Sunday, 31 January 2016

Long time no time!

I really can't believe that it has been a year since I last posted on here! What a year it has been!   So, I made it to vet school and I have already completed my first term and mock exams, so thinking about it I guess I am now 1/10th of the way to becoming a vet! 

I'll try and find some time to post a bit more soon,  I've got a busy week ahead, 9-5 lectures, 2 formal dinners and a weekend of chaos and amazing talks and practicals about exotics at the annual AVS Congress.  One thing you learn while here is that vet school never has a quiet moment!

Friday, 30 January 2015

What do animals mean to you?

One of the many things I have learned in the past few years doing work experience is the different roles animals play in our lives.
This interest was especially triggered when I had the amazing opportunity to experience another culture in Tanzania.

I find it fascinating how much of a part animals play in the roles of our lives and how animals are viewed by different individuals.  It is true that everybody is individual with this matter and as a result a vet's role has to be tailored to each individual client without compromising the vet's role of maintaining a high standard of animal welfare.  

Whilst volunteering in Tanzania in October, I was very lucky to be able to have the opportunity to be part of a question and answer session with the local villagers where we exchanged experiences on the differences between life in a small Tanzanian community and Yorkshire.  It soon became apparent that a very large part of their lives was agriculture.  Everyone had either chickens, a few goats, a cow or two to live, we even got to look around the "Pig Project", where the Livingstone Tanzania Trust  had given a loan to a group of people in the community and they have now set up their own small pig breeding  unit.  Animals play a huge role in their lives, a pig for example may be the opportunity for a child to go to school and get an education.  I was a bit surprised to learn that they actually have a specific vet in this local community and that they have a vet in their local abattoir - again something that came as a bit of a surprise to me as I did not expect there to be an abattoir at all as even electricity hasn't fully been established in most of the places we visited. They were very keen to learn about the methods of farming we used on my work experience placements and they were very shocked and found the fact that I had worked on a pig farm with 3,500 pigs or a chicken farm with 120,000 chickens a bit incomprehensible!  With their following question after I said this being "How do you feed them all?!".  What I was trying to
explain was that in the UK very few people have livestock, but they have lots of animals.  In Tanzania, everyone has a small amount of livestock and that is their livelihood.  Whereas the majority of people in the UK earn their living in retail or other non agricultural jobs and a small amount of people provide all the food for them to buy.  This really brought home to me just how much these animals meant to these families and the devastation of the loss of just one of their animals.

This isn't to say that farmers in the UK don't care for their animals - far from it!  Farmers are regularly in contact with vets to produce herd health plans and planning preventative treatments to try and keep the animals in as good a health as possible and they do love their animals - this is quite evident from the devastation after diseases such as foot and mouth and bTB where farmers were left with nothing after the diseases wiped out sometimes generations of work breeding their prize herds.  Their livestock is also their livelihood, just like the Tanzanian people, but with the amount of livestock that an average farmer owns, there is more factors to how much money they will spend on their animals.  After all, farming is a business and a business needs to make money, so treating animals with vet fees that are more than the animal is worth is not economically viable, at the same time the farmer has to think about the other animals in their herd, for example, they need to remove any potentially infectious animals before the disease spreads as well as maintaining the highest level of animal welfare.

Then as most people in the UK do not work in agriculture, we keep animals as companion animals, from exotic animals such as snakes and llamas, to backyard poultry, dogs, cats, small furries and equines. To some people, animals may be viewed as an equal to humans? Some people may form stronger bonds than others with their pets?  Some pets may have stronger attachments than others? What I am trying to get across is that the loss of animals affects people in different ways and the emotional attachment may be different in each individual scenario.

Animals are used in other sectors too, animals in horse racing and greyhound racing are used for entertainment but they also may have financial as well as emotional value. Also a big role of animals in communities across the world is in food production (but that is a post in itself).

Some animals have emotional value, some have financial values but either way, we need to remember that each human is an individual and respect what animals mean to them and help them to cope as best they can with their role in keeping their animals healthy or ensuring the best quality of life and humane departure.

All the pictures in the post are my own.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Child and Dog Safety

Please take a read of this picture :)
Considering dogs are (without fish) the UK's most popular pet, there is still a lot humans need to learn about it's behaviour and what it is trying to tell us.  
If we can recognise and teach others to recognise these warning signs, it WILL reduce dog bites. 

Tense looking dog with it's tail between it's legs.
Dogs will defend themselves when they feel threatened.  We may think that dogs enjoy cuddles naturally.  However, in the wild, they would feel threatened as another dog was being dominant (pinning them down).  Although humans have reduced this instinct with domestication - many dogs will now tolerate invasion of their personal space - but not all dogs are tolerant and may still feel threatened.  Similarly when greeting an unfamiliar dog, don't go up to them and start stroking them on their head, offer your hand for them to sniff and wait for them to come to you, if they don't want to then leave them be (imagine if you just wanted to be alone and weird people kept coming up to talk to you!).  Also please never take anything like a bone, toy or food away from your dog, that is just a recipe for disaster!
An unhappy dog being cuddled

A wary dog of a greeting

Warning signs that a dog isn't happy are:
  • Being still and tensing
  • Licking their lips
  • Yawning
  • Tail between it's legs
  • Physically trying to run away
  • Ears back
  • Curling of lips
  • Growling
  • Snapping
  • Biting
People don't normally recognise these warning signs as they are subtle, but just look out for them...

Over 80% of fatalities involving children occurred when the child was unsupervised with the dog. Please, it doesn't matter how much you think you know your dog, do not leave your child and dog unsupervised together.  It isn't always the case that your dog is at fault either, this interesting article demonstrates that is dangerous for your dog as well as your child:

Unsupervised children are the most vulnerable to attack because: 

- Dogs are much less likely to attack a child in the presence of an adult, particularly in the presence of the owner.
- In the event that a dog does attack a child in the presence of an adult, the intervention of the adult often prevents the attack from becoming a fatality.
- Children, because of their small size, are usually not able to sustain an attack until help arrives. Many adults survived severe dog attacks simply by virtue of the fact that they were able to sustain and fend the dogs off to some degree until assistance arrived.
- Children often engage in dangerous behaviour (approaching too close to a chained dog or trying to hug/kiss an unfamiliar animal) that a supervising adult would have prevented.
The age group with the second-highest amount of fatalities due to a dog attack are 2-year-old children. Over 88% of these fatalities occurred when the 2-year-old child was left unsupervised with a dog(s) or the child wandered off to the location of the risk because:

After reading a very interesting article from The Veterinary Times about teaching children about dog behaviour to try to reduce the number of dog attacks.  The Wood Green Animal Charity had produced a short informative video that I would highly recommend for parents to show their young children:

But I am not here to scare you...

A child is more likely to die choking on a marble or balloon, and an adult is more likely to die in a bedroom slipper related accident. Your chances of being killed by a dog are roughly one in 18 million. You are five times more likely to be killed by a bolt of lightening.

I am trying to make people more aware of the dangers so these tragic accidents are greatly reduced from the figure they are at today!

References:  The Veterinary Times, The Mirror, Safety around Dogs.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

European Antibiotic Awareness Day

Veterinary charity PDSA and The Bella Moss Foundation have teamed up to support European Antibiotic Awareness Day (November 18).

What are antibiotics?

Antibiotics are amazing things, after being discovered purely by accident by Sir Alexander Flemming in 1928, they have revolutionised medicine and veterinary medicine.

Bacteria enters animal and human bodies everyday, the majority of the bacteria is harmless.  However some release toxins (poisons) as they grow or when they die. The toxins can destroy animal cells or interfere with cell function, causing diseases like tuberculosis or mastitis.

Antibiotics work by fighting bacteria either by killing them or by preventing them from multiplying.

There are many different types of antibiotics.  Different antibiotics may treat different things.  For example, whilst I was on a pig placement, all the sows that farrowed (gave birth) got an injection of Norocillin, a common antibiotic, that would cure any small stomach upsets or minor problems.  However, if they had something more major, they would receive an injection of Pen and Strep, a more expensive and more effective antibiotic.  It was more effective as less bacteria were resistant to it, so it would kill or halt the bacteria.

So why do we need an Antibiotic Awareness Day?

The problem is that random mutations cause antibiotics to become resistant and antibiotics are becoming resistant at an alarmingly quick rate.  Think about it this way... one bacterium randomly mutates so it is resistant to that antibiotic.  All the other bacteria are killed or prevented from multiplying by the antibiotic, so the resistant bacterium survives and reproduce.  So yes you or your animal may feel better but you will then fall ill again and pass on this resistant strain.  The antibiotic used will then be ineffective to that strain of bacteria... 

This then leads to bacterium like MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) a bacterium that is resistant to the majority of antibiotics and is therefore incredibly difficult to treat!  Think about it this way... one bacterium randomly mutates so it is resistant to that antibiotic.  Therefore all the other bacteria are ]]You can help by:
  •  If your vet prescribes antibiotics, please give them in accordance to the instructions on the label and please make sure the full course is given (even if your pet looks better, it will hopefully make sure the resistant strain does not spread.
  • Do not give the antibiotics to another animal.
  • Try and keep your animal healthy by exercise, good nutrition, having vaccinations and having regular veterinary health checks.

Or sign up to become an antibiotic guardian to support the pledge at:

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Update on Getting in to Vet School

After an extremely busy summer - as usual!  I finally sent off my application to the Vet Schools two and a half weeks ago.  I am now in the process of filling in Work Experience Questionnaires and various other tests.  I am hoping to hear back as to whether I have got interviews around Christmas time, so lots of waiting!  Although I am sure I will be very busy so it will fly by!  I am currently getting ready to go to Tanzania next week.  I am going to help build a classroom for pupils who have special educational needs and also a library.  While I am out there I am hoping I will gain an insight into their culture and I that we have the opportunity to visit a local farm.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Bovine Tuberculosis TB

Bovine TB is a major problem for cattle farmers.  Bovine Tuberculosis is a disease that is caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium bovis and it is a very well known disease because it is zoonotic meaning that it can be transferred to humans and other domestic animals.

With the every increasing number of cattle with the disease the threat to humans is increasing.  The disease can be spread through contaminated raw milk or interfaces such as open woulds and breathing in the bacterium through the mouth or nose.  Because can infect people through raw milk, dairy farmers and their families are at very high risk as they tend to drink the milk straight from the tank.   In cattle it causes weight loss and coughing and sometimes diarrhea if it affects the digestive system.  In humans the secondary infection causes lung damage, can spread to other parts of the body and be fatal.

One of the calves at the dairy placement

Measuring skin flap with callipers
I was lucky enough to observe a TB test whilst on my mixed veterinary placement.

On the first visit the vet injects an avian and bovine strain of TB into the neck next to each other in the same place on each cow, for example bovine on left and avian on right (not sure if this is the correct way round but this is an example) and measures with calipers the diameter of the flap of skill surrounding the injection. After two days the vet returns and measures the swelling around the injections.  The bigger the swelling, the larger the reaction.  Therefore, if the bovine strain swells up more than the avian strain the animal is suspected to have TB.  If the farm is in a high risk TB area then it is tested every year, if low risk then tested every 4 years.  As another measure at the abattoir they look in the lungs for TB nodules to prevent TB infected animals entering the food chain.  If their is a suspected case of TB, all farms within 3km are investigated.

TB nodules in the lung of a deer

Further reading:  I would recommend this for further reading as I found it very interesting.

References BVA,

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Dogs in Hot Cars

It is getting to that time of year where even Britain is experiencing the phenomenon of having a big orange thing in the sky!  This means that Brits are going out and having a lovely time in the sun but unfortunately it also means that there is an increase in the number of dogs that die as a result of being left in a car.


Help us spread the message this summer it's NOT cool to leave your pet in a hot car! | Calgary Humane Society - Blog
This is a good poster but call 999 as this is an American poster
The unfortunate thing about deaths due to hot cars is that people do not realise that they have done anything wrong until it is too late.   Some people think that as long as they have the windows of their car open, leave water and park in shade that your dog will be fine to be left for 10 minutes.  Even a few minutes is enough to kill a dog.  They are unable to sweat like humans because they can only pant through their paws and nose, so they pant to circulate air to cool them down.  Therefore left in a car they are VERY VERY VERY vulnerable to heatstroke.


Sunday, 4 May 2014

Lambing - a tiny insight into a sheep farmer's day

All the photos in this post were taken at the lambing placement I was on this year and last.

One thing that cannot fail to put a smile on someone's face is the sight of lambs skipping and playing in the fields, marking the fact that spring has finally arrived!

One thing that people don't always realise is the amount of time and effort to get them there.

Lambing itself is the busiest time of the sheep farmer's calendar and in my opinion the most exhausting but amazing experience!

Here is a typical day at the farm I visited:
5:00am - Farmer's alarm went off

5:20am - Farmer arrived at farm

6:40am - My alarm went off

7:00am - I arrived at farm

7:00 - 8:30am - if anything needed lambing it was lambed.  Any newborns squirted with spectam (to reduce scour) and their umbilical
cords dipped in iodine solution to dry it up to prevent infection.  Sheep are penned up with their newborns (sometimes a lot harder than it sounds!)  All pens need to be watered, given nuts and hay.

8:30am - Breakfast yum yum!

9:00-12:30pm - continue water if not finished and penning up, squirting and iodining.  When lambing you have to be aware of what is going on at all times, if any are in the early stages of labour you should know, and keep an eye on them to know when something is wrong and you need to intervene. We take regular trips round the field to pick up any that have lambed and keep an eye on those who seem to be taking a bit too much time.  The most common problems are lambs that are too big for the ewes, legs back, head back or backwards.  All of these reasons would lead to prolonged labour and would, the majority of the time, require human intervention.

12:30pm - Lunch and at my placement Bargain Hunt time!

1:00pm-4pm - More lambing if required, keeping a close eye on the shearlings if they have been at it since morning - shearlings are first-time mums and usually take a bit longer than other sheep to lamb, so we keep them separate so we can keep an extra eye on them (they can take hours sometimes!).  The problem with shearlings is that lots of them do need lambing, but you should only intervene in one if you really have to, because a lot of the time they don't realise the lamb is theirs. If you lamb her, she may reject her lamb/s.  The most important moment in my opinion is when the lambs have just been born and the natural instinct of their mum kicks in and she licks them.

The licking stimulates the heart to pump blood around the body as they can no longer rely on the umbilical cord and also removes the membrane from the lamb.  All lambs are born in a membrane and some are even encased in afterbirth, so if mum doesn't lick it away quickly they drown.  That is another reason you have to keep an eye on the shearlings! I had one this year through no fault of its mothers, fighting for survival: it was pure chance I was passing through the shed at the time and I saw this small movement in the straw, so I rushed across to it as fast as I could when I saw no mum licking - she was a twin and the ewe seemed to have given up on this lamb and was focusing on the other lamb.  It was encased in afterbirth and I hadn't seen anything like it before and I was trying to get through this tough layer of
membrane - absolutely no chance it's mother could have licked through it, it was tough! I got through it at the very last moment I could have done, it wasn't breathing and I saw just a single faint heartbeat.  I cleared all airways and rubbed and rubbed and rubbed to try and stimulate its blood, but it still wasn't breathing so I started swinging it to try and clear it's airway, still to no avail. (Normally you swing till you see movement or a cough or something.) Still nothing.  So last resort - open the lambs mouth and breath into it.  After 3 breaths and nearly giving up hope we got a sneeze.  It is immensely rewarding when you try so hard and put all your effort in, and it pays off, whether it be something like this, or lambing twins/triplets where you know that both lambs, if not both lambs and mum would have died if you hadn't intervened.  Then ringing and spraying.  The most common method of castrating is ringing.  You put a sterile ring on which cuts off the blood supply so the tissue dies and drops off, same applies with the tail.  Castration is so there is no unwanted babies next lambing time and tail removal is to prevent fly-strike.  You mark the lambs and ewe with the same number so if separated in the field they can be reunited and we put a red dot on their head in case they go wandering of into a neighboring farm.  All afternoon ewes are lead out with their lambs to nearby fields to make room for tomorrows lot in the pens.  Only ones with lambs that are big enough, have enough milk, and aren't adopted go out and are wormed and if they need feet trimming, have that done before they go out too.  If they need close attention they stay in.  To make room for ones in the nearby fields, ones that are about a week old get moved by wagon to further away fields.  So lots of catching and counting required! 

4:00pm - sheep's dinner time.  Go round and do the same as morning - lots of nuts, hay and water.

5:00pm - tea time! and a short rest!

5:45pm - Finish any feeding and go round the fields as usual and then check the nearby fields for any ewes having problems, for example, any that may have an infection and need some antibiotics and also check for lost lambs or rejected lambs.  Finally keep an eye on any others due to lamb in the near future and see if they need assistance before we go in.

Depending on how much is happening determines how early or late we go inside.  Last year was quite busy as I came at the start of lambing time so we would get in about 9/10ish and they would be checked on every 2 hours as there were lots of us.  This year they were left through the night as there wasn't as many of us, but the farmer arrived at 5am and doesn't leave till late so they are only normally left 6 or so hours.  If you are not used to such work regularly it is amazing how early you end up going to bed.  Bedtime was definitely directly proportional to the number of sheep wrestled that day.  This year: first night 10:30pm, second night 10:10pm, third night 9:50pm, fourth night 9:30pm and fifth night 9:10pm! I had an incredible time as usual, and I would have stayed for soooooooo much longer if exams weren't looming and I didn't have to walk 80km on my Gold DofE the week after!  I hope everyone liked this post and feels the same admiration for sheep farmers everywhere at lambing time as I do after having an insight into their daily lives at lambing time!

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

New State of Matter Found in Chicken's Eyes.

Ooh interesting.  I wonder if chickens are the only species to have this or whether there are other species of bird (or maybe even animal) that have not yet been researched that share this?  Maybe then we can learn more about the eyesight and abilities of chickens and potentially that hyperuniform optical circuits, light detectors and other materials could be controlled to be sensitive or impervious to certain light wavelengths.

Friday, 28 February 2014

Neutering for Dogs and Cats

 Neutering is the collective word used for castrating and spaying - the removal of sex glands to prevent unwanted breeding.

I have mentioned my views on neutering in some of the previous posts, or if I know you in person and have stumbled onto the topic.  There is a rather large misconception regarding neutering, certain people perceive it as unethical and unnatural; others are in favour as it reduces the population of animals, which in turn reduces the number which are abandoned, homeless or neglected.

Percieved myths and truths according to Dr. Dawn Bookmyer, DVM 
  • Neutering a pet does not change the animal’s basic personality. In fact, spaying or neutering an animal often makes for a better pet. Many objectionable behaviors, such as urine marking, roaming and fighting, may be greatly reduced after neutering.
  • Spaying or neutering only removes a pet’s reproductive ability. Neutering does not alter the “gender” of the animal any more than a hysterectomy or vasectomy changes the gender of humans.
  • The ability to reproduce has no bearing on a pet’s happiness. While it’s natural to want to assign human emotions to our pets, we need to remember that the primary basis for a happy pet is a loving home – something that millions of animals will never have, due to the tragedy of pet overpopulation.
  • Spaying and neutering does not lead to obesity. While metabolic changes may cause pets to add a little weight, the primary cause of obesity in animals is the same as humans – too much food and not enough exercise.
  • The risks of the surgery are minimal – especially compared to the medical problems of unneutered pets. Unneutered animals are at greater risk for infections and cancers of the uterus, prostate, mammaries and testicles. And although most vets like to do the surgery when a pet is between 6 and 9 months old, animals of any age will generally see health benefits.

     Health Risks:

    Of neutering:

    • Spaying is thought to increase the chance or urinary incontinence later in life, however, if this does occur it is usually treatable.
    •  Occasionally haemorraging may occur either immedietly following or up to 7 days afterwards so a close eye needed.
    • Spaying is considered major surgery because it involves entering the abdomen, however, vets consider the procedure very safe and even routine.

    Of not neutering:

    •  Pyometra (an infection of the womb which requires an operation (of removal of the uterus), intravenous fluids, antibiotics and spaying and is a risky procedure - much more risky than spaying normally and sometimes fatal - as the uterus is filled with pus.)
    • Neutering may help with behavioural problems and can reduce aggression, reduce possessiveness over toys and food, reduce territorial behaviour towards visitors and reduce the tendency to roam in search of a mate. (A study in male cats showed that there was a post-op decline in fighting - 88% - roaming - 94% - and urine - spraying - 88%)
    • Neutering eliminates the occurrence of testicular cancer (especially important to neuter those whose testicles do not naturally decend by 6-9months.
    • Neutering markedly reduces the incidence of benign hyperplasia of the prostate gland, prostatitis and perineal hernias in dogs.
    • A bitch spayed before her first season has very little chance of developing breast cancer.  Breast cancer can be fatal in about 50 percent of female dogs and 90 percent of female cats. Every season involves a surge of hormones that significantly increase her chance of developing breast cancer.
     For an older, seriously ill animal, anesthesia and surgery are complicated - often fatal -and costly.

The process itself: 


N/A for male animals.
For female it is easier and safer to operate between seasons due to the increased blood supply to the uterus when an animal is in season. Usually spayed 3 months after their first season.  Bitches an also be spayed as early as 8-10 weeks of age and kittens at 3-4 months old but check with your vet for their policies.
  • Many people may opt for pre-anesthesia bloods which check your animal's liver and kidney function because these organs break down and remove anesthesia from the body after surgery (which is especially important for older animals due to the deterioration of these functions with age).
  • The animal is put under general anaesthetic by injection of any of pentobarbital, thiopental, ketamine hydrochloride (if in cats given xylazine to prevent excitable behaviour on recovery), alfadolone/alfaxalone (though used with caution because in dogs it may cause allegic reaction), or propofol which is commonly used, and the vet nurses check the heart rate and breathing rate throughout the operation (in countries that have vet nurses) and if the vet practice has a gas machine then the animal is kept at a stable level using oxygen and isoflurane (induction of anaesthesia and recovery are more rapid with isoflurane than with halothane.

Spaying - (Ovario-hysterectomy)

The surgeon makes a small incision in your animal's flank (belly area) and removes the ovaries, fallopian tubes and uterus.  Then the vet sutures (stiches) the attachments and sutures or glues all the layers of muscle and skin back together with surgical glue.


The vet opens the scrotum and coverings of the testicle by a linear incision, brings the organ up through these structures so easily accessible, dividing the spermatic chord quite far above the epididymis which lies on the testicle in such a way that haemorraging does not occur.

After the operation:

  • Animals may find it hard to regulate their temperature so may chill so keep warm with lots of blankets and keep and eye on them also usually sleepy and wobbly.
  • May be queasy and unwilling to eat or after eating vomit.  So avoid large meals and feed small amounts of light, easy to digest food such as chicken and rice or scrambled egg.
  • Keep close eye on wounds and use a buster collar or T-shirt to prevent licking if you can.
  • REST.  Do not allow off-lead exercise and ask the vet for guidelines as regards to exercise levels.

From when to call your vet: (always call your vet if you have any other concerns other than on this list)

  • A reopened incision.
  • Abnormal swelling of the incision area (some swelling is normal).
  • Dark red or purple discoloration.
  • Bloody or thick discharge from the incision.
  • Foul odors from the incision area, which could indicate an infection.
  • Continued lethargy or if your dog doesn't seem to get better after a few days.

Unless you are a professional breeder, spaying and neutering your animals is the kindest and most responsible action you can take, not only for your own pet, but for cats and dogs everywhere.

Friday, 24 January 2014

My New Additions

Meet Henrietta, Cynthia, Dory, Billina, Nugget and Funky.


These are my new girlies.  I never had any experience of hens before my work experience in June 2013, where I was thrown in at the deep end with 100,000 hens.  What I had not realised till then was that they were friendly. Most of them wanted affection when I was walking round looking after them, when we were in the pullets barn with the stable door, if we just had the bottom door shut, they would fly up to it and wait for us to stroke them. 
One of the pullets in the pullet barn

Henrietta and Billina on their first day
So after June I was on a mission to persuade my parents to allow me to get chickens!  This was going semi-well but after being away on work experience all summer there were doubts as to whether they would get dumped with all the work.  However after exam results came out I had my final persuading power!  So after exams when my parents asked what I wanted as a reward for doing well in exams - as any normal 16 year old girl would say - I would like some hens.

Funky again
The plan was to re-home 6 hens from the commercial farm that I worked at.  The colony birds were going in July. Colony being the new system of caged birds with 60-70 birds in one bigger cage with access to a perch and a scratch matt and a curtained off area to lay in.  However this was too soon and so I ended up getting some free range birds.

  The term free-range is misleading however, as although it is better than colony in the fact that they can move around and escape whoever is top of the pecking order, free range actually means no more than 9 birds per square meter and has access to outside space.  9 birds per square meter is quite cramped and although there are barriers splitting each barn into 3 mini sections to prevent birds piling up in one area, it usually is very very densely packed with birds in one area and not so densely packed in others. Although they do have outside space they are not encouraged to go out so no food or water is out there, as the farmers don't want them outside because every degree above or below their optimum temperature means money lost on food that gives energy for egg production.  As a result lots of birds they don't venture out because as pullets and chicks they were inside they don't want to go out to the scary place that is outdoors.

(Also just for a bit of other knowledge just because the eggs say organic on them it doesn't mean that they were free range.  Organic birds can be reared in a colony system and just fed organic food.)

My girls are settling in really well and I think it is a fantastic opportunity because I now can gain an insight into differences in the husbandry between keeping them commercially and keeping them as pets.
The first egg 3/1/14

Friday, 6 December 2013

The Amazing Work of KAPSA

The amazing view from the villa.
In October half term I was spending a week of work experience free relaxing time on holiday in Turkey.  However, those who know me will realise that this is impossible as wherever I go I seem fated to wind up with the animals! 
The view from one of the 300 restaurants

I stayed at the fishing village of Kalkan that had increasingly grown over the last few years due to the rise in tourism from the UK in the area.  Multiple Brits had moved across and bought property due to the amazing views, great weather and great food - there were 300 restaurants!  I really enjoyed the holiday and it was amazing being able to immerse yourself into the culture of the town with the Turkish food - not the all-inclusive British food in Turkey - and the call to prayer multiple times a day which reminded you that you were somewhere completely different to home!

It is also impossible for anyone visiting Kalkan not to notice the incredible amount of street animals.  Nobody can know exactly how many street animals there actually is due to more animals being dumped in the town and some dying or disappearing but KAPSA have neutered 1518 street animals since 2008 (statistic from the 10th November 2013) so that should give you some idea of the amount.  It was a very surreal experience having personal escorts everywhere by all the animals - every night the dogs would walk us back to the villa, they refused to leave until you got to your destination and would walk all the way across town with you no matter how many times you tried to keep them from following you, they would.  They were not begging for food and for street animals they were in very good health - no doubt helped by KAPSA's work.  One dog behind and one dog in front just walking with the occasional stop and check that you are keeping up with them and that the front dog was not leaving you behind.  The cats would just come out from everywhere as you walked by to come out and brush against your legs.  The Turkish and the tourists were evidently looking out for these animals.

Backwards from Britain.

That would be how I would describe it.  All the animals any family would love as an ideal family pet lived on the street and belonged to everyone.  The animals that I noticed causing a "kerfuffle" were the owned ones.  Maybe because they are not part of the hierarchy of the street dog pact or maybe they were adopted because they didn't fit in in the first place? I don't know.  Whereas in Britain the majority of the unsocialised dogs are in dogs homes or euthanised (not including the ones with mistraining from the owners causing them to be agressive...that is another debate for another day) and the ones like the street dogs of Kalkan are in homes.  Compared to the UK I thought everything was in harmony here.  You wouldn't dream of letting the dogs and cats run the length of the practice or there would be chaos and probably dead cats but here it didn't even cross my mind that I would have to worry about anything breaking out and as they were are socialised from a very young age and knew their place. What amazed me was that there was kittens just wandering around less than the size of your hand and the next minute a giant great dane sized dog walks straight past with neither batting an eyelid!

Trying her luck with the not so amused cats!

So onto KAPSA...

I saw a poster on the Wednesday of my Saturday to Saturday week long holiday about the work of KAPSA that mentioned "please feel free to pop-in and see our work at out clinic."   So being myself I e-mailed them asking if I could come for the day on the Friday.  They were so organised and Maggi replied very quickly that it was fine - which I was amazed at because I thought I would be far too last minute to have a chance of going! 

So I arrived at 9am at the clinic in chaos and met Lynn who was feeding the cats, there were lots of cats coming to the clinic for their breakfast (cats are afraid of the vets in the UK - as many cat owners will know - and don't come willingly  - these Turkish cats need to have a word with the ones in Britain and tell them there's nothing to be afraid of!)  And in the midst of all the cats were the other in-patients who were trying their luck annoying the cats!

This little puppy was hit by a car on the D400 a major road around Kalkan.  Amazingly she didn't sustain any major injuries but at only about 8 weeks old she was far too small to fend for herself on the streets. She is a gorgeous puppy who loved to have fun and cause chaos with the other inpatient pup with a broken leg whilst running round the clinic! Apparently she has breeding from a hunting dog decent due to her nose shape (It looks like a heart if you see her up close) however the rest of her body hasn't quite got the typical characteristics of a Turkish hunting dog. Since I returned to the UK she has been adopted and now called Suzie so hopefully causing mischief and putting smiles on more peoples faces.

The puppy above's partner in crime is this lovely puppy also hit by a car however he didn't fare as well with a broken leg.  The amazing thing I found about the clinic at KAPSA is that this very expensive operation is performed on street animals.  In the UK, some owned animals don't get this operation because it is too expensive and people can't afford to spare the money.
First task of the day was cleaning up and feeding all the in-patients.  Being street animals some of them weren’t all too keen on cat food and one in-patient much preferred lahmacun (it’s hard to explain what it is…it’s kind of like a pizza base with tomatoes and herbs that people roll up with salad in the middle) and also cake.  But that is usual because there isn’t much cat food on the street!   After feeding all the hungry bodies peace was restored.  Hasan and Didem arrived and vet tasks began. 

First we changed the little puppies bandage and splint which they did every two weeks.  Unfortunately it was slightly infected so had to have some antibiotics to help that.  To create the bandage/splint Didem drew a sketch of his leg onto cardboard, cut it out and with Hasan's help with a saw and some bits of wood and tape created him a splint.  In the UK the dogs have the same as a human would have - a pot which just for the material in the UK costs £100.  So a lot more animals can be helped just with a bit of wood and some cardboard!
Another of the one eyed kittens.

Ates saying hello to a one eyed kitten.
Another quite long term in-patient was Ates (fire).  He was suffering with mange and had just been declared not contagious anymore when I came.  He still had quite a bit of fur to grow back.  He was a larger than life character who was getting very stir-crazy from not being able to go out anywhere but he was very happy in the company of the cats.  He is currently still waiting for a home and would be a great pet as he is very very very friendly - and loves cuddles!  The mange was treated with injections, medicated baths and lots of TLC from all the volunteers.

A kitten came in to the clinic in the afternoon that was about the size of my hand.  Someone heard screaming when someone turned their car's engine on and this kitten (now called Minnie) was inside.  She had a very badly mangled paw (for example if a normal paw was the shape of an upside down spoon, her paw was upward facing spoon shaped).  She couldn't use her claws because of it - which apparently proved a little difficult for her when she tried scaling the curtains at her fosterer's house!

Due to the hard work fundraising and an amazing donation from an individual in the UK KAPSA were able to buy an x-ray for the clinic which is great because x-rays can be taken and seen within a few minutes and there is no stress of further movement to the injured animals. Before they were having to take injured animals 85km to Fethiye just for an X-Ray!

Again in the UK many animals are denied treatment due to the expense of x-rays.

Trap, Neuter and Return.

Kapsa operates a trap, neuter and return programme to try and maintain and eventually diminish the population of street animals in Kalkan.  The idea being that they catch an animal, neuter it and give them a vaccination against rabies and return it to the place where it was caught.  This is a forever ongoing process with multiple animals in a day for neutering - about 7 the day I was there.  It is working but it is a slow process.    
The problem is that if one male and one female dog were left without being neutered.  How many puppies will they and their puppies, and their puppies etc. produce in 6 years? 

The answers I was getting from people I have asked were as low as 40 and as high as 500.  It is actually 67,000 puppies.  That is the problem Kalkan is facing.  There are too many street animals being left to their own devices and have the opportunity to breed.  What KAPSA is trying to do is try to stop the uncontrolled breeding for the numerous reasons:
  • Some people find these animals are pests, so shoot or try to poison them. (there unfortunately have been such cases).
  • Due to the amount of animals, some are kept by businesses for the tourist season and put on the streets through the winter.  Some restaurant owners have been known to find a puppy for the tourist season to try and get the business, throw it out in the winter and get a new puppy in the spring.  TNR makes it harder for them to do that by removing the large availability of the pups.
  • A dog in for spaying and the 2 pups.
    There are still a lot of animals that have "special needs" such as Minnie and the one eyed kittens that just cannot live on the streets as they would be too prone to accidents and Ates who has been in the company of humans for the duration of his long stay at KAPSA is too used to humans to be put back on the streets so would really like a home - but if a home cannot be found for him soon he will have to be put on the streets.
Yes many people find it hard even in Britain to neuter the dog because it "isn't natural" or it's "cruel" but actually neutering is improving the welfare of the animals on the street by their treatment by humans and also they are less likely to get:
  •  Pyometra (an infection of the womb which requires hospitalisation, intravenous fluids, antibiotics and spaying and is a risky procedure - much more risky than spaying normally and sometimes fatal - as the uterus is filled with pus.)
  • Neutering may help with behavioural problems and can reduce aggression, reduce possessiveness over toys and food, reduce territorial behaviour towards visitors and reduce the tendency to roam in search of a mate.
  • Neutering eliminates the occurrence of testicular cancer.
  • Neutering markedly reduces the incidence of benign hyperplasia of the prostate gland, prostatitis and perineal hernias in dogs.
  •  Prevents breast cancer.  Breast cancer can be fatal in about 50 percent of female dogs and 90 percent of female cats. 
 For an older, seriously ill animal, anesthesia and surgery are complicated - often fatal -and costly.

Winter Feeding Programme:

Spot the kitten? You wouldn't get this in UK vets!
Due to the availability of food in Kalkan being seasonal (due to the English tourists and restauranteurs only running the restaurants for the summer months) KAPSA organise a winter feeding programme so the animals do not get hungry during the winter months.  They distribute food to volunteers placed all around the town and they take a record of the animals they are feeding due to the tags on the dogs and identification of the cats and any unlogged animals are taken for neutering (it is much easier to catch them when they know someone and come for food everyday).  Last year with 70 volunteers, 6,300kg (nearly 7 tonnes!) of cat and dog food was given out between November and April!



The volunteers also go around local schools trying to teach them the importance of treatment of the animals.  KAPSA try and share with them what its like being a street animal and how we should help them.  This is important as this is the generation that when they grow up they will bring their animals for neutering and be responsible pet owners.

All the volunteers at KAPSA are animal mad and very nice and welcoming! I would like to thank Maggi, Sandra, Lynn, Gulfem, Jan, Hasan and Didem for showing me everything you did and introducing me to lahmacun and to all the other volunteers that I met and all the ones I didn't get chance to meet.

As KAPSA are a charity they are in need of funds to keep them doing their amazing work.  If you want to find out more then you can go on their website

Join the Facebook page
Follow KAPSA on twitter @KapsaKalkan

And to donate which would be greatly appreciated visit the website and follow the instructions or the PayPal account is: and our UK bank account is: Lloyds TSB, Sort Code: 30-97-62, A/C Number: 00259909. A/C Name: KAPSA. Thank you in advance from all the people at KAPSA, the Street Animals and myself as you can truly see what this money does for the animals Kalkan and the surrounding villages.

KAPSA are running low on cat baskets and other essential things.  Here are two kittens for neutering snuggled up together.