Why Sponsor a Day? Investing in the future makes good business sense

Vet School is one of the hardest courses to get into, and when done through the postgrad route one of the most expensive. At the end of the 7-8 years study, it is also one of the worst for earning, after graduating vets start between £21,800 – £33,500. This rises to between £44,000 – £53,000 for senior vets (http://www.prospects.ac.uk/veterinary_surgeon_salary.htm). In comparison a dentist earns between £50,000-£110,000. GP’s earn between £53,800-£81,000. Adult Nurses in the NHS start on £21,176 with the possibility to rise to £97,478.

I’ve already written about what I think a vet really is, an animal lover, a people person, an educator, an advocate, a problem solver, a conservationalist, and a learner. My problem at the moment is raising my tuitition, to qualify as a vet I need to raise £10,000 a year for the next four years, or £40,000 total. I don’t like taking anything for nothing, so I’ve started the Vet School Diary, in addition to raising money it also allows me to educate and give people an inside view of what vets really do.

The £40,000 covers my tuition, accomodation and basic food for the entire four years and works out at just £27.40 a day (£40000/(365*4)). For me to attract a sponsor for everyday is unrealistic, so I decided that I would aim for 200 sponsors a year and ask for a £50 donation to my vet school fund.Here are some of the reasons why I believe sponsoring a day in my diary is outstanding value:

  • You get meantioned clearly in the days diary post (currently avg 1000 visitors a day), on my twitter (32,000+ followers) across facebook (500+fans), linkedin, google+, tumbl and my social network. See my first sponsored post here: http://www.vetschooldiary.com/2012/07/28/uk-hedgehog-conservation-and-encouraging-wildlife-to-your-garden/
  • Word of mouth is great marketing, my network is extensive and I talk to a lot of people. If I see a benefit to you I will  connect you with other people.
  • I will be working for at least 40 years, for just £1.25 a year you will be investing in animal welfare, conservation and the environment.
  • Show the government that Postgraduate Education is worth investing in.
  • You will get a copy of the Highs & Lows of Vet School special edition diary summary when I graduate.
  • You also get to use these Official Sponsor badges:

I am also planning to run a press release campaign, and flyer campaign once I complete my dissertation starting the 7th August. Dates are available on a first come first served basis, or alternatively you can select a specific day in the past with no sponsor yet.

If you would like to discuss details before sponsoring a day please contact me.

Dissertation Milestone 4, and population sampling

Well, I’ve been getting some good responses to my survey, if you have not taken it yet please do spend 10 minutes to do so here: http://www.sogosurvey.com/k/SsRRVWsRsPsPsP and share it with as many as you can. Every single response helps and I hoping to get a significant number of responses to allow this to improve animal welfare.

I will be making the results available here when I can as it is part of my dissertation so I have to make sure its all submitted first. However so far there have been some very interesting trends, and I’ve had some interesting feedback. When designing any survey it is very important that a population is defined, and that you can account for the variences in that population so that is fairly and accurately represented.

This is also a major headache, so tommorow I am planning on heading out to target the members of the population that my online survey has failed to reach. Anyways tonight I am trying to get more of it written up so it makes sense, tommorows diary will be more interesting!

UK Hedgehog Conservation, and encouraging wildlife to your Garden

Wild Hedgehog credit Mats Eriksson

Todays Diary is sponsored by Spike’s World– producers of wildlife foods and amazing products for chickens.

Wild Hedgehog credit Mats Eriksson
© Mats Eriksson

With the hot weather now after the rain we have experienced I’ve decided that I should do something on Hedgehogs and wildlife in the Garden. One of the most common animals that is seen at UK Wildlife Rescue Centres is the Hedgehog, especially at this time of year. Many people know the back of a hedgehog is covered in spines and that they roll up into a ball when they are frightened. There are some interesting lesser known facts which I will cover here as well as how to tell if a hedgehog needs help, and how you can encourage them into your garden.

Hedgehogs are rapidly declining in numbers, however they are in fact very good for the garden especially if you grow your own vegetables! The hedgehog is an insect eater with beetles, caterpillars, earthworms and slugs being their main food item. They are a nocturnal animal that can travel up to 2 miles a night so your hedgehog may visit multiple gardens each night on its travels.

A common belief is that a saucer of cows milk should be left out for your hedgehog, this is actually bad for them and cause stomach ache and diarrhea (this is because milk contains lactose, which in digested by the enzyme lactase which hedgehogs lack). Instead leave out a saucer of water, especially impiortant with the hot dry weather we have been having!

Newborn Hoglet at East Sussex WRAS
Newborn spineless Hoglet on July 24th cared for by East Sussex WRAS photo used with permission

Hedgehog babies are usually called Hoglets, and the average litter size is four to five with a pregnancy lasting around 32 days. They are usually born in May, June or July with more litters born in August-September. During pregnancy if there is a shortage of food a pregnant hedgehog can go into hibernation again which will slow down the development of the embryos by the amount of days hibernating.  Hoglets are born bald with the spikes under the skin covered by a layer of fluid.

Few hour old hedgehog (hoglet) with spines erupting
Newborn Hoglet with grey spines a few hours after birth on July 24th at East Sussex WRAS photo used with permission

The spines of the hedgehog start to come through within a few hours of birth, the initial spines are white however within 36 hours of birth brown spines have started to appear. By the time the hedgehog is fifteen days old barely any white spines are left visible. The spines will be shed and continue growing throughout the hedgehogs life just like humans hair keeps growing.

A hedgehog can roll up into a ball when it is scared, no other mammal can do this so completely and effectively. This is because the hedgehog has a muscle called the muscularis orbicularis which runs around the entire hedgehog along the bottom of their spines. The hedgehog uses the muscles in its back (the panniculus) to roll up and then the orbicularis acts like a drawstring on a bag to draw the spines around the hedgehog into a tight ball.

How to encourage hedgehogs (and other wildlife) into your garden.
The easiest way to encourage hedgehogs into your garden is by keeping a corner of the garden wild, and if possible adding a pile of old logs for hedgehogs to hide in. You should also leave a saucer of water, and a saucer of meaty pet food (or specialised hedgehog food). You can build a feeding station by cutting a 5″x5″ hole into the side of a plastic mushroom box or childs toy box. Placing this over the saucer will prevent cats and other animals stealing the food, and placing a brick on top will hold it in position.

Ponds or pools should have a slopping ramp out for hedgehogs (and other wildlife) to use to escape. They can swim pretty well, however cannot escape steep slippy sided ponds or pools without help. Also avoid using slug pellets and pesticides which can poison hedgehogs and remove their food source they rely on. And check your garden grass and hedges thoroughly before mowing or using a strimmer as these can cause serious injuries to hedgehogs.

How to tell if a Hedgehog needs help?
Hedgehogs are nocturnal, so seeing them out during the day is usually a sign that something is wrong. Ophaned hoglets which are out of the nest in the day or when the nest has been destroyed with the mothed killed or injured need help. If a hedgehog has visible injuries such as wounds, bites, burns, or been trapped in some way or dog attack. If a hedgehog is unsteady on its feet (wobbing, rocking) or has flies around them they also need help. Baby hedgehogs known as Autumn Juveniles in late October also need help as they will not have the energy reserves to hibernate over winter.

If a hedgehog is in need of help keep it warm in a high sided box well lined with newspaper with water available. Contact your nearest hedgehog carer or rescue center listed here http://www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk/carers.htm for advice immediately.

Hedgehog Conservation Schemes
The most popular Hedgehog Conservation Scheme (and a good source for more information on making your garden hedgehog friendly) is the Hedgehog Street run by the the British Hedgehog Preservation Society and People’s trust for endangered species. Their website is http://www.hedgehogstreet.org/.

Today’s diary has been sponsored by Spike’s World, producers of wildlife foods and amazing products for chickens.
Spike’s World are producers of the first ever range of foods specially formulated for hedgehogs, as well as Esbilac milk replacement for juvenile hedgehogs which is used by many wildlife hospitals and hedgehog carers. They are listed in the Vet Pack provided by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society and their food is also listed in the BHPS catalogue. In addition to the hedgehog products Spike’s World also supply food for wildlife along with a range of chicken feeds and accessories. The website is http://www.spikesworld.co.uk/ and you can find them on twitter at @SpikesWorldLtd.

Breed Specific Legislation, Dogs locked in cars, sponsorship and dissertation

Pet of the day Lexi thanks to Zoe Sills
Pet of the day Lexi thanks to Zoe Sills
Lexi is today’s pet of the day thanks to Zoe Sills (@Zoezebra)! Manically digging on the beach!

Got my first official diary sponsor for tommorow’s post! It was a perfect fit for the topic I have planned so I am very happy.

My dissertation is coming along, I’ve been waiting for some feedback from my supervisor this afternoon and have not heard anything, however hopefully should hear something tommorow. Its getting very exciting being so close and I am actually pretty proud of what I’ve done so far! I’ve always had amazing support for my search for materials for my survey which I will be launching soon (help me and take part here: http://www.sogosurvey.com/k/SsRRVWsRsPsPsP), Azzore Veterinary definately deserve a mention.

Earlier today I had the mispleasure of someone bring to my attention the death of 2 police dogs that had been locked in the police vehicle (http://www.kens5.com/news/Two-Bexar-County-K-9s-reported-dead-163866306.html?clmob=y&&clmob=y&). Personally I know that many police dog handlers consider their dogs to be family, and that they will do anything for their dogs so this is nothing against them. However I am absolutely disgusted that any police officer in any country would make such a mistake when they are responsible for policing the public leaving dogs locked in cars. It is not just a mistake in the USA, it has happened in the UK too. In fact the same UK police dog handler killed 3 different dogs on 2 seperate occasions by leaving them locked in hot vehicles (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-15280409) in 2011 and earlier in 2004. It takes just 20 minutes for a dog to die locked in a hot car even with the windows open, don’t risk losing your companion. Dogs cool themselves down by panting, if the air is hot they simply cannot cool themselves down.

Sometimes when I see something on twitter I start thinking that 140 characters isn’t enough for what I have to say. I’ve written about the Dangerous Dogs Act previously, and legislation banning certain breeds which give some good background. Over the past month there have been a succession of dogs being campaigned to be saved from legislation like this around the world. Lennox, Wicca, Bailey, Mylo and others. In each of these cases the social media campaigns have been against the councils and authorities that have seized the dogs. Its going round in circles, dog siezed, people shout about it on social media, dog put to sleep and attention moves to the next dog.

Lets forget about these heartless robots blindly following the rules, and actually campaign in a way to make a difference. Take your voice and use it against the people responsible for making (and changing) the laws responsible for these rules. Write to your MP (http://www.writetothem.com/), write to the Prime Minister at Number 10, the President, senators and whoever else you need to make the change for this legislation to be deed not breed, to specify the qualifications needed to assess a dog (I was reading a paper on how the AVMA needs to develop a psychological assessment framework).

Personally I believe that we do need some legislation there, especially when it comes to breeds that have been bred for the specific genetic traits of jaw size, strength, muscle as they are physically dangerous. The legislation shouldn’t be to eradicate them, but to control who can own them. Dogs are naturally pack animals and need a leader that understands them, can train them, and is responsible (and dominant) enough to ensure that they are not a danger. This not only improves the dogs welfare by ensuring they have a great owner and their needs are exceeded, it also demonstrates the owners commitment to that dog. I know its controvesal, however if we say that breed (and therefore genetics) results in bad dogs it is not that much of step to apply that same thinking to humans or any other animal. This is the 21st century, we now understand more about animal consciousness, welfare, genetics and behaviour then ever before and yet we are relying on legislation written over 21 years ago!

And the last thing, I absolutely hate the word destroyed. It is used to dehumanise a living breathing conscious dog into just a object. When someone tries to do this correct them, the term destroyed has no place when it comes to life.

Wallaby escape in Gloucestershire, and more dissertation

Wallaby escapes gloucestershire hartpury college student ball
26-7-12 Suzy Mitchell @suzyseraphina Honey 3 legged cancer survivor
Honey is today’s pet of the day thanks to Suzy Mitchell (@suzyseraphina)! Love is… a walk,run & play in the park with a 3 legged cancer survivor called Honey!

Well today has been filled with more dissertation, my literature is nearly finished and I will be launching my survey tommorow. My dissertation is on the Public Perception and Recognition of Animal Pain within Companion Animals. Bit of a mouthful but tottally fascinating stuff and I really can’t wait to share some of it once its finally submitted.

Today’s Pet of the Day is Honey! For the chance of your pet being my pet of the day Tweet @vetschooldiary with a picture and description 😀

Wallaby escapes gloucestershire hartpury college student ball
Gloucester Citizen Frontpage, Thursday July 26th 2012.

Anyways Australians have been laughing recently at reports of a Wallaby (a smaller member of the kangaroo family) being sighted in Gloucestershire. Well today I happened to glance at the local paper when I was getting more coffee for my dissertation marathon (yes its on the right – click it for a larger version), and it seems that its true. My previous/current college is building up a private zoo, and brought in 3 wallabies for the animal and land students on the 1st of June. The yearly summer ball took place on the 4th of June (I didn’t go as my pennies were better spent going to BSAVA World Congress back in April), and it seems some students may have left the door of the enclosure open to set them free. Staff managed to round up the two females, however the male got away.

Whilst not a danger to the public, if approached the escaped wallaby will just run away. The best thing to do if you sight the escaped wallaby is to call the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999 (is it bad I’ve got that number memorised?).

Dissertation Milestone and my Pet of the Day

Lily the West by Karen West (OWesticle1) - First ever Pet of the Day

Well today has been dedicated to a massive literature review, I’ve read so much today my brain is just spinning now so I am going keep tonights entry short and sweet.

The first of my ebay auctions (click here to view them) didn’t sell so kinda disappointed I wasted my time adding these. However I’ve been asked to put a few aside by a friend so its not all bad. Still debating on whether I should try listing my trainset or not along with things like my video camera.

I’ve been getting a lot of support from readers of my diary with my give a pound appeal being very popular and hopefully starting to take off. This is along with the readers of my blog increasing which is awesome and I am glad so many people are enjoying it!

Lily the West by Karen West (OWesticle1) - First ever Pet of the Day
Lily the Westie is my first ever Pet of the Day thanks to Karen West (@Westicle1)! Lily suffers from Scirrhous carcinoma however is a fighter exceeding her 3-6month expectancy.

I want a pet, and have wanted the pet the entire duration of my course so far. I’ve always planned to move abroad for vet school and I believe that its important to give a pet a stable home. One of the first things I plan to do on graduation as a vet is to visit a local shelter and adopt a dog… I enjoy it when people tweet pictures of their pets at me so have decided to make it official with my Pet of the Day. I’ll random select  a picture that has been tweeted at me to be featured in my blog post that day! My twitter is @vetschooldiary if you’ve not found it already 🙂

A big shout out to Lily as my first ever Pet of the Day!

And with that I am back to my dissertation.

Dissertation Milestone 1

Well tonight is going be a really quick update as I have to have my first draft of my dissertation ready for 9am Friday and I am in the middle of my literiture review.

I am also going finish up my online questionaire this evening to launch tommorow morning! I just need to find some more corroborating evidence to base the pain scales on and to give me a reference to use for validation.

Whilst I’ve now found images of animals in pain to use, I still need to find images from previous studies involving vets to use for reference values.

What a life 🙂 I have almost reached enough for my first semester and will be sorting my flights out at the weekend 🙂 Really getting exciting now!

Extinction of the Vulture (Gyps spp), a human problem

Today has been a good day, my give a pound idea has started to take off and I am extremely grateful to every single person that is taking me closer to achieving my dream!

I’ve been working on my dissertation today, I need to get my survey ready and start collecting responses as soon as possible. The thing taking the most time is trying to find images of animals in pain and showing signs of it that I have permission to use. I’ve had a good response from twitter so am hopeful I should have some pretty soon :). I’ve also found some on flickr under the creative commons license.

Extinction of the Vulture a Human Problem

Anyways, today I’ve decided to talk about Vultures… Now Vultures came up in one of my exam questions in June, and I believe are a good example of unintended consequences.

The Vulture (Gyps spp.) was once a very common sight across India with 9 species. It now is classed as ‘Critically Endangered’ on the IUCN Redlist, and is Appendix II in CITES. Since the 1990’s there has been a 92% decline in the populations of Vultures (Prakash et al, 2003) at a rate of 16% – 44% per year. This doesn’t sound like a lot, however in 1990 it was estimated that there were between 20million – 40million vultures. Now it is around 10,000 with one species having a mere 400 remaining.

This is not due to humans taking their habitat, or poaching or killing them for sport. In fact its much simplier, and much more sinister. However before I get onto that lets look at the good that Vultues do for us…

Culture and Heritage Vultures are extremely important and indeed respected within local Culture and Tradition. Within the Parsees who are Zoroastrians the theological descendants of ancient fire-worshippers, the elements are sacred and the body is corrupt.  Parsees do not bury or cremate their dead, instead they lay out the corpses on towers known as dokhmas for the vultures to eat. In doing so the Parsees profane neither earth nor fire.

Environmental Pollution Vultures as carnivores hold a really important role of stripping the meat from carcasses of dead cattle. This allowed farmers to leave the carcasses where they fell or at local dumps. Now farmers are having to burn or bury the carcasses of fallen cattle or encourage disease by leaving them to rot. This in turn leads to an increase in water borne diseases leading to water born diseases.

Control of the ferral dog population There are around 200million cattle and buffalo in India, yet Hindu Indians tend not to eat beef. Many of these carcasses therefore end up in carcass dumps, a dump in Delhi used to sustain 10,000 vultures, however now vultures are on the decline a similar number of ferral dogs have moved in. And rats are also becoming a problem. This not only means an increase in animal bites, but an increase in zoonotic disease (disease which passes between animals-humans). With the Plague still being carried by rats in the USA, and India already having 80% of the worlds cases of Rabies the role Vultures play in controlling disease is an important one.

Whilst not the best looking avian species, I hope I’ve explained just how important the Vulture is. Now like I said, its a human problem that started in 1973 by a company called Ciba-Geigy (now Novartis) developing a drug called Diclofenac. This drug is a Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory (NSAID) that was developed to treat people, and was adapted for use in cattle in 1980’s. This drug was patented in 1971, this patent expired 17 years later in 1988 which allowed for other manufacturers to produce generic versions of this drug and made it cheap and readily available.

Now because it was so cheap, it became the solution to disease within cattle in India with a lot of use for its pain relieving properties. However this was the downfall of the Vulture. Diclofenac is extremely toxic (poisonous) to Vultures, it causes visceral gout, accumulation of uric acids within tissues and on the surfaces of internal organs. And ultimately leads to renal tube damage and kidney failure.

If we jump to pharmacology quickly, there are four stages when it comes to administering drugs: absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion. Now it takes time for this process to happen, especially the elimination and until this happens there is drug residue within the body. In the UK this is the reason why there are withdrawl periods before farm animals can enter the food chain after being treated.

Through post mortem testing and carcass examination there was a 13.9% prevelance of residue in carcasses tested (Taggart, 2006). Since this link was identified there has been much political pressure and the manufacture of Diclofenac and use in India has been banned. Education is helping however people are still using Diclofenac simply because they still have leftover stocks of the drug and there is still illegal manufacture. There are safe alternatives available including Meloxicam which has since the ban has decreased by at least half. Predictions indicate that it will be 15 years before the country is safe for Vultures again, in this time however there are significant problems to overcome where Vultures played a role.

There are conservation centers, education programs and captive breeding programs for the Vulture, however is this too little too late? Humans are on the verge of driving another species to extinction through an unintended consequence of our action. Personally I believe that humans have a problem thinking in the short term, this may be influenced by political parties changing every few years at elections, or just a lack of foresight. We cannot predict every outcome of our actions, however we need to consider the consequences before we act.

I hope that this has given some understanding into the potential for the extinction of the vulture, and why it is a human problem. Take a few minutes to consider what unintended consequences your actions have had today.

“Free” Online Survey Site Scams

Today has simply flown by, I’ve been burried in my dissertation and been preparing to get my survey online. What should have been a simple task actually turned into a challenge and a half.

It seems that online survey companies have a policy of false advertising, and even worse giving false information on their websites before you then spend time signing up and finding they have simply lied to you. Usually I am pretty patient, however after the 5th website I kinda decided I should name and shame, and where appropiate give credit where it’s due.

I’m going start with the good for those looking for a decent free online survey provider themselves. The survey site I decided to go with was http://www.sogosurvey.com/, this was because the free version had the most generous allowance of 50 questions. However they also offer their Professional version free to academics/students and non-profits. You have to email them for this, and being a Sunday I wasn’t sure I’d get a reply so started creating my survey anyways. I got a reply to my email just over an hour! When you goto their website just the Student / Nonprofit links on the Pricing menu for the free upgrade instructions.

Now for the name and shame:

Number 1 on my name and shame list is Kwik Surveys (http://www.kwiksurveys.com). This advertises itself as “The only free & unlimited survey tool” yet after signing up and starting to create my survey I found that I was restricted and told to upgrade. I wasted time here because of the false and misleading advertising on their website including the FAQ page which stated “There are no charges for using our service”

Actually I am going leave it at that as I do have to get back to my dissertation, feel free to add your own experiences of “free” online survey websites in the comments below!

Introduction to Genomics (Second Edition) Review

Introduct to Genomics Second Editon Review

This was a book that I was sent by Oxford University Press to review for them as part of their student review panel (yes OUP actually listens to the opinions of students not to mention supporting student societies!). I am writting this review from scratch without any reference to my previous review.

Review: Introduction to Genomics (Second Edition) by Arthur M. Lesk

Introduct to Genomics Second Editon Review

The second edition was published earlier this year, and I kinda wish that I had it back when I did my Animal Genetics modules. When it came to genetics there is little difference between the techniques across species (other than differences in the Genome/Genes of course), and it is a rapidly expanding area of research. Within the field of genetics there is the study of the Genome, which is the complete set of genetic material in an organism.

When I started I had no clue as genetics hadn’t been an area I’d looked at before, I managed to pass the module grasping the basics. Mendels Law, Punnet Squares, Dominance, Transcription, Translation, mRNA, tRNA and DNA. Whilst I had the understanding of what and how they worked I lacked the understanding of the why they worked. This book therefore was a welcome opportunity for me to try and rectify this.

The first few chapters give an introduction to genomics,  how genes are regulated and expressed, some real life examples of genetic disease and the Mapping, Sequencing, Annotation and various databases and databanks for genome research.

Then it looks at Comparative Genomics, or how genomes differ. This is where I believe this book gets really intersting as it examines the phylogenic tree for the evolution of life, has comparison tables for different viruses, and covers Influenza and Avian flu in more detail. It then goes on to examine recombinant viruses and how viruses can be constructed as a vector to introduce foriegn proteins into a cell. It then talks about evolution and genomic change including pattern matching and genetic engineering.

The Genomes of both Prokaryotes and Genomes of Eukaryotes are then examine in two seperate chapters which is fascinating and covers Archaea, Bacteria, DNA from extinct birds and high-throughput sequencing of mammoth DNA. This leads perfectly into a chapter on Human Genomics and looks at personal identification and anthropology.

The last 3 chapters get really sciency with Microarrays and Transcriptomics,Proteomics and Systems Biology which are different subfields within Genomics. These are explained in the same manner making these chapters the perfect introduction to theise fields.

In terms of the content there is a lot of colourful diagrams to illustrate key points, boxes to go into further detail of a topic and relate it to the real world. Ethical issues all get highlighted into their own boxes and there are easy to use tables throughout. In addition something I really liked was the way they extended the learning from each chapter At the end of each chapter there is a list of Recommended Reading with books and journals, followed by a set of exercises, problems and something called “Weblems” which are designed to give practice with the tools used for research in the field.

[amazon template=iframe image&asin=0199564353]

This is a book I would recommend that anyone starting genetics or in need of refresher of the subject read. It starts with the basics assuming no knowledge and leaves you with a solid understanding of the techniques and theory of the subject and more!