that in the absence of human-to-human contact amidst the pandemic, pets have become increasingly important to people in terms of comfort and physical presence.
“Pets seem to be particularly important when people are socially isolated or excluded, providing comfort, companionship, and a sense of self-worth,” says the study’s lead author, Janette Young, PhD.
“Touch is an understudied sense, but existing evidence indicates it is crucial for growth, development, and health, as well as reducing the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the body,” Dr. Young says. “It is also thought touch may be particularly important for older people as other senses decline.”
More than half of the world’s population shares their lives with pets, ScienceDaily reports. Further, 2020 saw a record-breaking year for pet spend, with owners splurging $260 billion, globally.
“In a year when human contact has been so limited and people have been deprived of touch, the health impacts on our quality of life have been enormous,” Dr. Young says. “To fill the void of loneliness and provide a buffer against stress, there has been a global upsurge in people adopting dogs and cats from animal shelters during lockdowns. Breeders have also been inundated with demands for puppies quadrupling some waiting lists.”
UK Survey to Investigate Experiences of Racism in the Veterinary Profession
Funded by a RCVS Mind Matters Initiative via a Sarah Brown Mental Health Research Grant – set up in honour of a veterinary professional who died in 2017 – the research will be led by Victoria Crossley at the RVC and Navaratnam Partheeban, co-founder of the British Veterinary Ethnicity and Diversity Society (BVEDS).
Organisers of the survey hope for as wide a response as possible, to help shape evidence-based interventions to promote diversity and well-being in the profession. Called “Race Together”, the survey is open until 31 March 2021, and aims to examine overt and “everyday racism” in the profession.
In a joint statement, Dr Crossley and and Mr Partheeban said: “This anonymous survey is open to all black, Asian and minority ethnic people working or studying in the veterinary sector – not only vets and veterinary nurses – and we would like to encourage people to take part and tell us about their experiences of racism, however ‘major or minor’.
“We hope that our project will increase awareness and understanding of the issues that black, Asian and minority ethnic people experience while working or studying in the UK veterinary profession, and our findings will be used to inform the design of evidence-based interventions to promote diversity and well-being, and the monitoring of their effectiveness.”
Full details about the survey are available online.
Veterinary Nurse First For BSAVA
For the first time a veterinary nurse volunteer has been appointed as a BSAVA committee chairman and council representative.
RVN Emma Gerrard has been a member of the BSAVA Cymru/Wales region committee since 2013 and will take over as chairman from vet Kate O’Sullivan in April 2021. Miss Gerrard, of Hafren Veterinary Group in Powys, is a companion and farm animal-registered animal medicines advisor, clinical coach and tutor for Oncore.
Miss Gerrard said: “Being appointed the first VN council representative and regional chairman is a massive achievement for myself and my nursing colleagues. It hasn’t been possible for a VN to fill a regional officer role until now. I know how long and hard colleagues have worked to make this happen and, for that, I am grateful.
“As the committee chairman, I would really like to fly the flag for nurses. I hope to inspire and empower nurses to join the association and illustrate what opportunities are available.”
Petition Launched to ‘Get Vets’ into New Zealand
As New Zealand faces a dire shortage of veterinarians, a petition has been launched urging the Government to reclassify veterinarians as critical workers so we can Get Vets into NZ.
“New Zealand desperately needs veterinarians from overseas to counter our shortage here, and the single measure that would make the biggest difference is reclassifying vets as critical workers,” says Julie South, spokesperson for the Get Vets campaign.
“Designating vets as critical workers would enable veterinarians of all experience levels and all salary bands – not just those earning more than $106,080 as currently required – to work here.
“Current veterinary staffing shortages are at extreme levels and are dire for animals, for people and for our agricultural sector.
“They are putting animal welfare at risk – from the wellbeing of your cat or dog at home through to the health of our production animals like dairy cows, sheep and horses. They are also placing an enormous strain on the exhausted and stressed vets we have, at a time when they are more important than ever.”
A link to the parliamentary petition can be found at getvets.nz. Signatures close on 31 January 2021.
New Pandemic Pet Owners Exacerbate Canada’s Vet Shortage
With thousands of families across the city welcoming new furry family members into their homes during the pandemic, some Calgary veterinarians are overwhelmed trying to keep up with reduced hours and staff.
Dr. Lorenza Malaguti, one of eight full time emergency and primary care vets at the McKnight 24 Hour Veterinary Hospital, said it’s not just more animals needing care that’s overburdened the industry.
“It’s multifactorial because there’s definitely more people adopting but then we also have the issue of (COVID),” she said. “When we look at it from a bigger perspective, smaller clinics usually have one or two vets working so say that person has a cold and they have to stay home, get tested and quarantine or wait for results, now that person’s home so they can no longer see patients…I’ve had to add shifts because my doctors are burning out.”
There are about 10,000 veterinarians in Canada. Dr. Enid Stiles, president of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, said that’s too few vets for the number of pets.
Malaguti said mental health of veterinarians has been another issue exacerbated since the pandemic hit but that it’s been a problem long before COVID-19.
“People are losing jobs they don’t have money and on top of it now they have a sick pet and it’s taken a huge toll on the vets as well,” she said. “I don’t even blame people when they come in and they’re upset… I’ve had people say ‘I could have afforded this 10 months ago but now I lost my job’ and it breaks my heart.”
Paniya Tribe, Kerala, Gets its First Female Veterinarian
Anjali Bhaskaran is all set to become the first woman veterinary doctor in Paniya tribe.
The 24-year-old, who is currently doing her internship in Government Veterinary Poly Clinic in Sulthan Bathery, said that her journey was not an easy one as she faced discrimination due to her background and gender.
“I had faced discrimination at schools and even in many public places like hospitals. In schools, our community students were given the last bench to sit on. I also had issues with speaking fluent Malayalam and English. A lot of things changed when I got admission in veterinary college in Pookode. The teachers and friends supported me throughout my course. In second year when I got less marks, I even thought of discontinuing my studies. But they stood with me and supported me,” said Anjali.
“Many of our tribe population still hesitate to consult a medical practitioner when they fall sick.
I want to change these misconceptions. We are closely associated with agriculture and wildlife. If livestock fall sick, it’s hard to find a veterinary doctor on time. Now, my colony members are happy that they have a veterinary doctor-to-be in their community. They often call me nowadays to treat their livestock for small issues,” she added.
Understanding our Core Needs and Building Resilience
By Alain de Botton
One of the characteristic flaws of our minds is to exaggerate how fragile we might be; to assume that life would be impossible far earlier than it in fact would be.
We imagine that we could not live without a certain kind of income or status or health; that it would be a disaster not to have a certain kind of relationship, house or job. This natural tendency of the mind is constantly stoked by life in commercial society, which adds to our sense of the number of things that should be considered Necessities rather than Luxuries.
In fact, our core needs are much simpler than all this. We could in fact manage perfectly well with very much less…We often forget our resilience during challenging times.
By continually renewing our acquaintance with our own resilience – that is, with our ability to manage even if things go badly (getting sacked, a partner walking out, a scandal that destroys our social life, an illness) – we can be braver because we grasp that the dangers we face are almost never as great as our skittish imaginations tend to suggest.
Read the full article here: https://www.theschooloflife.com/thebookoflife/on-resilience/
For more on building resilience, see Pursuing Positivity and Avoiding Burnout for Veterinarians