Call For Vet Profession To Support Compulsory Health Testing For Pedigree Dogs


The Dog Breeding Reform Group (DBRG) is calling on more vets to support compulsory health testing for pedigree dog breeds including Cavalier King Charles Spaniels as it slams the failure of voluntary testing by breeders.

The group welcomed the recent article in the Veterinary Times highlighting the hereditary health crisis affecting Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and other breeds, and the need for more stringent health testing.

Campaigners have worked hard over many years to draw attention to the issues affecting Cavaliers. Although much research has been carried out, the incidence of Mitral Valve Disease (MVD), Chiari-like Malformation and Syringomyelia (CM/SM), plus other conditions including pancreatitis, remains unacceptably high. All of these cause major welfare concerns.

DBRG founder Carol Fowler explained: “As the majority of Cavalier breeders boycott the official CM/SM health scheme and a heart scheme promised in 2008 has yet to materialise, there is little hope of Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) for Cavaliers getting off the ground.

“Many people believe that the Cavalier breed is now so genetically compromised that outcrossing to a related breed may be the only way of tackling these problems.

“The Kennel Club is a prestigious and wealthy organisation with the power to do what is right for the welfare of dogs. If it sets an example, breeders, including non-KC breeders, will follow.

“The Kennel Club does not lack the know-how or influence to introduce an official heart scheme. We understand discussions are underway with cardiologists but there have been several stops and starts in recent years.”

The DBRG believes that Estimated Breeding Values are an important tool and could have a very positive impact on canine health. However, it believes a great deal more effort and action is required to make this a reality.

“At the moment there are EBVs for hip dysplasia for some 20-plus breeds and elbow dysplasia for a very small number of breeds,” Carol explains.

“EBVs are an impressive-sounding initiative but we are years, even decades, away from their reality for other complex conditions. They rely on phenotypic data from health screening. If official screening data does not exist, or where there are schemes and breeders fail to use them, EBVS are not possible. We know that co-operation from breeders cannot always be relied upon.”

DBRG was pleased to read vet Emma Milne’s strong stance in the Veterinary Times and agrees with her that voluntary testing is not working. We understand the Kennel Club’s tradition of leaving the choice to breed clubs and individual breeders. However, the welfare implications are so great in some breeds, such as Cavaliers, that a much stronger approach is needed.

Carol added: “The official CM/SM scheme presented many challenges. It might never have got off the ground had it not been for the determination and passion of key individuals motivated to truly make a difference to canine health and to improve our understanding of this distressing and complex condition.”

Like Emma Milne, the DBRG would welcome pressure from the BVA and other professional veterinary bodies regarding health testing, including finalising and implementing an official heart scheme. DBRG would support the rapid introduction of breed-specific schemes rather than a ‘one size fits all’ approach. This would include a compulsory scheme for Cavaliers along the lines of the highly successful Danish version that has seen MVD fall in the breed by over 73 per cent.

An abbreviated version of the Veterinary Times article can be seen online

DBRG is an organisation dedicated to improving the health and welfare of dogs through responsible breeding. It was founded in 2013 and became a Charitable Trust in 2015. Members of the DBRG include veterinary specialists, dog welfare and law experts, breeders and dog owners.

For more information about the DBRG please visit

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First Ever Record Deal For Music For Animals Announced


Universal Music announced today a remarkable record deal to sign ‘Music for Cats’, the first ever major label deal for music aimed at animals rather than humans.

This very special album composed by cellist with America’s National Symphony Orchestra David Teie, has been scientifically proven to enrich the lives of cats and provide a calming influence for our feline friends. Comprising of five cat-friendly compositions, this unique collection of sounds and classical music is released 28 October 2016.

Britain is a nation of animal lovers who spend four billion pounds a year on their cats and there are approximately 9.2 million cats in the UK alone – an enormous untapped music market. In a music industry in constant flux, this deal is a forward thinking move tapping into new markets, distribution avenues and is sure to climb its way up the charts.

‘Music for Cats’ caught Universal’s eye after a whirlwind Kickstarter campaign, which garnered hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding and independently sold over 10,000 copies of the album. Universal Music seized the opportunity and will be bringing ‘Music For Cats’ to the world with this international signing.

A spokesperson for Universal Music said: “We’re thrilled to be part of this world-first project and break into the massive untapped market of non-human music fans. The possibilities are endless for more species specific ‘Music For’ albums: dogs and horses could all be on the cards. David Teie’s creative ideas, passion and solid research has laid the perfect foundation for success and in his words ‘A hundred years from now people will have to be taught that music was once only for humans.’ “

Based at the University Of Maryland, David Teie is a published music researcher and decorated cellist, having given multiple solos with the National Symphony Orchestra and has even played lead cello for Metallica. ‘Music for Cats’ was born out of his scientific theory on the of music appreciation by animals. Felines establish their sense of music through the sounds heard when they’re kittens: birds chirping, suckling for milk, or their mother’s purr.

With this premise, David composed ‘Music for Cats’, incorporating cat-centric sounds and classical elements. An independent study conducted by researchers at the University of Wisconsin and published in Applied Animal Behaviour Science verified that Music for Cats makes for contented kitties.

Music For Cats is released via Universal on October 28.



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COMPETITION: Is Your Pet Britain’s Most Active?


National Office of Animal Health (NOAH) has teamed up with Pets Magazine to invite pet owners to share their snaps of happy and active pets. At the height of 2016’s summer of sports, people are being encouraged to celebrate the importance of pet wellbeing and the vital role that exercise plays.

Pet owners can enter the ‘Happy, Healthy Pets’ competition by visiting the website by Sunday September 4th. Entrants will be eligible to win a £125 gift voucher for pet goodies.

The campaign, which is also supported by PetFocus, is part of NOAH’s ‘Happy, Healthy Pets Project’.

NOAH, Pets Magazine and PetFocus hope to highlight the importance of keeping pets happy and healthy all year round and paying close attention to their seasonal healthcare needs.

NOAH Chief Executive, Dawn Howard, explained: “With 2016’s summer of sports in full swing, there’s never been a better time to think about the vital role exercise plays in your pet’s wellbeing and why keeping pets active helps keep them happy and healthy in body and mind. We hope that our latest competition will help drive the conversation further and that the UK’s active pets (and their owners!) will help inspire hundreds of others to join them.”

Pets Magazine Editor, Marie Carter, said: “Pets Magazine is delighted to support NOAH’s Active Pets campaign and endorse its fantastic competition to find shining examples of pets who live active and healthy lives.

“Sadly, over half of dogs and cats are now obese in the UK, and most do not get a decent walk a day with owners indulging them in too many treats. It’s so easy to literally kill pets with supposed kindness. If given the chance most dogs would rather feel fit and happy being dogs running or walking across a field with their noses trained firmly to the ground.

“NOAH’s competition is a great opportunity for people to think carefully about the quantity and quality of food they give to their pets and also how they can better build exercise into their pet’s day. As well as a walk, exercise could involve throwing a ball for your dog or active and fun play with a cat. As a magazine which focuses on pets as well as pet owners’ lifestyles and activities people can do with their pets, Pets Mag is really looking forward to seeing all the images of fit, active and happy pets.”

For more information or to submit photos to the gallery, simply visit

Entries uploaded by Sunday September 4th will be eligible to win a £125 voucher for pet supplies and treats (terms and conditions apply). Entrants must ensure they click the pink competition tick-box to enter when uploading their photos.

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Decorated Penguin Receives Military Promotion At Edinburgh Zoo


This is the hilarious moment a highly-decorated PENGUIN waddled past a group of royal guards – before receiving a military promotion.

Sir Nils Olav – the highest decorated bird in the world – proudly strutted his stuff as he was promoted to Brigadier.


The famous bird, who lives at Edinburgh Zoo, was bestowed the title by his Majesty the King of Norway’s Guard who paid him a special visit yesterday (18/08).

Sir Nils paraded his way up Penguin Walk, whilst inspecting the soldiers of the guard.

The impressive bird, which is frequently described by his keepers as regal due to his unique black, white and yellow feathers will now be known as Brigadier Sir Nils Olav.


Zoo staff said the bird has an aura suggesting he knows exactly how important he is.

Excited Barbara Smith, acting chief executive officer for the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, said: “We are honoured to host His Majesty the King of Norway’s Guard as they bestow a prestigious new title upon our king penguin, Sir Nils Olav.

“It is a very proud moment and represents the close collaboration between our two countries, Scotland and Norway.”

The prestigious title was awarded during a special ceremony which was attended by over 50 uniformed soldiers who are taking part in The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo this year.

Adopted by Norwegian troops in 1962, he was as pleased as punch as he waddled through the crowds of soldiers and cameramen to receive his latest award.

Brigadier David Allfrey, Producer and Chief Executive of The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, added: “This is just a simply fantastic example of the great relations between our two countries, and it couldn’t be a more charming tradition.

“At the Tattoo we of course have many inspecting officers but this is by far my favourite. Congratulations, Brigadier Olav!”

The Guardsmen visit Sir Nils every few years and his keepers say that “Nils always recognises the Norwegian guardsmen when they visit.”

Since his adoption in 1972 he was worked his way up the ranks going from Mascot to Brigadier Sir.

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Call For More Offices To Be Dog-friendly

Mars Petcare is a dog-friendly office

Mars Petcare is a dog-friendly office

This World Dog Day, Mars Petcare are calling on more employers to introduce pet friendly policies at work to encourage more people to rehome a rescue dog.

Sadly, having to be at work all day is one of the reasons people abandon pets and this is a barrier to people adopting an animal in the firs place. If employers were more open to letting staff bring their dogs to work, thousands of dogs all over the UK could be rehomed – and fewer would be abandoned.

Pet-friendly policies at work are simple to implement and not only encourage people to adopt a new dog but make it easier for current dog owners to look after their pet responsibly – eliminating the need for them to leave them at home alone all day.

Kate Menzies, Director of People and Organisation at Mars Petcare said: “Pet friendly policies are good for both dogs and owners. Dogs in the office can offer a sense of comfort, relieve stress, increase physical activity and even improve productivity. As for the dogs, they enjoy the chance to socialise all day. We are working with our partners at Battersea Dogs & Cats Home to raise awareness of the plight of rescue dogs and how employers can take simple steps to help their staff look after their pets.”

Mars Petcare and Battersea Dogs & Cats Home have been partners since 2009. The charity cares for nearly 5,000 dogs every year with well over 60% of dogs coming to the Home because their owners can no longer care for them. People gift their pets into Battersea for a number of reasons including change in circumstance – which may include a change in working hours. This could mean the dog would be left for too long on their own and the owners may no longer be able to give them the care they need.

Battersea’s Rehoming and Welfare Manager, Becky Fisher said: “Every dog is different, but no dog should be left alone at home for hours at a time whilst owners are at work. With the right environment at work, pet friendly policies and office dogs could make a real difference to people who want to rehome rescue dogs who find their working hours a barrier.”

Top 5 Tips for a Dog Friendly Office:

1. Set some simple guidelines for owners to make sure the dogs they bring into work will be relaxed and well-behaved in the office.

2. Doggy name badges and sign-in sheets are really handy – so you know which dogs are in the building at all times.

3. If you can, create some kind of dog friendly outdoor space so owners and pets can take ‘walkies’ near the office.

4. Make everyone aware of the new policy from the start – some people are wary of dogs but the most well behaved pups will integrate really well and be a benefit to all.

5. Think about the other policies you could introduce to help pet owners – for example in 2012, we launched our ‘Pet-ernity’ policy – giving our staff 10 hours of paid leave to care for and bond with a new kitten or puppy.

Two dogs looking for their forever homes:



Buster is a thirteen-year-old Staffordshire Bull Terrier, who has been at Battersea Dogs & Cats Home for over 130 days. He’s one of the home’s ‘golden oldies’ who arrived here because his owners’ circumstances changed and they were no longer able to take care of him. Buster is a sweet boy who loves being around people and is very gentle and loving. He finds it hard being on his own, so he will need owners who are willing to help him work on this. This older gent is looking for a home where his owners can give him the love and attention he deserves. He will make an affectionate and rewarding addition to any new family.



Eden is a three-year-old gorgeous Husky cross who has been at Battersea Dogs & Cats Home for over 140 days. She arrived at here because her owners were no longer able to take care of her. Although she is a medium sized dog, Eden has the husky personality- so would be perfect for anyone who wants a pocket husky. She is a very affectionate girl who likes company and is looking for someone who can be around her for most of the day. She would be ideally suited to someone who could spend most of the day with her to give her the fuss and attention she deserves.

Please contact Battersea Dogs & Cats Home for more information.

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Planning For The Future – What Happens To Pets When You Die?

As we approach National Dog Day on August 26, pet owners should consider making provision for their companion animals after they die – to avoid problems later on.

Our pets can live a long time. Tortoises can live for up to 150 years. Some parrot species reach 50, and domestic dogs and cats commonly make it to 20. But many animal lovers fail to plan for their pets’ future after they’re gone.

Natalie Palmer, Director of Latimer Hinks, offers the following useful advice:

In the UK, It’s not possible to set up a trust for a pet

Periodically, news will break of somebody, somewhere, leaving a huge sum of money to one of their pets. While some may consider such bequests a solution to the problem, in reality in the UK, it is not actually possible to leave money to pets.

A pet may be part of the family but legally they are considered to be belongings. As such, it is not possible to set up a trust fund solely to provide for their ongoing care.

Upon your death, there are no legal safeguards compelling anyone to look after your pet

Some people consider that leaving their pet to a friend or relative guarantees its long-term wellbeing but actually, there’s no legal obligation for them to take over the duties after you die, even though they might have agreed to do it.

So, how do we go about securing the future care of our beloved pets?

One option is to make a prior arrangement with somebody trusted to look after your pet and in your Will, leave a legacy to that individual with the request that it is used for the purposes of maintaining the pet. The problem is, it is up to the individual whether or not they use the legacy for the purposes you intended.

Another option might be to leave money in trust and ask the Trustees to make money available during your pet’s lifetime to whoever is looking after your pet (again with a request that the funds are used to look after the pet during its lifetime). This way Trustees can control funds and try to ensure (as far as possible) they are used to benefit your pet.

After the pet’s death you would need to leave instructions as to who is to inherit any funds still contained in the trust (perhaps an animal charity or the person who has looked after your pet during their lifetime). Setting up a trust to benefit your pet could put your mind at ease.

A third option might be to leave money to charity. Some charities offer to rehome pets, where possible, or to take them into special sanctuaries. In general, these wishes should be detailed in a will.

In the UK, people are still failing to write wills – estimates suggest around two thirds of us still don’t have one. Regardless of the impact on the family in financial terms, those dying intestate (without a will) risk uncertainty for their pets specifically in the context of ownership and future responsibility.

Leaving pets behind doesn’t have to be a worry but it does need to be given some thought. Planning is key.

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Award-winning Business Launches ‘3D Package’ for Pet Photographers

Arty Lobster MD Lars B Andersen with some of the 3D pet sculptures

Arty Lobster MD Lars B Andersen with some of the 3D pet sculptures

A company that creates 3D models of pets has launched a unique package for photography companies and independent photographers that promises to future-proof their services.

Arty Lobster is offering wholesale prices with a 30% discount exclusively to photographers on its new ‘3D Package’. Arty Lobster, which has experienced a surge in growth over the past twelve months and is taking on more staff, says the 3D pet sculpture market would ideally lend itself to photography companies’ existing offering.

3D dog sculptures

3D dog sculptures

After a photoshoot, pet photographers can get the client a unique 3D printed sculpture of their pet in full colour sandstone or bronze. This 3D Package generates additional income from each client, with no extra work. The rights to the photos remain fully with the photography company.

The innovative business, which started trading two years ago, has grown from an initial two members of staff to a team of eleven people, including seven 3D artists. The firm, which was a Finalist at the prestigious Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) London Business Awards, plans to hire an additional three 3D artists in the next 12 months.

One of the firm's 3D artists at work

One of the firm’s 3D artists at work

London-based Arty Lobster takes 3D tech to the limits by creating items that are truly bespoke and unique. Highly skilled artists create the 3D pet sculptures from customers’ photos of their pet, which are then 3D printed before being delivered to the customer. There are three options, including sandstone, porcelain and bronze with prices starting at £140.

In order to remain at the cutting edge of 3D innovation, Arty Lobster has implemented a rigorous training program to ensure each pet sculpture is crafted to the highest quality and artistic standards.

Lars B Andersen, Founder and MD of Arty Lobster, said: “We’ve launched our ‘3D Package’ as working with photographers is the ideal partnership for us. Photography companies increasingly need to diversify their services to stay current. 3D print is exciting and new and the pet services including photography market is booming with astonishing year on year growth.

 “Many consumers are increasingly adopting a ‘DIY approach’ to photography and at best having their photos processed online, which sadly impact on professional photographers’ bottom line. With the increasing sophistication of 3D, there is now an opportunity to offer a new and unique service. While people can take photos and use them in numerous ways, consumer 3D printing is still very much in its infancy, too expensive for most pockets, and far from being sophisticated enough to produce good results. Photographers can really make their services stand out and ‘future-proofed’ by offering a 3D package.”


Lars added: “In business terms, it’s an incredibly exciting time for us. We have experienced strong growth in the UK and internationally, which has allowed us to take on several new full-time members of staff as well as to add to our team of dedicated associates.

“3D printing is still in its infancy, and as the technology continues to improve, we anticipate significant additional growth in the market.”

For enquiries, please email [email protected], or visit , or call Lars on 0845 680 6064.

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It’s A Dog’s Life For One Confused Deer

SWNS_DEER_FRIDGE_006 A rescued deer that lives in an animal sanctuary owner’s bungalow has made itself so much at home – it now think it’s a DOG .

Geoff Grewcock, 66, says he might start regretting deciding to share his house with 10-year-old Bramble – because he has learned how to open the fridge to steal food.

The cute deer also curls up on the sofa to watch TV, eats from a dog bowl and can be often caught lapping up water from the toilet.

He also regularly sneaks in Geoff’s bedroom for a nap on his bed and pinches fruit from the living room whenever he isn’t looking.

Geoff, who runs Nuneaton and Warwickshire Wildlife Sanctuary, said Bramble is now firmly part of the family.

He added: “Bramble really is brilliant now, he’s just convinced he’s a dog.

“Whenever it’s meal time we call him over with the other dogs, and he’ll eat out of the bowl like them.

“But you have to be careful when you’re eating dinner, otherwise he’ll take your veggies off your plate when you’re not looking.

“I once went outside to start loading the van and thought he was in his pen, but I turned around and he wasn’t there.

“I thought I had lost him, but I went inside went up to my bedroom and he had sneaked in to my room, got in to my bed and fell asleep.

“He also seems to not get out of the bathroom and laps up water from the bowl like a dog.

“I can’t go in there without shutting him in with me if he has got there first because he just won’t get out. You have to use the loo with him there.”

A few weeks ago Geoff was left scratching his head when he found food missing from his fridge.

But he soon managed to catch Bramble in the act helping himself to everything that was inside having nudged it open with his nose.


But being a vegetarian, Bramble doesn’t like meat and simply spat it out on the floor for the dogs to eat.

Geoff added: “I found him raiding the kitchen cupboards and fridges for food, so we have to keep a close eye on him now.

“Most of the other animals are alright with him, but Leo the parrot doesn’t like him causing trouble in his shed.

“He lives at the other end of the garden, but if Bramble goes in and tries to steal his food we can hear him from the house shouting ‘F**k off, Bramble.’

“I think one of the volunteers must have said it quietly once and Leo’s just picked it up.

“Bramble’s real problem is although he hasn’t got antlers, he still thinks he does so tries to scratch them and knocks everything over inside.”

Geoff first got Bramble after dog walkers discovered him in the woods nearby in 2005 covered in scratches at two weeks old.

He slipped into a coma, and after fighting back Geoff tried to release him into the wild but was told he would be shot within three years if he did.

Geoff said: “He was in such a state when he was found. He was nowhere near any roads, so either another animal got him or something fell on him.

“He only had cuts and scratches, but we worried he might have a brain injury.

“After he recovered we went to several deer parks to try and release him, but because there are so many stags in this area we were told he would be culled within three years.

“I couldn’t face that so he moved in with us – quite literally.

“I could never let him go now. He is just part of the family.”

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Supervet Noel Fitzpatrick On His ‘Bionic Specials’ TV Series

Credit: Jude Edington/Channel 4

Credit: Jude Edington/Channel 4

In advance of tomorrow’s second instalment of The Supervet’s fascinating new TV series ‘Bionic Specials’, we speak to Professor Noel Fitzpatrick about his pioneering work.

Professor Noel Fitzpatrick, star of Channel 4’s smash-hit documentary series The Supervet, is arguably the most famous and best-loved vet in the UK, with his shows regularly watched by over 2 million viewers. But he is also a scientist, an inventor and innovator in his field. As the world’s leading neuro-orthopaedic veterinary surgeon, his groundbreaking surgical procedures have transformed the lives – and life chances – of many of our nation’s pets.

For the first time in the history of The Supervet, four brand new hour-long documentary specials go beyond the operating table to delve deeper into the science behind Noel’s cutting-edge procedures, revealing how he continually pushes the boundaries of veterinary medicine, with the help of special onscreen 3D graphics giving viewers a glimpse into the extraordinary ambition of Noel’s state of the art surgeries.

Noel with Cavalier King Charles spaniel Molly, and a 3D model of Molly's skull with a titanium mesh implant, mirroring the design used to reconstruct her skull after removing a tumour Credit: Jude Edington/Channel 4

Noel with Cavalier King Charles spaniel Molly, and a 3D model of Molly’s skull with a titanium mesh implant, mirroring the design used to reconstruct her skull after removing a tumour Credit: Jude Edington/Channel 4

Why is this new series of Supervet so different?

 This is the first series of Supervet where we focus on the science behind the life enhancing bionic surgery that I do every day. I was determined that this new bionic series would also continue to be about love, hope and redemption through the eyes of people who love their animals and animals who love their families.

In this special four-part series, we focus on the technological revolution in bioengineering and regenerative medicine which has enabled these animals to receive advanced surgeries. Many of these procedures and implant systems have never been seen before. Some of them are world firsts.

We are in the midst of great change in medicine. For me this is a deeply personal series of films which chart the evolution of thought regarding techniques and implants which have taken place over more than a decade.  It is ever more apparent in the world of medicine that surgery involving bionics and regenerative medicine should be shared among animals and humans for the greater good of all.

This is how most progress can be made and this is the message of One Medicine to which I dedicate my life and the charity I have founded that champions this message -The Humanimal Trust.  I strongly believe that all animals should be given all of the options, all of the time, for families that love those animals. Right now in veterinary medicine that often doesn’t happen, which is a shame.  One of the major reasons why this doesn’t happen is lack of awareness of the available technology and lack of willingness to employ these technologies for the greater good of our animal friends.

Many of the techniques demonstrated in this series are not available for human patients yet and this should herald a wake-up call for human surgeons everywhere that unless we move forward together, both human and animal medicine will be much worse off because of this lack of communication.

It is incredible when you think that in the Paralympics in twenty years from now people may be running using the implants and techniques which will be seen in these animals in the new Supervet series.

Why should viewers make a special effort to watch these new episodes?

I strongly feel that anyone who is interested in love, health and something to look forward to, should watch these programmes.  They represent a paradigm shift in our awareness of possibility and responsibility for our animal friends and importantly, for ourselves in the future.

The definition of bionic is having an anatomical structures or physiological processes that are replaced or enhanced by electronic or mechanical components.  Bionic limbs and regenerative medicine involving stem cells and three-dimensional printing of implants will be seen for the very first time by most of the audience. The implants and techniques are so advanced that it may be several years before some of them are available in human patients.

This new series is therefore a peg in the ground for advances in medical technology that can and should change the world we live in for the better, bringing hope to hundreds of thousands of animals and humans that desperately need cures for their diseases. These four programmes chart the emotional journeys, the deep compassion and the technological revolution behind treatments and cures for animals and humans of the future.

What are the challenges you face when using new technology to help your patients?

The main challenge nowadays is not so much the technology because pretty much everything is possible, it is the moral and ethical implications of moving forward.  Many people both within and outside the veterinary profession believe that we should not move forward with custom joint replacements and bionic limbs or spinal disc replacements and regenerative medicine in pet dogs and cats because the current options of full limb amputation or euthanasia may, in their view, be kinder for the animal.  

Meanwhile all of these technologies will be tried out in experimental animals for the benefit of humans. How is this fair? Should veterinary medicine move forward or stay still? The decisions we make must always be in the best interests of the patient and it is not enough to be able to do something, it has to be the right thing to do for that patient in that moment in time.

People simply do not realise that they have choice and that the phrase “it cannot be done” is to some extent obsolete. It’s more a case of, is it in the best welfare interests of that particular animal at this moment in time for this family that loves them.

I personally get some criticism for moving things too far in veterinary medicine and yet, I can honestly say, hand on heart, that I would never pick up a scalpel blade and operate on any animal if I wouldn’t do it on my own dog or if I didn’t feel I could provide that animal with a reasonable quality of life in a reasonable time frame because it was the right thing to do.

Credit: Jude Edington/Channel 4

Credit: Jude Edington/Channel 4

What does making these special bionic programmes mean to you personally?

I think that if people really watch these programmes and understand the breadth and depth of experience in the animal and human field that go into the development of each and every initiative, they will realise that there is an entire team of compassionate, caring people – desperately trying to do their best for the animal kingdom with a view to making a real difference to that animal and to the wider world.

These programmes chart the last fifteen years or so of my efforts to move medical techniques forward for the good of our animal friends.  Ever since I started out as a child wanting to be a vet, all I ever wanted to do was make things better and find solutions where existing options were poor.  Looking back on the journey, I recognise the cost emotionally and financially because in the development of any technique or implant, one must do so for love. I hope that these programmes will go some way to countering any doubt that surrounds motivation for progress in medicine and explains to people the thought, the effort and the love that goes into each and every implant and technique.

All I’ve ever wanted to do is to be an advocate for the animal, to say that this animal who gives us so very much deserves our best efforts by return and that every one of our animal friends deserve their little spot in the world and deserve to live a life without suffering. What makes the journey deeply personal however, is what I believe to be the unfairness and silliness of animals giving humanity all we need in terms of safe drugs and implants, but animals with those diseases not getting that same medical progress by way of return? I sincerely hope that this series of programmes will go some way to prompting our social conscience to redress this balance. Then my life will have had some meaning in the overall scheme of things.

When you look into the future in your bionic world, what is your greatest hope and your greatest fear?

My greatest fear is that humans will continue to use animals for advancements in human medicine without reciprocating the development of implants and drugs for the benefit of animals. It does not make sense to me to sacrifice the lives of tens of thousands of animals to develop drugs and implants for humans that those animals never get to see.  It would be much better in my opinion, if information were shared between veterinary and human medicine simultaneously.

This is the concept of One Medicine and this is my greatest hope for the world.  I think that within the next two generations we will determine the fate of many animals on planet Earth and my greatest hope for the children of future generations is that we maintain biodiversity and we look after our animal friends, because by doing so we really do look after ourselves. 

It’s all about respect, for the animals, for the planet and for each other. To my mind, there is no other rational option and in a very real sense these programmes explain the charter for my mission on The Earth.  It is the integration of bioengineering and regenerative medicine with human and animal bodies in the future that heralds a bright new horizon of hope.  I intend to shine that light into the world for as long as I live and hope that this will illuminate the lives of both humans and animals.

The Supervet: Bionic Stories is on Channel 4 at 8pm on Thursday.

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Supervet’s ‘Miracle Molly’ Helps Boost Cavalier Charity


Molly with owner Tania Ledger

Molly with owner Tania Ledger

Tania Ledger could not have anticipated what would happen when Supervet  Noel Fitzpatrick stepped in to try to save the life of Molly, her nine-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

Molly is sprightlier than she’s been in months thanks to the pioneering surgery but Tania, who runs the charity Cavalier Matters, which raises awareness of Cavalier health, has found herself busier than ever.

For much of her life Molly has suffered from a serious neurological condition called chiari-like malformation (CM) and syringomyelia (SM). This affects many Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and made the procedure to remove a cancerous tumour from her skull all the more challenging.

“Although sadly very widespread, many Cavalier owners and even some vets know very little about CM/SM and its many symptoms,” says Tania.

“Molly’s appearance on Channel 4 prompted many people to get in touch or visit our website to find out more. Cavalier Matters is a small charity, so it has been all hands on deck.”

CM/SM is a lifelong condition caused by Cavaliers being bred with skulls too small to accommodate their brains properly. This can affect the brain, spinal cord and the fluid that circulates around them. If the pain this causes cannot be managed, euthanasia can be the kindest option.

For most of her life Molly has been under the care of Dr Clare Rusbridge, Head of Neurology at Fitzpatrick Referrals.

“When I noticed a small lump appear on Molly’s head, we made an appointment straight away to see Dr Clare. Her swift intervention undoubtedly saved Molly’s life,” believes Tania, who now shares her home with six Cavaliers, all of which have CM/SM and other health issues.

DSC05939In the recent episode of ‘The Supervet Bionic Specials’, views saw Noel Fitzpatrick remove the cancerous tumour from Molly’s skull and undergo a reconstruction using a titanium mesh made to fit her skull exactly thanks to 3D modelling by bioengineers.

“This was only possible thanks to ground-breaking technology and Noel’s team,” says Tania.

“He is such an amazing advocate for animals, pushing the boundaries of science for them to have the same medical advances as human patients, and it is through his determination that we have our beautiful Molly now. We will never be able to thank the team enough for saving our precious girl.”

Molly is particularly special because she was Tania’s first dog and the reason she set up Cavalier Matters.

“Our world fell apart when at just 18 months Molly was diagnosed with CM/SM,” she reveals.

“Information about the condition was very scarce. I was struck by how hard to understand most explanations of CM and SM seemed to be. Written out in veterinary language, they were next to impossible for a pet owner like myself to understand. There was also a distinct lack of support for people with poorly dogs.”

Through further research, Tania realised how widespread CM/SM was.

“This along with a heart disease called Mitral Valve Disease, which is the biggest killer of Cavaliers worldwide, seemed like a ticking time bomb, so I set up a website explaining the condition to pet owners and offering support to them. We started attending large dog evens and in 2011 Cavalier Matters became a registered charity.

“Cavalier Matters not only works with but helps fund the work of some of the world’s leading experts in genetic conditions affecting Cavaliers,” says Tania. “Although I am extremely proud of what has been achieved, Cavalier health still has a long way to go. Life expectancy is declining in the breed, as breed-related illness takes its toll. We need to get more breeders on board and health testing for these conditions must become compulsory.”

Although it has meant putting in plenty of overtime, Tania says Molly’s appearance on The Supervet has been incredibly positive.

“We were delighted she was the poster girl for the episode. It has meant Cavalier health issues have been placed in the public eye and will help Cavalier Matters do even more to make a difference to these very special little dogs.”

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