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Catch up on this week’s top headlines in the veterinary sphere, presented by VetX International

Headliner: Santa’s Official Veterinarian OKs Reindeer for Flight

Rudolph, Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, and Blitzen have been cleared for travel by the North Pole’s veterinarian.

Douglas Kratt, DVM, Santa’s personal animal caregiver and president of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), visited the North Pole earlier this month to give the reindeer a preflight health check, ensure they were up to date on their vaccinations, and make sure they have the required certificates allowing them to travel across state and national borders.

“After a full examination and review of their medical records, I’m pleased to say Santa’s reindeer are healthy and in great shape and ready to fly on Christmas Eve,” Dr. Kratt says. “COVID may have disrupted our lives and led to the cancellation of a lot of our plans, but it won’t stop Santa and his reindeer from delivering your presents this year—assuming you’ve been good.”

Additionally, AVMA notes, Kratt and Santa both tested negative for COVID prior to and after the visit.

‘Veterinary Medicine’s Social Justice Issue’

The Access to Veterinary Care Coalition (AVCC) in the US is working to reduce barriers to accessing veterinary care. One of the AVCC’s first projects was a study assessing barriers to veterinary care encountered by pet owners across the socioeconomic spectrum. The study found that nearly 28% of pet owners had recently experienced a barrier to veterinary care, overwhelmingly because of financial reasons. That proportion may be rising due to economic stress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The AVCC is chaired by Dr. Michael Blackwell, director of the Program for Pet Health Equity. The program allots funds to participating veterinary clinics, enabling the clinics to provide subsidized care to pets belonging to people on public assistance. Veterinary social workers help eligible pet owners enroll.

“We’re not out here saying, ‘Well, we need more nonprofits to step up,'” Blackwell said. “Now, we do need nonprofits if they’re going to be in a community that a for-profit practice can’t survive in. But in the end, we need all stakeholders…to start working in new ways with that outcome in mind, that we’re going to do a better job of reaching these families.”

Veterinarians in US Invited to Administer Covid-19 Vaccines

The U.S. state of Connecticut and Canadian province of Manitoba are taking steps to enlist licensed veterinary professionals along with other health care workers to administer vaccines against COVID-19, as the countries began this week to deliver the first shots in the quest to end the coronavirus pandemic.

Asked what veterinarians should consider if they wish to participate, Michael San Filippo, a spokesperson for the American Veterinary Medical Association, identified liability protection as a concern.

“Typically, professional liability policies cover the veterinarian in their delivery of veterinary services; human vaccination would seem to fall outside the scope of those services,” he said. “Veterinarians should contact their professional liability carrier to see whether they are covered. They should also see what coverage might be provided by the state/local authority and also reach out to their personal insurer to see if this would be covered under any umbrella policy.”

San Filippo also encouraged veterinarians to consider the potential increased exposure risk at a time when COVID-19 case numbers are high around the country, which, he said, “would be of particular concern if the veterinarian has any of the identified comorbidities that put individuals at increased risk of severe disease.”

New Nursing Degree Coming to Scotland in 2021

A new veterinary nursing degree at Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) in Aberdeen aims to help improve access to training and progression within the sector.

The three-year BSc Veterinary Nursing programme – with the option of a fourth year to gain an honours qualification – will allow students to achieve an RCVS VN registration and a licence to practice.

Neil Foster, head of the veterinary and animal science department, said: “At SRUC we pride ourselves on developing graduates who are ready for the workplace.”

“These new programmes help to fulfil the BVA’s ‘vet-led team model’ by providing qualified veterinary assistants and nurses to enhance the work of veterinary surgeons.”

The focus of the BSc degree is on small animal veterinary nursing care, with some aspects of exotic, wildlife and large animal nursing. The course is due to commence in September 2021.

Veterinary Staffing Shortage in New Zealand Puts Animal Welfare at Risk

There are concerns veterinarians around the country are nearing breaking point as the industry faces major staffing shortages which are being compounded by border restrictions on international replacements. A survey of practices and animal hospitals conducted by the New Zealand Veterinary Association (NZVA) found a shortage of 120 vets, most of them needed in permanent full time positions.

Waikato After Hours Veterinary Hospital director Keith Houston told Nine to Noon immigration restrictions were complicating his two-year search for a worker who has the necessary expertise in emergency medicine.

Houston said he was “flabbergasted” after Immigration New Zealand twice turned down a suitable candidate who was based in the United Kingdom for an exemption under the critical workers category.

“We made the application because her skill set is one that we can’t find in New Zealand, she is a specialised emergency veterinarian [and] has two post-graduate degrees which you can’t get here,” he said.

NZVA chief executive Kevin Bryant said: “From the association’s perspective, we are just really concerned on two fronts. It’s our veterinarians’ health and wellbeing … and on the other hand it’s the risk because we just don’t have enough veterinarians across the country … there is a risk that the level of care our veterinarians want to give might just not be possible because they don’t have enough hours in the day.”

Colleagues From VetPartners, UK, Raise £5k for Charities

Two charities are set for a welcome windfall thanks to the mammoth fundraising efforts of UK veterinary group VetPartners.

Colleagues from VetPartners, which has 140 UK practices, joined forces to clock up 3,139 miles – the distance from Portsmouth, USA to the company’s headquarters in York.

Throughout November, they ran, walked, cycled or rode on horseback the distance, recording individual mileage on the Strava mobile phone app until they had raised £5,020.

Those taking part included vets, nurses, receptionists and practice administrators, as well as members of VetPartners’ central support team at the company’s headquarters in York.

Judy Scrine, clinical director at Mayes & Scrine Equine Vets in Horsham, Sussex, completed six marathons and ran 311 miles during November. Andy MacGregor, clinical director at Ashlands Vets in West Yorkshire, and his wife Anne, practice manager, cycled and walked 1175.16 miles, climbing 60,000ft.

Organiser Kayley Metcalfe, operations coordinator at VetPartners, said: “We have practices all over the UK but we are a close-knit company with a family atmosphere, and it has been fantastic to see everyone pulling together for two great causes during what has been a challenging year for everyone due to Covid-19…We have had a lot of fun raising money for two fantastic charities, which are close to our hearts, and it has helped to bring us all closer together as colleagues. It was a great way to boost fitness and wellbeing, as well as focus on our charitable efforts for 2020.”—5k-for-charity

Relax Over the Holiday Period, Since Life is Not a Race

Our societies have advanced tendencies to label certain people ‘winners’ and others – logically enough – ‘losers’. Aside from the evident meanness of this categorisation, the underlying problem with it is the suggestion that life might be a unitary, singular race, at the conclusion to which one could neatly rank all the competitors from highest to lowest. 

And yet the more confusing and complex truth is that life is really made up of a number of races that unfold simultaneously over very different terrain and with different sorts of cups and medals in view. There are races for money, fame and prestige of course – and these attract many spectators and in some social circles, the bulk of the coverage. But there are also races that measure other kinds of prowess worth venerating. There is a race for who can remain calmest in the face of frustration. There is a race for who can be kindest to children. There is a race measuring how gifted someone is at friendship. There are races focused on how attentive someone is to the evening sky or how good they are at deriving pleasure from autumn fruits.

Despite our enthusiasm for sorting out competitors into neat ranks, a striking fact about the multi-race event of life is, quite simply, that no one is ever able to end up a winner in every genre of competition available…

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