Friday, November 21, 2008

Update on the bunny

They've done an X-ray and now think he may simply have a dislocated hip, so they're going to have a go at putting it back under sedation. 

and a rabbit!

Not looking too great, I'm afraid. He was picked up near Ely and taken to Pet Drs vets, but he doesn't seem to have the use of his back legs. He's a grey lionhead and has obviously escaped from someone's garden. They're giving supportive treatment in the hope that it's the effect of bruising that will heal with time as there doesn't seem to be any actual fractures to explain his inability to stand.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

More cats again, and updates

Another traffic accident via Cathedral vets in Ely (dislocated hip, which they will probably pin there to avoid the need to transfer to the Vet School, then to the kennels) and another entire tom with septic fight wounds admitted at Pet Drs in Soham — fortunately testing FIV/FeLV negative.

The cat admitted to the Vet School hospital last week has had his pelvis plated and can walk fairly normally, but he still can't urinate without help. They think this is a temporary problem which will go away as the pelvic bruising heals up. He's not terribly happy in the hospital because it's very noisy and strange, so ideally we'd get him out to a foster home where he could get more peace and quiet, but it's difficult because it needs to be someone who's willing to be trained to express his bladder manually until he gets back normal muscle control.

Spirit, the blocked bladder kitty has been castrated and is FIV/FeLV negative and seems to be passing urine with no problems, so Nicola's planning to move him to the kennels tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Freedom Food

Gave a short talk on the work of the local branch to Anglia Ruskin Student Animal Welfare Society and the validity of the Freedom Food scheme came up in the Q&A session afterwards. Looking back on this, I don't think I got across the significance of FF as a source of advice on best practice for farmers who genuinely want to improve animal welfare on their farms. The students mainly seemed to view it as a mechanism for checking up on farmers and catching them out (and universally wanted to press for more frequent inspections).

The audit aspect of any welfare acreditation scheme obviously is important (otherwise no-one knows whether farmers are complying with the standards and deserve premium prices), but I don't think the average person stops to consider the importance of the science and knowledge that goes into the development of standards in the first instance.

One of the most valuable (and comparatively little-known) features of Freedom Food is the iterative process by which standards are devised; studied in actual commercial use and then revised on the basis of the findings from those studies.

There's some information about this on the Bristol University Veterinary science website, and also the EU Welfare Quality site. The Guardian has an article relating just to the Freedom food standards for broiler chickens which illustrates why annual inspections might not be sufficient to catch individual acts of cruelty or indiference by workers, but would verify the farm's systems and processes.

Further thoughts
I suppose what I'm getting at partly is that some things (e.g. employee behaviour) do need spot checks, but a lot of the things that go towards improved welfare on farms aren't really likely to be whisked away once the assessor's back is turned. Buildings, for example don't need more than annual checks; and some aspects of good practice can be assessed by requiring record-keeping. Records might be forged, but if health records include veterinary visits, vaccination etc. deviation from the required standards would require collusion from an assortment of professional people with a reputation to lose.

More thoughts
Freedom Food is the only welfare-specific assurance/quality label scheme in Europe, and it was started before the similar schemes in the US. 

Bristol University has some example assessor recording forms and flow charts which illustrate what is being checked; it's not simply a matter of an inspector turning up and looking for examples of cruelty.

I think there are important parallels with Nathan Winograd's thoughts on how attitudes to humans can make animal advocates less effective at helping animals. If we assume that most other people are nasty, uncaring individuals who can never be trusted we end up alienating potential allies, wasting resources and ultimately failing to achieve progress. If we assume that other people are basically trustworthy and want to avoid cruelty, we may sometimes be deceived, but overall we'll make better gains even if we sometimes have to accept that not everyone shares our views about what constitutes good animal welfare.

Small Hedgehogs

The wildlife hospital at East Winch is having another large influx of young hedgehogs below the critical weight for safe hibernation. Hedgehogs need to be at least 500 grams (just over a pound) and preferably 600 (a pound and a quarter) to get through hibernation and late autumn litters often fail to make it before the weather gets too cold for them to feed successfully.

Young hedgehogs are one of the few wild animals who can be given effective help by non-experts: provided they are capable of eating solid food, it is feasible to give them a chance of survival by providing them with room-temperature warmth and a supply of cat or dog food (non-fish-based) and water. Milk is best avoided because it can cause diarrhoea.

Any hedgehog seen moving around during daylight hours is almost certainly in trouble, as they are quite strictly nocturnal.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Update on the blocked bladder saga

Still doing well and the vets think he should be fit enough to be moved to the kennels on Thursday. To my amazement he's actually an entire (they think part of his problems may have been the result of being kept permanently indoors - boggle!), so I've asked them to neuter and vaccinate him before we move him as the kennels aren't keen on having un-neutered tom cats because of the smell.

Monday, November 17, 2008


We're still seeing cases of myxomatosis in pet rabbits, probably because of the unusually warm and humid weather. Unless the rabbit has been vaccinated this is almost always fatal. For best protection, rabbits need to be given booster vaccination every six months.  They may still get the disease, but will usually only suffer a mild infection, which should be thrown off with careful nursing.

Myxomatosis is spread by biting insects, including midges and mosquitos, so pets don't need to be in direct contact with wild rabbits to get the disease. Cambridge is a high-risk area, because of the large numbers of wild rabbits living on common land along the river and the streams which feed into it and on the chalk grassland areas of Cherry Hinton and the Gog Magog hills.