An informative and relaxing day at the Cornish seaside - Veterinary Practice
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An informative and relaxing day at the Cornish seaside

GARETH CROSS joined 47 other vets for a time of learning about vaccines and atopy and then plunging into the surf

IN April I attended Virbac’s second “CPD and surf” session, held in Newquay at a large cliff-top hotel.

Newquay is a slightly different world, even from North Devon where I live. It functions mainly on the revenue from tourism, and this is mainly in the form of drinking and surfing. Out of season it has a certain Beirut-on-sea appearance and feel to it.

As I pulled up into the hotel and the wind was blowing the palm trees horizontal, my satnav advised me to “turn around where possible”.

The surf was visible from the hotel car park and was, in surfing parlance, “two foot and choppy”. I had a car park blues moment and nearly did what the satnav told me, but the sun was shining and I was here to learn as well so I stayed.

The hotel was imposing with just a hint of The Shining about it. Things soon picked up though as we were greeted by the professionally cheery staff of the surfing department and fed biscuits and decent coffee.

Unexpectedly fasinating

The first of the CPD sessions was on vaccination and was unexpectedly fascinating and informative. It was presented by one of Virbac’s vets, Alex Allen, who managed to keep the rapt attention of an audience of mainly experienced vets with what could have been quite a dull subject.

He reminded us all how much we once knew about the immune system and how much we were never taught about vaccination. As he commented, we were probably taught more about lung lobectomies than routine vaccinations at college. With the recent MMR/measles situation in South Wales, the public, including all of us, are more than usually mindful of vaccination.

He ran through the safety of live vaccines v. killed (pretty much the same) and efficacy. The finding of F9 vaccine in fluey kittens has been shown, but not that the vaccine strain had reverted to virulence, but was just present alongside the field strain.

An interesting discussion was had concerning injection site sarcomas and that these are probably similar to posttrauma sarcomas elsewhere in cats (e.g. iris trauma, fracture sites, etc.) and are related to being injected with something, be it a cat claw in the iris or an injection in the scruff.

No proven association between FeLV vaccine and the sarcomas exist, we were informed. Certainly, in our practice we have had one case of injection site sarcoma in a cat that never had an FeLV vaccine.

Another point of interest was that dogs’ immunity is low at the 6-9 month age and during a parvovirus outbreak these should be recalled for first booster at that age, rather than the year after the second vacc as is usual.

There was a section on Virbac’s Leishmaniosis vaccine. For the pedants out there, elephantiasis is the human disease, leishmaniosis is the dog disease and Englishman infantum is the protozoa that causes the disease, spread by the sandfly (which just to confuse things further generally lives in woods).

Something to be aware of

The vaccine is ground-breaking in many ways, and any of you who have clients who visit the Mediterranean basin should be aware of it and consider offering it to your clients. However, as we know no vaccine is 100% effective and this one is further from that than many more straightforward ones.

The efficacy is quoted as “vaccinated dogs have 3.6 times less risk to develop an active infection and 4 times less likely to develop clinical disease than a nonvaccinated dog”. There is also an in-house test for leishmaniosis available from Virbac.

Next up was Dr Peri Lau-Gillard, who spoke on atopic dogs. Peri is a European Diplomate in Dermatology who practises near Bristol. As we have a dermatologist at our practice, my knowledge of this subject is a little rusty so I found it a useful recap of the subject.

Useful points

A keen skin vet on the table at the event was equally satisfied with the talk. Here’s my list of useful points:

  • stable atopics can go on to develop food allergies and cause what look like flare-ups of the original disease;
  • dogs diagnosed as atopic but not showing seasonal variations should have a food trial;
  • dogs that begin being itchy at ages less than six months but more than six years are unlikely to be atopic;
  • in her opinion neither serum nor skin tests are reliable for food allergies;
  • Cortavance (Virbac) is very useful but don’t let owners use it for too long a period (go mad and stick to the data sheet).

There was a review of which breed shows atopic signs on which bit of the dog, and other similar disease presentations.

As atopy is increasingly viewed as a disease in which dermal barrier defects play a very important role, there was a brief review of shampoos and spotons that help improve the health of this part of the skin. Virbac does a wide range of shampoos but other makes are available!

Then came the surfing. I think we were all a bit wary of getting in the sea on such a blustery, chilly day, but the wetsuits must have been good as we all enjoyed it without freezing and managed an hour in the sea. The staff were excellent and as you can see from the photos, it was a good chance to blow away the cobwebs and have a bit of fun.

As a group we ranged from perky new graduate to careworn near retirement vet. But as we were inserting ourselves into damp wetsuits and being herded onto the beach for the lesson, two things were noticeable.

One was the levelling effect of outdoor activities between ages and characters, and the other was that for just a few hours we all appreciated being looked after and not being in charge nor being where the buck stops.

We all (I hope) do things to relieve stress, escape from work and get some exercise, but being with a group of vets for sit-down CPD and then being chucked in the sea made for an insightful day.

As someone’s phone went on the bus on the way back from the surfing and she embarked on a long conversation with the owner of a sick dog, it was nice to all be reminded we are not alone.

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