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Research News Archive
- Animal Welfare
- Centre for Animal Welfare

Canine experts prioritise pet dog welfare issues in Great Britain

3 February 2014

A study, by The Royal Veterinary College, published on 3rd Feb 2014 in the scientific journal Animal Welfare, reveals the highest priority welfare issues impacting companion dogs in Great Britain, as ranked by a panel of independent experts.

The report will be helpful in determining where future resources can most cost-effectively be targeted by stakeholders, to bring about the greatest improvement.

BUCKLAND, E.L., CORR, S., ABEYESINGHE, S. M., & WATHES, C. M. (2014) Prioritisation of companion dog welfare issues using expert consensus. Animal Welfare 23 (1): 39-46. http://dx.doi.org/10.7120/09627286.23.1.039

Read the Press Release: Canine experts prioritise pet dog welfare issues in Great Britain

Longer ‘sausage dogs’ are at risk of slipped discs

24 July 2013

  • New research finds that smaller, fatter dogs with longer backs are at greater risk of slipped discs, which can cause debilitating pain and paralysis.
  • Short-legged dwarf dogs are affected, including Dachshunds, Pekingese, Shih Tzus, Basset Hounds and dwarf cross breeds

Long-and-low dwarf breeds are prone to painful and debilitating slipped discs, and a new study from the RVC published on 24th July 2013 in the journal PLoS ONE, reveals that dogs with longer backs relative to their legs are in more danger of this happening. This means that breeding dogs to be longer in the body and shorter in the leg is putting them at risk.

See press release: Longer ‘sausage dogs’ are at risk of slipped discs

Packer, RMA; Hendricks, A; Volk, HA; Shihab, NK; Burn, C.
How Long and Low Can You Go? Effect of Conformation on the Risk of Thoracolumbar Intervertebral Disc Extrusion in Domestic Dogs.
PLoS One (2013), 8;7:e69650.

Royal Veterinary College research highlights the most urgent welfare issues for pet dogs

02 May 2013

Research from the Royal Veterinary College, commissioned by the RSPCA, has highlighted the most urgent issues that need to be rectified for the improvement of pet dog welfare in Britain. These include owners’ lack of awareness of welfare needs, poor health due to obesity, inherited disease or exaggerated physical features, intensive and unregulated puppy rearing and a lack of appropriate provision for behavioural needs. Further details available here.

New blog launched to share work that is being done to improve the health of broiler chickens

11 April 2013

Researchers funded by the BBSRC at the RVC and the University of Manchester have set up a new website in order to share the work they are doing to improve the health and anatomy of the 30 billion broiler chickens that are bred each year for human consumption: www.thechickenofthefuture.com

They will keep the website updated with their latest work and hope to engage in feedback and interaction with interested people. Please check it out.

For further information please also see the BBSRC news report.

New study published looking at epilepsy in dogs in private veterinary practice

01 February 2013

Investigators at the RVC have published a new study looking at epilepsy in dogs in private veterinary practice. Analysis of clinical data from 92 primary veterinary practices within the VetCompass project (www.rvc.ac.uk/vetcompass) estimated aprevalence for epilepsy of unknown origin (EUO) of 0.62% (95% CI 0.57% to 0.67%) among UK dogs. Predisposed breeds included the Border Terrier and the German Shepherd Dog. The study highlights the clinical importance of epilepsy and also demonstrates the utility of veterinary practice data for research.

Dr Volk (Head of Neurology and Neurosurgery, Royal Veterinary College) describes this as "an exciting paper that estimates for the first time the prevalence of epilepsy in a large first-opinion clinic population of dogs".

Kearsley-Fleet L,O'Neill DG,Volk HA,Church DB,Brodbelt DC.
Prevalence and risk factors for canine epilepsy of unknown origin in the UK.
Vet Rec.2013 Jan 7. [Epub ahead of print]

Adolescents Care but don’t Feel Responsible for Farm Animal Welfare

23 January 2013

A study at the Royal Veterinary College in collaboration with the Royal Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Institute of Education examined for the first time the knowledge, beliefs and attitudes about farm animal welfare held by 14-15 year olds in the UK. Further details about the study are available here.

Do Hens have Best Friends? - It seems not!

7 January 2013

The RVC have recently had an article accepted by Applied Animal Behaviour Science, following research funded by Biotechnology and Biological Research Council (BBSRC) on whether hens develop friendships. Further information about this research is available here

Good living conditions for backyard chickens in London, but flock keepers risk spreading disease through lack of knowledge

09 November 2012

Research from the Royal Veterinary College published this month in the journal British Poultry Science, has revealed that chicken-keepers around Greater London have a lack of disease knowledge and insufficient awareness of laws, which could potentially have implications on disease control and animal welfare. The main findings were:

  • Research finds that three quarters of flock owners do not realise that feeding kitchen waste to their chickens is not permitted
  • Limited awareness is present around serious poultry and zoonotic diseases
  • Disease prevention measures such as vaccination are rare

Further details available here.

RVC Academic wins Young Animal Welfare Scientist of the Year Award

28 June 2012

RVC lecturer, Charlotte Burn, is the recipient of this year's Universities Federation for Animal Welfare (UFAW) Young Animal Welfare Scientist of the Year Award.

The award recognises the achievements of young scientists who have made significant contributions to improving the welfare of animals. It is open to postgraduate students, anywhere in the world, currently studying for a doctoral degree or in post-doctoral work within six years of their PhD.

Charlotte Burn and James Kirkwood
Dr James Kirkwood, chief executive and scientific director of UFAW with Charlotte Burn

Dr Burn joined the RVC as a research fellow in 2008 and became a lecturer in 2010. She obtained her PhD from the University of Oxford's Department of Zoology and an MSc in applied animal behaviour and animal welfare from the University of Edinburgh. Her doctoral research focused on the effects of husbandry regimes on rat welfare.

Dr Burn received her award, which came with a prize of £1,000, at the federation's 'Recent advances in animal welfare science' conference in York on June 21. The citation accompanying the award alludes to her doctoral work and also refers to her recent study of tail-chasing behaviour in dogs and owners' reactions to it, based on clips on YouTube. This has been published in the journal PLoS One.

Animal Welfare Education research published

09 February 2012

Education of children and adolescents as future caretakers and consumers is of increasing interest to academics and policy makers as a means by which to improve standards of animal welfare and ensure compliance with legislation. Recent research focussing on farm animal welfare by PhD student Jen Jamieson and supervisor Dr Siobhan Abeyesinghe in collaboration with Professor Michael Reiss at IOE and the RSPCA has led to some critical findings and development of a novel targeted attitude scale. Further details available here.

Why do dogs chase their own tails?

11 November 2011

A new article, published yesterday in PLoS One, by RVC researcher Dr Charlotte Burn, explores why dogs chase their own tails.

Dr Burn, who was funded by a Wellcome Trust "Value in People" award whilst the study was being carried out, summarises what the research involved: "Tail-chasing is widely celebrated in cultural references as a ‘normal’ canine behaviour, but approximately one third of dogs shown tail-chasing in online videos posted on YouTube actually displayed clinical signs indicating neurological, compulsive or other disorders. Video comments suggested that these signs went unrecognised by the dog owners and viewers; dogs exhibiting clinical signs were even described as ‘Stupid’ or ‘Funny’ six times more frequently than other dogs. These findings have been made possible through use of the largest online repository of amateur videos, YouTube, offering the first substantial (n=400) non-clinical population of dogs to be observed performing the behaviour".

Burn CC (2011) A Vicious Cycle: A Cross-Sectional Study of Canine Tail-Chasing and Human Responses to It, Using a Free Video-Sharing Website. PLoS ONE 6(11): e26553. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0026553

See also the RVC press release.

Information collection and analysis of the problems facing animals during and after disasters

26 September 2011

The RVC are being funded by the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) to carry out a project on information collection and analysis of the problems facing animals during and after disasters. Further information about the project is available here

BBSRC Social Innovator of the Year Competition

25 March 2011
Congratulations to Dr Siobhan Abeyesinghe and Jen Jamieson for achieving Runner Up in the BBSRC Social Innovator of the Year competition.

Their entry was based on their work on "Inside Chicken Run” – an animal welfare education experience.

Inside Chicken Run engages 13-16 year old children with science, animal welfare and food labelling and brings them closer to understanding how their food is produced. The event is aimed particularly at children from urban areas who are unlikely to have experienced contact with farm animals or agricultural practice. It is intended to empower young people to make informed decisions as a formative consumer; engaging them in the animal welfare debate with balanced information, and allowing them to begin determining their own moral and ethical views.

The competition is an annual competition to recognise the successes of BBSRC-supported scientists in delivering economic and/or social impact from their excellent research.  Dr Abeyesinghe and Jen Jamieson were one of six finalists in the 2011 Innovator of the Year competition and they did extremely well to be selected as finalists, as the competition was of a particularly high standard this year.  

RVC Team engages the public with Jimmy Doherty for National Science week

6 April 2010

Drs Siobhan Abeyesinghe, Emily O’Connor, Lucy Asher, Matt Parker and Charlotte Burn of the RVC Centre for Animal Welfare joined universities and organizations from across the country, including ‘The One Show’, 13-14th March 2010, to take part in Jimmy Doherty’s Science Festival at his Ipswich farm.


Royal Agricultural Society of England Research Medal 2009

7 July 2009
Professor Dirk Pfeiffer, Professor of Veterinary Epidemiology, has been awarded the Royal Agricultural Society of England Research Medal for 2009. It has been awarded to him for championing the importance of veterinary public health in the future development of our farm livestock enterprises. The Research Medal was introduced to acknowledge “research work of outstanding merit, carried out in the United Kingdom, which has proved, or is likely to be of benefit to agriculture”.

The medal was presented at the Royal Show Charity Dinner on Tuesday 7 July, where Professor Christopher Wathes collected the medal on Professor Pfeiffer’s behalf.
The Royal Veterinary College is delighted that Professor Pfeiffer’s work has been recognised in this way.”

Further Information

For more information about any of these stories please contact the RVC Press Office

See Research News for current news stories.

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