Herd Animals Are Increasingly Popular As Domestic Pets

Herd Animals Are Increasingly Popular As Domestic Pets

More and more Brits are keeping livestock animals as domestic pets. Exotic herd animals including llamas, alpacas, and other camel-type species have joined sheep, pigs and goats on the list of ‘pet’ animals served by veterinary laboratories.

An estimated 53,000 UK pet owners keep goats as household pets compared to the 8.5 million who own a dog and the 13 million with a resident cat. Some goat owners even allow their pet goat access rights normally enjoyed by a dog or cat; giving up a share of the sofa and fitting a ‘goat flap’ to an outer door.

2006 Animal Welfare Act

The law sets out the five basic welfare needs of any animal relating to proper diet, suitable living space, separation from incompatible species, freedom to behave normally and health care. Pet farm animals are covered by further laws governing the way an animal is identified, registered, transported documented.

With enough resources, planning and consideration, traditional herd animals can make affectionate and fascinating companions. One important thing to remember is that these are herd animals, which means they’re genetically programmed to live most happily and naturally in the company of other members of their own species, not on their own with only human company.

Increasingly popular as field pets

Increasingly popular as field pets are South American members of the camel family. Domesticated in their native lands for centuries, Llamas and Alpacas have been variously farmed for their wool, milk, meat and as pack animals. Docility has been bred into their nature – which does not mean that manners and good behaviour can be taken for granted. These are intelligent animals with a will of their own.

There are about 35,000 alpacas in the UK and around 3,000 llamas. Classed as endangered species there are fewer vicuna and guanaco – the wild ancestor of the domesticated llama. Small herds of vicuna can be seen in UK zoos and wildlife parks, with a few guanaco herds kept for commercial production their fine, high-quality wool.

Owners must become observant

Keeping camelids as pets brings its own unique welfare problems. Alpacas, in particular, can give little indication of when they are unwell before becoming seriously sick, so it’s important for owners to become observant and establish good relations with their veterinary practice as soon as they take charge of their animals.

With the resource to quick and accurate veterinary diagnostic tests, and the expertise to identify and treat the gastrointestinal parasites that can infest all field animals, your vet will help you discover the delight and fascination of caring for these beautiful – if still a little unusual, herd animals as pets.

McMaster Faecal Egg Count (FEC) Monitoring Of Tapeworm Infestation

McMaster Faecal Egg Count (FEC) Monitoring Of Tapeworm Infestation

Checking the faeces of sheep, goats, cattle, horses and the UK’s growing lama and alpaca herd for tapeworm eggs is a tried and tested method for monitoring gastrointestinal parasite infestation.

McMaster Slide Faecal Egg Count Technique

Since 1939, the McMaster Slide Faecal Egg Count Technique has provided veterinary laboratories with a means of quantifying the number of parasite eggs in a faecal sample. The principle is simple and based on knowing the number of faeces tested, the volume of Faecal Flotation Solution used to suspend the sample, and the number of tapeworm eggs (oocysts) counted in the microscopic examination of a known volume of sample suspension.

By taking into account factors such as the likely uneven distribution of oocysts in a faecal sample and variation in tapeworm egg production due to season, habitat and the hormonal state of the host animal, the ‘tapeworm burden’ in the animal can be estimated.

An absence of tapeworm eggs in a single test might not mean that the host is tapeworm-free. It might be that the infestation is made up of immature parasites, or that there is some resistance in the host that is suppressing parasite egg production.

Identifying a particular parasite

With practice and experience in veterinary microscopy, the diagnostic veterinary laboratory scientist will even be able to identify the particular parasite infecting an animal by recognising the specific oocytes of Trichostrongyle, Nemitodorus, Eimeria and other invasive species.

Some gastrointestinal worms are particular to certain hosts, making FEC a useful tool in monitoring trends in animal diseases. Of current interest is Nematodirus lamae, a parasite of alpaca and other camel-related animals. This worm had not previously been seen in animals outside of South Africa, only recently being found in an alpaca in the UK.

The importance of constant faecal egg monitoring

Constant faecal egg monitoring of dairy herds, sheep and horses is important as the parasites use intermediate hosts, making complete eradication almost impossible. In horses, a grass dwelling oribatid mite can harbour the parasitic Anoplocephala perfoliata tapeworm, present in even in well-managed fields and paddocks.

Critical to accurate faecal egg counts is the Faecal Flotation Solution, which must be of the correct specific gravity (S.G. or density) to separate the parasite oocysts from the animal faeces. Because different parasites require different specific gravity solutions, Vetlab Supplies offers bespoke and off-the-shelf faecal flotation solutions in 1 and 5-litre volumes saving your veterinary laboratory time, hassle and money while increasing reliability and accuracy.

Leaving The EU: Brexit and Britain’s Animal Business

Leaving The EU: Brexit and Britain’s Animal Business

As Britain looks toward a future separate from the borderless union of Europe, the question of whether or not the UK’s animals will be better off is still a hot topic of argument.

Historically, Britain was the first country to pass any form of animal welfare legislation. Known as Martin’s Act – after the MP and animal activist, Richard Martin, his 1822 bill outlawed the “cruel and improper treatment of Horses, Mares, Geldings, Mules, Asses, Cows, Heifers, Steers, Oxen, Sheep, and other Cattle.

Unfortunately, the 1822 bill failed to specifically mention bulls; an omission corrected in 1835 with the inclusion of bulls, goats, sheepdogs and bears. 170 years of further amendments followed culminating in the comprehensive ‘Animal Welfare Act’ of 2006.

European lawmakers have taken animal welfare very seriously

For all the criticism pitched their way, European lawmakers have taken animal welfare very seriously – notably in matters relating to farmed pigs and chickens. In 2012 the EU outlawed bare cages for battery hens, and banned movement-restricting sow stalls for pigs in 2013. What will happen to these EU directed laws, as Britain and the EU part company, has yet to be debated, let alone decided.

Tedious and time-consuming EU regulations might seem, they do offer a single and unified set of regulations imposed and accepted across almost the entire continent. Traders and travellers in each member country know what to expect and what is expected; which also provides an assurance of certified diagnostic testing standards for incoming and outgoing animals of every size and description.

The reality of Brexit will be a testing time for farming

The worry now, especially if other countries choose to break with the EU, is that each will devise and dictate its own independent set of rules and regulations. Widely differing standards of welfare, health certification and levels of diagnostic testing might seriously damage public trust in animal-based commerce resulting in misinformed calls for yet more, and poorly directed, legislation than ever before.

The reality of Brexit will be a testing time for farming, equine and pet-animal businesses. The veterinary profession, with the resources of the veterinary supplies industry, must be ready to provide a bedrock of expertise and reliability on which new and, hopefully, even higher standards of animal welfare, business security and international co-operation can be solidly built.


Year Round Or Block Calving: Balancing Herd Economics and Health

Year Round Or Block Calving: Balancing Herd Economics and Health

High infrastructure and feed costs, combined with continuing low milk prices, mean dairy farmers are moving toward block calving to increase their productivity – but at what cost?

In block calving, all the cows in a herd have their calves over a block of just a few weeks. This means a short but intense period of labour for farm workers, rather than the longer but less fraught activity when a herd’s calving is spread evenly through the year. Dairy farmers will plan their block calving for spring or autumn, and each season has its own set of advantages and draw backs.

Block calving can help farmers make the most efficient use of expensive infrastructure and plan for when pasture and silage is most economically available. However, it can also mean that an entire herd is temporarily out of milk production with the farm’s entire calving investment for a whole year resting on just a few weeks.

Calving in the spring or the autumn 

Whether spring or autumn calving, a successful season will see a large number of new and vulnerable calves concentrated in a small area ripe for the growth and spread of pathogens. There are two particular diseases that place every new born calf at risk.

Cryptosporidiosis and coccidiosis are major diseases of new born calves causing debilitating weight loss, diarrhoea and even death. According to figures from the UK Government’s Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA, 2012), 38% of cattle enteric diseases, isolated by veterinary laboratories, were identified as cryptosporidiosis, while another 18% could be attributed to coccidiosis.

Both diseases begin through the contamination of food, water or bedding with the infected faeces. In the case of cryptosporidiosis, the infective agent – the parasite’s eggs or ‘oocysts’, can persist in bedding for several months and even, for coccidiosis, from one year to the next.

Infective oocysts are resistant to most disinfectants and cleaning agents

The damage caused by infection is both long-lasting and irreversible. Licensed treatments are available but, as yet, there is no complete ‘cure’. Because infective oocysts are resistant to most disinfectants and cleaning agents, efficient management and constant vigilance are the only safeguards against infection and re-infection.

Clean housing, bedding and ventilation together, with raising feeding troughs above the ground, will reduce the chance of faecal contamination. A policy of low-density stocking supported by a regime of thorough cleaning and disinfecting immediately before and after the calving season, will also help limit the chances of re-infection year on year.

Whether your dairy farm is just coming out of its spring calving, or preparing for autumn calving, diagnostic testing of suspect animals now for cryptosporidiosis might help isolate a source of widening infection even before it begins.

Diarrhoea in New Born Calves Has Many Causes, But Which Do You Treat?

Diarrhoea in New Born Calves Has Many Causes, But Which Do You Treat?

Potentially fatal diarrhoea in newborn calves is easy to spot. But to treat it effectively, you need to know the cause and you need to know it right away. MegaCor FASTest® E.coli-k99 Veterinary Diagnostic Test Kits exclusively from Vetlab Supplies give you simple to use, reliable field tests for that critical early diagnosis.

The first 7-14 days of life are critical 

Newborn calves are a vital economic resource for many UK livestock farms. Farmers and livestock managers depend on their veterinary professionals to get their calves through that critical first 7 to 14 days of life, when the young animals are at their most vulnerable to infection. Because many infections might cause the same debilitating symptom – such as diarrhoea, vets need accurate diagnostic kits to quickly differentiate between the many possible causative agents.

Untreated diarrhoea in newborn calves quickly leads to severe fluid loss and death from dehydration. Especially in remote situations, vets rarely have the time to return to their veterinary laboratories to carry out diagnostics tests to identify the causative pathological agent. Rotavirus, Coronavirus, Cryptosporidium, Salmonella, Giardia and enterotoxic strains of E.coli are all among the usual suspects that need to be quickly eliminated – or, when present, positively identified so effective treatment can begin.

Veterinary diagnostics are all about the assurance of accuracy

Non-pathogenic strains of E.coli are naturally and beneficially present in the digestive tracts of most animals including cows and calves. To detect and identify the toxic strains that cause life-threatening diarrhoea vets need a Veterinary Diagnostic Test Kit that’s reliable, quick, portable and simple to use out in the field without any specialist lab equipment.

Reliable 5 minute test

Vetlab’s FASTest® E.Coli-K99 Strip is the 5-minute test that gives a clear-cut colour-change reaction when pathogenic E.Coli K99 is present in a sample of calf faeces. Simply shaking a tiny sample of faeces in a tube, then dipping the FASTest® strip into the mixture is all that’s necessary. Watching the solution rise up the porous strip to the test line will indicate either a clear-cut positive result – shown by a strong pink/purple colour band, or a negative if no colour shows. There’s even a built-in ‘control test’ to assure you and your client farmer that the test is working accurately.

In the end, veterinary diagnostics are all about the assurance of accuracy. MEGACOR’s complete range of Veterinary Diagnostic Test Kits from Vetlab Supplies give veterinary professionals and livestock farmers that assurance in every test and for every valuable animal.

Toxoplasmosis – The Feline disease set to devastate UK Sheep farming!

Toxoplasmosis – The Feline disease set to devastate UK Sheep farming!

Toxoplasmosis – caused by the parasite Toxoplasma gondii, a well-known disease of domestic cats, is also a potentially devastating disease of sheep. A paper published in the Veterinary Record estimates that toxoplasmosis in sheep costs UK farmers about half a million lambs a year through premature abortion; a figure that translates to a financial loss of between £12million to £24million annually.

The Government’s own Veterinary Investigation Diagnosis Analysis lists toxoplasmosis as the highest cause of aborted lambs (29%) second only to Chlamydia abortus (47%) with an estimated 70% of all UK flocks already exposed to the cat-borne parasite (FlockCheck Data 2004).

Roaming cats spread the parasite

In the cycle of infection, domestic and feral cats act as the great distributors. The parasite reproduces in the cat’s gut before escaping in the faeces as dormant eggs or ‘oocysts’. When the cat kills and eats a rodent that’s accidentally ingested these cysts, the cycle starts over again. But when widely roaming cats spread the parasite onto pasture land, livestock bedding and animal feed, it’s often sheep that become the next host.

Once eaten by sheep, these dormant oocysts become active causing aborted or ‘weakly’ lambs, and sometimes infertility on a flock-wide scale. As a single cat dropping contains enough parasite to infect 100 ewes, and these oocysts can survive in a pasture for well over a year, it’s essential to know the level of infection within a flock.

Toxoplasmosis rarely causes any serious illness in humans

In cats, the disease is well known; with a range of mostly mild to moderate symptoms. In humans, toxoplasmosis rarely causes any serious illness, although people with weak or suppressed immune systems may be more at risk and, for expectant mothers, there’s an increased likelihood of premature birth or abortion if an infection is picked up early in pregnancy.

For human populations, the parasite’s main impact is on the commercial viability of livestock farming and its potential for disrupting the food supply by reducing availability and increasing prices to the consumer. For this reason, The European Food Safety Authority is recommending all EU member states to monitor T.gondii in farm animals.

The FASTest® TOXOPLASMA g kit from Vetlab Supplies provides a reliable blood test for antibodies created in response to infection facilitating early intervention and infection control. The paper’s authors, JP Hutchinson and RP Smith, conclude that: “farmers and veterinary surgeons should continue to promote appropriate husbandry and vaccination strategies,” The FASTest® TOXOPLASMA g kit could be an integral part of this strategy.

To find out more about our large range of veterinary diagnostic test kits visit our website: www.vetlabsupplies.co.uk or Telephone: 01798 874567

Cattle testing history crucial to healthy herds urges chief vet for Wales

Cattle testing history crucial to healthy herds urges chief vet for Wales

Christianne Glossop, Chief Veterinary Officer for Wales, urged cattle farmers to demand sight of an animal’s disease and testing history before they buy or add new stock to their existing herds. Only complete and up to date testing records can give that vital assurance that a purchased animal is a healthy investment and won’t compromise the physical and commercial health of the present herd.

Speaking at the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society, Wales’ Chief Vet defined a range of measures that farmers should take to minimise the risk of infection when buying and selling cattle. Primary among those measures is the professional veterinary testing and recording of the disease status of any animal moving between herds.

Six Cattle Diseases With A Significant Impact

‘Farmers can help to protect their cattle from infection,’ said Dr Glossop, ‘starting with asking for the disease and testing history of an animal – and the herd it comes from – at the point of sale.’ Dr Glossop drew particular attention to six cattle diseases with a significant impact on the welfare of a herd and on the economic viability of a farm.

High on the Chief Vet’s list is neosporosis, caused by the parasite Neospora caninum, and the most frequently diagnosed cause of abortion in UK herds. Infected cattle joining a hitherto disease-free herd can pass on the parasite to their unborn calves which may then be aborted prematurely.

A Constant Risk Of Infection

The aborted material is likely to infect other animals. If the calf is born normally and survives, it will remain infected and infective for life. Because neosporosis can be transmitted through contamination with infected dog faeces even herds that have been free of the disease, and received no new animals, are constantly at risk of infection and should be monitored.

A quick and reliable test for neosporosis is available as a complete and ready-to-use kit from Vetlab Supplies. The FASTest® NEOSPORA caninum kit searches out antibodies created as part of an animal’s natural response to the invading parasite. A positive reaction with a sample of an animal’s blood offers early diagnosis and allows prompt treatment with an improved outcome for the tested animal and the chance to prevent the infection from spreading.

Safeguarding an animal’s health through professional veterinary testing and record keeping pays off not only in the economic return on the home herd, but in the value added to an animal offered for sale to another farm. Buyers who can inspect the full testing records of an animal, alongside his or her own expert judgement on its physical health, are more likely to pay premium prices.

To find out more about our large range of veterinary diagnostic test kits visit our website: www.vetlabsupplies.co.uk or Telephone: 01798 874567

What is Bovine Coronavirus (BCV)?

What is Bovine Coronavirus (BCV)?

Bovine Coronavirus, BCV, is an enveloped RNA virus that is one of the main causes of calf enteritis, Winter Dysentery in all ages of cattle, and is part of the Enzootic Pneumonia Complex affecting calves. Calf Enteritis and Winter Dysentery symptoms include watery diarrhoea progressing to bloody diarrhoea, anorexia, severe dehydration and death. Enzootic Pneumonia Complex symptoms are primarily respiratory: ocular and nasal discharge, fever progressing to pneumonia and death when combined with secondary bacterial infections and other viruses. Treatment of Bovine Coronavirus, like any viral infection, is symptomatic.

FASTest BVC diagnostic test kit is invaluable

Knowing that you are dealing with Bovine Coronavirus is mandatory in the field making the diagnostic test kit invaluable. Early detection allows for early treatment to begin lowering overall morbidity and mortality. Like many other enveloped RNA viruses, Bovine Coronavirus is fairly easy to kill with many common disinfectants. Testing for it and knowing that it is the causative agent, or one of many, can greatly help with controlling the spread of disease. Even testing healthy animals is a good idea if the farm is having a problem with disease. Seemingly healthy animals that are shedding the virus do not necessarily need treatment but they should be isolated from others, thus decreasing the transmission of disease and further lowering morbidity and mortality.

Results in less than 5 minutes

The FASTest BCV diagnostic test does not need to be refrigerated which makes it extremely easy just to toss in the truck and take to the farm. Not only do you not need to wait for it to reach room temperature, the test itself is fast, less than 5 minutes, making the entire test process lightning fast. So if “time is money”, this BCV diagnostic test kit will save you and your clients both. The accuracy of the FASTest BCV diagnostic test is unbeatable with a Sensitivity of 96.7% and a Specificity of 99.9%.

Since Bovine Coronavirus rarely acts alone, Vetlab Supplies also carries individual veterinary diagnostic tests for Cryptosporidium, E. coli, and Rotavirus. A combination test kit is also available through Vetlab Supplies that tests for Coronavirus, Cryptosporidium, E. coli, and Rotavirus in one test, known as the FASTest D4T Bovine Strip.

To find out more about our large range of veterinary diagnostic test kits visit our website: www.vetlabsupplies.co.uk or Telephone: 01798 874567

Faecal Worm Egg Counts For Alpacas

Faecal Worm Egg Counts For Alpacas

Graham Duncanson, BVSc, MSc(VetGP), DProf, FRCVS, recently wrote an article for Veterinary Practice, which included top tips for your first alpaca consult.

It’s a great article and covers many aspects of caring for alpacas. Interestingly, part of the article covers worming and that the SCOPS principles (Sustainable Control of Parasites in Sheep – anthelmintic resistance) also apply to alpacas. Faecal worm egg counts are very important to monitor the stock and it has been stressed to alpaca owners that individual samples should be provided, rather than random mixed samples.


Post-treatment FECs are useful to look for resistance but there is one very dangerous worm for alpacas which can cause death before the adults start to lay eggs, the barbers-pole worm, Haemonchus contortus. In this case, faecal worm egg counts will be misleading; however, looking at gum colour is very helpful as white gums indicate severe anaemia which is likely to be caused by Haemonchus.


Alpacas are affected by liver fluke Fasciola hepatica, normally chronic in cattle; Coccidia (especially Emeria Maculensis) affects young alpacas and as for mange, Chorioptes spp, well that’s the most common mange mite to affect alpacas.


The most inexpensive and accurate method of faeces examination for internal parasite eggs uses a special faecal flotation solution made up to a Specific Gravity of 1.27. This is a very important specification to ensure the oocysts of Emeria Maculensis are detected. The best flotation solutions are made from either Sodium Nitrate or Zinc Sulphate. Vetlab’s bespoke ready-made faecal flotation solutions will save you time, hassle and mess, ensuring that you have the exact specific gravity for your particular needs. Remember that different parasites require solutions of different specific gravity to ensure you get the right results! Vetlab Supplies also supply Ovatube (parasite detection), Microscopes and a large range of Veterinary Consumables.


Graham Duncanson clearly knows his alpacas and has written a book that’s a must purchase for any llama or alpaca owners and practitioners. Titled; Veterinary Treatments of Llamas and Alpacas, which is focused on animals in the UK.

Finally, never forgetting that alpacas can contract bovine tuberculosis…Graham’s final piece of advice is: never kiss an alpaca!

To find out more about our large range of veterinary diagnostic test kits visit our website: www.vetlabsupplies.co.uk or Telephone: 01798 874567

Why FASTest Diagnostic Tests Are The Best For Your Vet Practice

Why FASTest Diagnostic Tests Are The Best For Your Vet Practice

As a busy and caring veterinarian, you want to get as much done in a workday as possible, and this includes providing diagnostic tests when needed. While you certainly want results to come back quickly, you also want them to be accurate, and you want the tests to be affordable. This is why FASTest Diagnostic Tests are the best for your vet practice. Fast, accurate, and affordable are all hallmarks of the FASTest brand.

FASTest Diagnostics

MegaCor Diagnostik GmbH, an Austrian based company that has been providing exceptional test kits for over 25 years, manufactures the FASTest brands of diagnostic tests. As the exclusive distributor of MegaCor FASTest Kits, we have the test kits that your vet practice needs, and we have them at very competitive prices.

How Do they work?

The vast majority of FASTest kits we offer work on the principle of immunochromatography/lateral flow. They can be safely kept at room temperature, and because of their long shelf life, you worry less and spend less. They are very easy to use, and the results are both accurate and reliable.

The product line includes the diagnostic tests that your vet practice requires, and their range covers a variety of needs.

Some products in their range include:

  • FASTest CRYPTO Strip
  • FASTest D4T bovine
  • FASTest BCV
  • FASTest E.coli-K99
  • FASTest ROTA

So you can see there are plenty of different options for your practice to choose from, meaning as a busy vet, you don’t have to shop around for different brands for each diagnostic test you need to perform.

FASTest Diagnostic Test Kits are so reliable and accurate that they are used in Veterinary Practices, Commercial Laboratories, and Veterinary Colleges. And with their low pricing, they are the smart choice for any vet practice. It is becoming increasingly challenging for vet practices to offer their clients the best in pet health care without charging more than they can afford. This can be especially important in a rural area where cattle and horses are plentiful. When you can buy your test kits for less, you can charge less, and the FASTest brand helps you to do that.

So, the question, why are FASTest Diagnostic Tests are the best for your vet practice, is actually easy to answer: FASTest offer quality products that are reliable, accurate, easy to use, and affordable, allowing you to not only treat and diagnose your patients quickly, but save your practice valuable time.

To find out more about our large range of veterinary diagnostic test kits visit our website: www.vetlabsupplies.co.uk or Telephone: 01798 874567