Why do I need to cut? (Day –281)

Vet Student Operating

I enjoy surgery so much that it is almost a love, I find it so rewarding to be able to anesthetise an animal, and whilst it is sleeping fix it or stop the pain. For me it has been obvious for a while that my path will follow that of surgery, I’ve seen as much practice as I could with a focus on surgery. And I have spent every spare hour I have within the surgery department here.

Surgery is a massive thrill, the adrenaline rush of scrubbing in and picking up a scalpel is something that I am told will never vanish. And I love this. It makes me happy doing surgery, and it makes me feel fulfilled when the dog or cat or rabbit wakes up after surgery fixed. Well sometimes it is not so simple and there is a period of rehabilitation however every single day from the surgery the poor animal is getting better.

As I get better at surgery, my understanding and experience is deepening. Where before I looked for every opportunity to cut as a chance to do what I love and take the animal to surgery I am now not so fast to want this.

I was speaking about this with one of doctors the other day who told me that many years ago he was told that the art of surgery was not doing surgery, but knowing when to do surgery.

Something that has always bothered me is that sometimes surgery is simply to fix problems caused by humans. This came to a head for me on the Ophthalmology conference weekend when Professor Ron Ofri spoke about a surgeon walking out of surgery holding up a piece of skin he removed from a dogs forehead that stretched to the floor.

I asked the question – should we as vets be performing such surgery without requiring the castration or spaying of the animal at the same time? When a breeder has a litter of puppies that all require a visit to the ophthalmologist and surgery before they are a month old? Is this ok?

It’s not just the eyes though, another common surgery is for BOAS – Brachycephalic Obstructed Airway Syndrome – where part of the soft palate is cut away because it is too long and is stopping the dog from breathing properly. Often this is combined with plastic surgery to widen the nostrils which are too narrow.

Then there are dogs that have been bred so badly that they cannot give birth naturally. They can only be born by caesarean section.

Many years ago I read a book by a surgeon from America asked to present at a UK conference on castration implants in dogs – the press thought it was about plastic surgery and filled the entire room. And the surgeon lectured about the use of “implants” to replace the testicles removed during castration – he passed around some samples and one of the attendees mentioned how lifelike they felt to be told that the ones they had were the human version…

The outcry was because vets are not allowed to carry out cosmetic procedures on animals – this is why tail docking, ear clipping etc are all outlawed as cruel because they are cosmetic. Yet now the two cases above that I mentioned are commonly happening the press is silent.

Emma Milne recently did an amazing job of raising the issue of brachycephalic dogs such as pugs that cannot breathe properly as a welfare concern which got some media attention. Pedigree dogs exposed covered some of the crazy welfare issues. And yet at crufts a unhealthy German Shepherd was allowed to win.

I can cut, however the question will be whether ethically and morally I should cut. I believe if the deformity is so great as to require surgery than that animal should not be bred from. If by surgery I can relieve pain or suffering from the animal then it may be justified – however I believe that in this case the animal should be castrated or spayed before or at the same time.

Conceiving a Stable Space for your Horse


If you are looking to build, purchase or design a new stable for your horse, you may well find yourself at the beginning of a difficult and daunting task. Even if you are simply looking to renovate an existing building or piece of land to accommodate your horses, the process of creating a functional and idyllic living space remains extremely challenging. There are a number of considerations that need to be taken as your strive to create a suitable home for your horse, some of which are absolutely integral if you are to create a desirable and welcoming structure.

Imagining the Ideal Stable Space: The 3 Key Components

With this in mind, what are the 3 key components that are required to imagine, design and create the ideal living space for your horse? Consider the following: –

The Size and Shape of your Stable

According to the industry accredited Canadian Agri-Food Research Council, an individual horses loose box should at least measure between 3m and 3.6m2. This is the minimum recommendation, and this should provide a template when it comes to visualizing the size of your horses living space.  If you have the land to build larger stalls then you should strive to do this, as more spacious boxes will allow your horses far greater freedom. If you are cramped for space and are looking to optimise this, it may be wise to remove standard partitions between 2 regular stalls and create a more open plan stable layout.


When it comes to laying stable flooring, the most commonly used material is concrete. A roughened and firm surface is non-slip, and subsequently minimizes the risks of accidental falls and unnecessary injury to your mares or foals. You will need to add bedding and rubber mats to certain areas of the stable structure, however, as this will provide them with a comfortable place to sleep and some respite for their long and slender legs. Another key point to bear in mind when laying concrete is that it does not drain naturally, which means that you must either install drains in the stalls or place your stable over an existing system.


If the size of your stable space and the flooring used are key to ensuring your horses comfort, lighting is equally important if you are to keep your horses safe and mentally stimulated. In terms of artificial light, it is important to remember that standard fluorescent bulbs may not function in the extreme cold, while the lighting that you do incorporate must be protected by safety cages and fitted out of the horses reach. With regards to natural light, you must place your structure in an area that benefits from regular sunshine, as this will guarantee a safe and stimulating environment that has very few dark or shadowed areas.

The Bottom Line

If you are committed to creating a genuinely inviting and functional home for your horse, you will need to consider investing the highest possible quality of temporary stable structures. Purchasing from the Redmire Stable sales will enable you to access affordable, outdoor structures, which help to provide comfort and warmth to your horse on a daily basis.

Boiled alive, crabs, lobsters and the ability to feel pain (Day 131)

Crabs Feel Pain Too

Today’s Diary Entry is sponsored by Spikes World

One of the areas I am passionate about is animal welfare, with previous research into animal pain and suffering as I believe alleviating this is key to a better world. I tend to try and keep track of what is happening with the latest research coming out etc. Back in March 2012 I was aware of research into the ability of hermit crabs to learn, today however I came across new research into the ability of crabs to feel pain.

Crabs Feel Pain TooNow its always been accepted that as shellfish have a primitive central nervous system (CNS) they could not feel pain and so they are just cooked alive in boiling water. The response seen when they are dunked into boiling has always been labelled as a reflex response and not one of pain-induced self preservation. It has been argued for many years that the way crustaceans (crabs, lobsters etc) are banded and stored before being cooked in boiling water causes tremendous pain, yet the problem has been how to prove this.

The problem here is that it is philosophically impossible to demonstrate an animals ability to feel pain. The best we can do is develop a set of criteria of what we would expect to see if an animal was in pain (vets use this principle all the time!) and so the research proposal came together. Researchers at the Queens University Belfast School of Biological Sciences devised an experiment to test whether crabs felt pain. I’ve decided that the researcher Bob Elwood at the university described the experimental process best so have him explaining it to you:

Elwood described how it went: “Ninety crabs were each introduced individually to a tank with two dark shelters. On selecting their shelter of choice, some of the crabs were exposed to an electric shock. After some rest time, each crab was returned to the tank. Most stuck with what they knew best, returning to the shelter they had chosen first time around, where those that had been shocked on first choice again experienced a shock. When introduced to the tank for the third time, however, the vast majority of shocked crabs now went to the alternative safe shelter. Those not shocked continued to use their preferred shelter.”

He continued, “Having experienced two rounds of shocks, the crabs learned to avoid the shelter where they received the shock. They were willing to give up their hideaway in order to avoid the source of their probable pain.”

Now one of the criteria used in determining pain is that animals will learn to avoid pain, or try to reduce the pain they are in (hence the praying position in dogs, or effectiveness of electric fences with horses). Under this principle it appears that the crabs that experienced the electric shock (which were relatively mild so as not to cause permanent harm) gave up their safe shelter to hide somewhere else in order to avoid the painful stimuli. In fact as anyone that has ever cooked a lobster or crab will know, it does not just sit still in the pan but will go into a frenzy.

Research is increasing starting to show that though we look different, pain is a feeling that is shared between all species. As an advocate for animals it is important that we consider the pain of all animals, and not just those that are cute and cuddly!