Veterinary rabbit research wins national award


A research project carried out by the Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund, alongside academic experts including Hartpury PhD student Nicola Clements has won a prestigious Poster Prize at the 75th AVTRW (Association for Veterinary Teaching and Research Work) Annual Conference in Dublin. 

The project aimed to find out about the amount of veterinary education provided on rabbits and how effective it is perceived to be. The poster was praised by the panel at the conference, which took place online due to ongoing Covid-19 restrictions.

Senior Lecturer at the University of Gloucestershire Dr. Richard Rolfe joined Hartpury postgraduate student Nicola Roberts, and Richard Saunders, Veterinary Advisor at the Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund (RWAF) to conduct the research. 

The survey was promoted via social media to veterinary professionals, resulting in 58 responses in the week when it was active. Responses were from across a range of cohorts from pre-1970 to the current decade, coming from 9 of the ten UK veterinary schools.

Results showed that many vets lack confidence, particularly at the point of graduation where only 1 in 10 vets felt well-prepared. This confidence improves thanks to CPD (Continuing Professional Development), but more than half did not currently feel very confident when treating rabbits.

40% of vets received one day or less of teaching on rabbits during their degree, which generally consists of around 1000 teaching days in total.

The majority of respondents identified increasing the amount of teaching as the best way to improve competence and confidence in treating rabbits. 

"Rabbits are the 3rd most popular pet in the UK, but are prey animals with a physiology completely unlike cats and dogs," said Nicola Clements, a 1st year PhD student at Hartpury.

"There is the perception in the rabbit owning community that many vets in general practice lack confidence when treating rabbits, and we wanted to explore this further with our research.

"This was a small survey but offered clear indicators that education on rabbits during veterinary degrees needs to change. Ideally, more research needs to take place on a wider scale with the support of one or more veterinary schools."

Other prize winners included Jayne Orr of the University of Glasgow for her presentation titled "Does simulator training in teaching undergraduate veterinary students to calve a cow improve confidence and ensure successful learning outcomes?". John Donlon of University College Dublin was runner up with his presentation titled "Development of an adjusted clinical scoring system for diagnosis of respiratory disease in pre-weaned dairy calves using machine learning techniques".

Sanam Sewgobind of the AHPA was runner up for the poster "Real-Time PCR for diagnosis of DVE in the UK".

Learn more about Hartpury's Animal and Agriculture Research Centre.