Pet Obesity

Whilst I was volunteering in Weymouth (see previous post), I caught the train to and from there each day, which always left me with some spare time before and after my shifts. I generally spent this exploring more of Weymouth, taking in the atmosphere and enjoying the fresh air on the beach. One day, whilst I was walking along the Esplanade, I wondered past one of the many huts selling concessions and saw a couple purchasing three ice-creams. Initially I thought nothing of it, until one of them bent down, with one of the Mr. Whippy’s in hand, and gave it to the third member of their party: a St Bernard. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing! I’d heard of owners giving their dogs a cup of tea, but an entire ice-cream in one go?! Even though the act was obviously intended as one of compassion, I wondered if treats such as this were a regular occurance and if the owners knew the health implications behind it.

This then got me thinking about pet obesity as a topic in general, particularly in respect to the growing issue of human obesity. I carried out a simple search on the internet to see what there was in terms of news and also any campaigns for this problem in the UK and found exactly that: I was shocked to learnt the full extent of the problem when I read in the opening paragraph that roughly 1/3 of pets in this country are classed as overweight. I also found it interesting how it also states that roughly 2/3′s of people are obese, and I believe that there is a strong link between these two figures.

There is a strong campaign in the media against human obesity, but the same problem in animals is one which doesn’t attract nearly as much publicity. It goes without saying that approaching people about their own obesity as well as their pets’ is a sensitive area, but I believe there is grounds on which to promote tackling both. Owning a dog is potentially a fantastic way to get regular exercise during daily walks, but even spending time playing with any pet everyday can make a good contribution to fitness for both parties. Diet is also obviously a major factor in the cause of this problem, something which I believe is mainly due to a lack of awareness by owners. This is something the PFMA obesity campaign aims to change by publishing information on their website along with a series of ‘Pet Size-O-Meter’s’ for various species to enable owners to identify whether or not their pet is of a healthy weight.

However, although this company is taking a stand, I’d never heard of them, their work, or how serious this problem was until I searched for ‘pet obesity campaign’ online. This is therefore something which I hope to see greater publicity to in the future in order to combat this issue before it escalades out of control.

Volunteering as a Weymouth and Portland Ambassador – London 2012 Olympics

During the summer I had the fantastic opportunity to apply to be a volunteer in Weymouth and Portland as part of London 2012 and I am proud to say that I did so successfully and was one of just over 500 other ambassadors to volunteer in that area, an experience which I relish as being thoroughly unforgettable. My role was to patrol my teams’ specific assaigned area and act as a point of information, working with my fellow team members to assist both tourists and local residents with any queries and to ensure that they also had an enjoyable experience. Furthermore, in doing this I was able to meet and work closely with a wonderful group of people of varying ages and hence feel that I improved my skills of interacting with other people and also managed to put into practise and enhance those skills which I built from having attended the Honeywell Leadership Academy at the U.S. Space and Rocket Centre in Alabama in March earlier this year. I am still in contact with some of the people I worked with and recently had a chance to see them all again at a celebratory event, a brilliant night which was held in Weymouth to acknowledge all of our hard work and was a superb way to round off the experience.

Vetsim – July 2012

Another positive which came as a result of the Vet-Medlink conference I attended (see previous post) was learning about another similar event called Vetsim. This was also held at the University of Nottingham and took place near the beginning of July, lasting for three days. Although Vet-Medlink was hugely beneficial in terms of the invaluable knowledge it provided me with, Vetsim was at least just as useful and due to the practical element I found I enjoyed it a lot more. This is because whereas Vet-Medlink was 100% lecture based, Vetsim was the opposite being almost completely composed of practical activities involving a set of scrubs and a stethoscope we were given as part of the course. These included:

  • Animal handling of various exotic species (e.g. meerkats, skunks, macaws, a kestril)
  • Practising sutures
  • Having a go at laparoscopic surgery
  • Practising CPR on a dog dummy
  • Learning about and having ago at a general check-up of a dog and guinea pig
  • Being able to carry out a check-up on a horse

We also had a few talks on other veterinary aspects, including one which I found particularly interesting on Pet Blood Bank UK, something I’d never even considered existing. On the whole I was utterly enthralled by all of the amazing things that this course enabled me to do, especially how it made me feel as though I was experiencing life as a vet hands-on, being able to have a go myself at things I’d only been able to observe whilst seeing practice. All of the pictures of my time there can be viewed on my flickr account,, including a short video clip of me performing laparoscopic surgery (last thumbnail in the set).

Vet-Medlink – April 2012

During the Easter half term of April this year I attended a five day conference, called Vet-Medlink, at the University of Nottingham. The event is a lecture-based one which is aimed at students in years 12 and 13 who are considering (or in my case and unfortunately the case of many others, certain of) a career in veterinary medicine and science. I say ‘unfortunately’ of course because of how competitive the sheer dedication that hopeful vet students have makes for successfully applying to a place in one of the few vet schools. Being at this event really opened my eyes to what I’m up against and made me realise that it’s not actually earning a place at vet school itself that is really the hard part; the major challenge is proving that you deserve it more than the thousands of other candidates, many of who want it just as much as you do. But although I’d be extremely naive not to find this prospect a daunting one, I also find it exciting to know that with every piece of work experience, academic or extra curricular achievement that I log, I am improving my chances of earning a place in the exclusive veterinary community.

One of the reasons that I have decided to dedicate a post to this event it because it was through this that I was inspired to start this blog. This is something which was advised to me during ‘The Edge’ session, which I attended as an additional part of the conference and couldn’t recommend highly enough! It was carried out by a hugely inspiring guy called James Ridgeway, who basically left school at the age of 16 and ended up going to Cambridge University – need I say any more?! But although that lecture was invaluably beneficial in terms of making my application, many of the other lectures were just as interesting as each one related to real veterinary topics. Although all of them had the potential to be really interesting, there were a minority of the speakers who were, to be blunt, boring. Particularly when each day saw lectures going on until eleven o’clock at night! But regardless, I still managed to almost fill and entire A4 sized notebook with notes, and my handwriting is by no means big! To name but a few of them, the lecture topics included; diagnostic imaging, avian healthcare, feline and canine behaviour, reptiles, the RSPCA, camelids, life as a zoo vet, hydrotherapy, sea mammals, endangered species and various equine, bovine and small animal lectures.

The core conference itself lasted four days, but I attended five as I arrived a day early for a series of lectures on veterinary pathology. I wasn’t entirely sure what these lectures would be about when I signed up for it, but although the study of disease may seem like a grim area, I actually found it really enjoyable and interesting. For taking part in that day I was also given the opportunity to take write a paper on this year’s given topic of stem cells. Stem cells are a concept which are at the forefront of both human and veterinary medicine and so I found it really interesting to carry out further research into the field and hence write about it from my chosen angle of how they could potentially be used in conservation. I did this based on an article I found explaining how scientists at the Oregon National Primate research Centre in the US had generated live chimera monkeys using stem cells. I found the process of writing the paper to be a rewarding one, especially in terms of broadening my knowledge, and I now look forward to hearing whether it will be graded as pass/ merit/ distinction (hopefully not fail!) in which case it would also be published in a large volume along with all of the other successful papers. The results are due to be published on 1st September, so fingers crossed!

On the whole I’d say that this conference was 100% worthwhile and I’m definitely glad I did it … Despite the long hours! Although it comes at a cost, I’d recommed it to anyone who is at all interested in a career as a vet as a way to either cement a final decision or just to learn and develop as a future vet student as I feel I have done.


“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” – Confucius

Hi, my name’s Dani Stringer, and this is the first post in my new blog, ‘My Veterinary Vocation’, which I have decided to dedicate to introducing myself and explaining why I have abosolutely no doubt that a career in veterinary medicine is my vocation.

I am a 17 year old student and have recently finished the AS exams for my first year of sixth form, in which I studied Chemistry, Biology, Maths and Business Studies. I have now just begun studying the A2 courses in all of the subjects but Business Studies. I made this decision partly on the basis of vet schools favouring science and maths subjects, but also because I’m not ashamed to admit that I find it rather boring as it doesn’t sustain my interest and challenge me like my other subjects do. However, I still have no regrets in having studied it at GCSE and AS level as, following a discussion with one of the vets I completed work experience with, I learned that, in the past, many vet students have qualified with little or no knowledge of how to set up and manage a business, something which hindered any of them who chose to engage in setting up a practice through a partnership. This is something which has been identified and addressed with many vet schools now including a business module in their course. Therefore, I feel that the knowledge and qualifications I have gained from this course have provided me with the necessary skills to allow me to confidentally aid the running of a business, should such an opportunity ever arise.

Earlier this year I attended the Vet-Medlink conference at Nottingham University and one of the sessions which I attended was ‘The Edge’, something which I found to be hugely inspiring. Since then, having listened to the invaluable advise that they presented to us, I have decided to start this blog in order to record all of my activities related to veterinary medicine as I begin the first major steps in achieving my goal by applying for university later this year.

Throughout my entire life I can only remember one other career path which I was passionate about; becoming a superhero with the best super powers imaginable! Of course, I was only 4 years old at the time and was soon faced with the realisation that unfortunately, I didn’t possess any special powers, and so was forced to abandon that particular aspiration. But apart from that, I can’t remember any line of work other than veterinary medicine capturing my interest. I can’t remember exactly when or how I decided that I wanted to be a vet, but the fact that it has been the successor to my dream of becoming a superhero and remained so up until this point proves to me that it’s what I’m meant to do and what I want to spend the rest of my life doing.