Page 1


HEAT AND DUST The toll of drought on country vets page 8

TO MARKET A guide to selling your veterinary practice page 13

CRASH Burnout in veterinary nurses page 16


Get ready for the next big thing in marketing page 21



She's part of a team whose new radiation technology is revolutionising canine cancer treatment page 24

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Shaping the future of animal health

Contents November 2018


Cover story

Waves of change


Dr Yolanda Surjan is behind new radiation technolgy set to change cancer treatment across veterinary clinics.

News + events

The latest in the veterinary world



What coat colour says about a labrador’s life span, UQ’s new pet blood donation program, and more.


Your world Dry run


It’s a challenging time for country vets as the drought in rural NSW takes its toll on farmers and their animals.

Your business Set sale


How to ensure the successful sale of your veterinary practice including a happy handover to its new owners. Breaking point 16

Many vet nurses are subject to burnout as a result of the daily stressors of the job.


Watch this space


Your tools

Summer pests product guide COVER PHOTOGRAPHY: LIAM DRIVER


Digital marketing experts say it’ll be all about video in years to come—so should vets be using YouTube? 29

Discover the latest products that will keep fleas and ticks at bay. Tools of the trade


Reviewed by vets around Australia.

Your life

Scout’s honour


38 Editor Kerryn Ramsey

PRACTICE For all editorial or advertising enquiries: Phone (02) 9660 6995 Fax (02) 9518 5600

Associate Editor Kathy Graham

Art Director John Yates

Sales Director Adam Cosgrove

Editorial Director Rob Johnson

Contributors Frank Leggett, Tracey Porter, Rachel Smith, Heather Vaile, Chloe Warren, Merran White

4,750 - CAB audited as at March 2018.


Scouting has been a way of life for Alexander Digweed, VN and practice manager, since she was six years old.

Vet Practice magazine is published 12 times a year by Engage Media, Suite 2, Level One North, 63 Miller Street, Pyrmont NSW 2009. ABN 50 115 977 421. Views expressed in Vet Practice magazine are not necessarily those of the publisher, editor or Engage Media. Printed by Webstar.

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What their colour says about labs New research led by the University of Sydney has revealed the life expectancy of chocolate labradors is significantly lower than their black and yellow counterparts. The study of more than 33,000 UKbased labrador retrievers of all colours shows chocolate labradors also have a higher incidence of ear infections and skin disease. The research—published in Canine Genetics and Epidemiology—is part of the university’s VetCompass™ program, which collects and analyses electronic patient data on dogs. In the UK, the median longevity of nonchocolate labradors is 12.1 years, more than 10 per cent longer than those with chocolate coats. The prevalence of ear inflammation (otitis externa) was twice as high in chocolate labradors, who were four times more likely to have suffered from pyo-traumatic dermatitis (also known as hot-spot). Lead author Professor Paul McGreevy, from the university’s Faculty of Science, said the relationship between coat colour and disease came as a surprise. The research is now being replicated in Australia, where labradors are the most popular breed of dog.

Loving life after saving lives through UQ VETS Hospital Heroes Community Program.


It’s not so easy being brown if you’re a labrador.

Hero dogs save lives Countless dogs could be saved by a new pet blood donation program at The University of Queensland’s VETS Small Animal Hospital. The Hospital Heroes Community Program recruits canine blood donors to help maintain blood product levels within the hospital, saving the lives of pets in need. Lead Nurse Gary Fitzgerald is encouraging owners to sign their pet dogs up for blood donations. “Just like people, our pets can suffer serious medical conditions and injuries that require blood transfusions,” he said. “Like human blood donations, it’s a relatively painless procedure for the


animal, but it could mean that a pet in need survives.” The program is seeking healthy dogs who are one-to-six years old, weigh more than 25 kilograms, have a nice temperament and are up-to-date with their vaccinations, worming and heartworm prevention. “We’ll conduct a health check, work out the dog’s blood type, take a small amount of blood and once the donation is finished, the dog will get lots of treats and cuddles and will be right to go home,” Fitzgerald said. The staff at the hospital are looking to expand the program in the future to also include donations from cats.

news Insurance cover for exotics Petcover recently launched ‘Exotic, Rare and Unusual’ pet insurance for reptiles, small mammals and birds. “Exotic pet insurance is common in many other countries; it’s time we made it available to the Australian market,” Petcover Australia director Doug Ford said. “The growing popularity of exotic pets, with their great personalities and fewer needs, has meant we often see inquiries for insurance, proving that just like dogs and cats, they too are valued members of the family.” According to ‘Pet ownership in Australia’ by Animal Medicines Australia, annual household spend nationally for

     

bird owners is $438.7m; $158.3m for reptile owners, and $131.2m for small mammal owners. Just like dogs and cats, reptiles, small mammals and birds can all suffer from injuries and illnesses. Visiting vets for treatment can be

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It’s an especially challenging time for country vets as the drought in rural NSW takes an ever-greater toll on farmers and their animals, writes AS A COUNTRY VET in New South Wales’s central west, Dr Scott Parry is well used to the peaks and troughs that come with living and working in an agriculturally-based community. But as the impact of some of the driest conditions on record continue to bite, the usually resilient owner of Coonamble’s NorthWest Vets concedes times right now are especially tough. Quite aside from rural vets having to deal with the “extremely challenging” animal welfare issues and biosecurity concerns, there are the psychological effects of the drought that also are taking their toll on those on the frontline. “Bare paddocks, skinny stock, dust storms, speaking to clients who are really ‘down’… The loss of hope that comes about from prolonged drought—you start

to wonder if it’s ever going to rain again. It messes with your head,” Dr Parry says. He adds that for some time now the onus has been on government and Local Land Services (LLS) vets to try to help their clients keep stock alive. But where hand feeding has been going on for some time, many are now actively selling stock to slaughter. “Having to then oversee the destruction of these animals is souldestroying, and despite it being done for sound animal welfare reasons, there is no joy in presiding over this sort of work,” he says.

Mental strain Dr Jillian Kelly, team leader of Animal Biosecurity & Welfare at Central West Local Land Services, agrees the duration





of the drought means rural vets are paying a high emotional toll. She says every phone call involves a level of financial or emotional stress from the farmer which can’t help but transfer to the veterinarian on the receiving end with the farmer’s level of desperation and frustration tending to increase as the severity of the drought worsens. Dr Kelly says she rarely sees a case which does not relate to the drought in some way. “It’s hard advice to give to the farmer ‘just improve their nutrition’, when they are doing the best they can with the resources they have.” However, the problems don’t start and

and herds is also a key issue as farmers find it increasingly difficult to manage flocks nutritionally to achieve reasonable reproductive rates. Additionally, managing the nutritional health issues associated with prolonged drought feeding is difficult resulting in either a consequence of too little (malnourishment) or too much (grain poisoning, and other toxicities), he says. As the usual feed resources such as hay, cottonseed and grain have run out, producers have been forced to move to less conventional commodities such as grape marc, almond hulls, citrus

resulting in scours, pneumonia, retained membranes and pink eye; hunger has caused mismothering of newborn lambs and calves and pregnancy toxaemia; and “too much of a good thing” has resulted in grain or urea poisoning, she says.

Helping out The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) says it is doing its bit to help rural vets dealing with the many issues relating to the drought, with members offered access to a 24-hour counselling service via its HR advisory service, and through the mentoring scheme.

“Just like our farming clients, the bottom line gets squeezed. The discretionary spend on companion animals decreases.” Dr Scott Parry, vet, NorthWest Vets stop just with the psychological warfare rural veterinarians are waging.

Money stress Dr Parry says many rural vet practices are also being squeezed financially. While clients may be a bit slower to pay their accounts as the drought gets worse, part of being a member of the greater rural community is carrying that debt. Of more concern is the fact that turnover is going down, while fixed expenses, particularly wages, remain the same, Dr Parry says. “Just like our farming clients, the bottom line gets squeezed. The discretionary spend on companion animals decreases. Less dogs with broken legs get fixed, more of them are euthanised and so on. From a livestock perspective, we do less individual animal work as clients shy away from spending on procedures that are marginal in terms of financial return. Furthermore, the routine workload starts to wind down, simply because there is far less livestock around.”

Feed issues From a clinical perspective, Dr Parry says the fertility of breeding flocks

fruits, sweet potatoes and palm kernel extract. These present unique risks and challenges, he says, where even if food is sourced, managing the use of unusual feed commodities can bring with it an increased risk of biosecurity breaches. “With feed commodities coming in from overseas and interstate, we run the risk of introducing unwanted plant pest species. Likewise, with widespread livestock movements to and from agistment, the risk of introducing unwanted animal diseases to previously clean flocks, herds and districts is drastically increased.”

Sick animals Dr Kelly says watching the effects of the drought on good productive farms and farmers, and the future of livestock in her area, has also proved challenging to those on the frontline. The drought has affected animal health so extensively that in some cases, hungry stock have suffered lead poisoning after resorting to licking lead batteries in search of food. Meanwhile, nutritional deficiencies have caused immune suppression


In addition, the AVA’s special interest groups are helping rural vets impacted by the drought to connect with colleagues for advice, assistance and support. Dr Kelly says local community and other support organisations, such as the Salvation Army, have rallied together to deliver care packages and offer other types of support. Personally, she has also been able to access mental health training and counselling through LLS. Dr Parry suggests one of the ways vets can assist those at the coalface is by investigating staffing levels at practices hit by the drought and asking how they can help. “Those in non-drought affected practices could reach out to rural practices and see if they need locum support or alternatively if they want to off-load a vet to do a locum.” Dr Kelly suggests the best way to help out is by visiting a small rural area and taking in the devastation firsthand. “If you work in metropolitan practice, make a connection with a rural veterinarian and plan a visit. Spend a few days in their practice and walk in their shoes. We need to bridge the divide—we are all one big veterinary family and need to support one another through thick and thin.”

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Set sale

Here’s how to ensure the successful sale of your veterinary practice including a happy handover to its new owners. By Merran White Advance-plan your exit To get the return on your practice you deserve takes “time, attention and planning—ideally, years before you sell”, says Yolanda Gerges, of Melbourne specialist consultancy The Peak Performance Practice. Most buyers look at your last three-to-five years, she says, so advance planning pays off. “Ask yourself, ‘Who’s most likely to buy my

practice and do I have my ducks in a row to [achieve its] value?’.” Of course, the value potential buyers see in your practice depends on their standpoint, Gerges notes. “A corporate may look for the proven track record of a ‘hands-off owner-as-manager’, efficient workflows, [and] other sources of revenue—or the potential for this”; a fellow vet may be more concerned about


“good, solid staffing” and whether they have the skills to provide the services your existing practice does. “Generally, when our clients come to sell, we find that those who have good systems in place and can prove their potential—solid new patient flow; service mix; good patient retention; healthy, active patient numbers; solid profit margins; growth year-on-year— have greater ‘saleability’,” she says.


Engage a professional Dr David Ogden, who recently sold his suburban Sydney practice, says engaging a pro to help him sell was the smartest decision he made. The broker, says Dr Ogden, helped with “all sorts of legal issues” and “pretty much handled everything”, including all negotiations. Hiring a professional salesperson has many advantages, says Simon Palmer, managing director of Sydney-based Practice Sale Search. “There’s emotion involved when you’re selling ‘your life’s work’; an agent gives a buffer between buyer and seller, which allows for objectivity. Gerges concurs a third-party intermediary “can diffuse the emotion and subjectivity—but be smart about whether they’re a good fit for your practice”, she says. “Your broker needs to be able to sell the inherent value in your practice, outside of [merely] assets, calculation of goodwill or a ruleof-thumb percentage of EBIT [earnings before interest and taxes].”

Keep things objective Often, someone involved in the clinic will be keen to buy the business. In many ways this is a best-case scenario: it ensures continuity for staff and clients, and may mean you can time transfer of ownership to suit both parties. An ‘in-house’ buyer will know your practice intimately—but will also be aware of any downside, and might feel entitled to ‘mate’s rates’. While it’s tempting to conduct the sale without outside help, working with professionals increases the likelihood of a win-win. “What I’d remind anyone thinking of selling to someone they know is that a buyer offered ‘exclusivity’ is complacent, whereas one with competition has to put their best offer forward in a timely manner, or miss out,” says Palmer.

Don’t slacken off If you’re ready to sell, it’s natural to want to work less—but this is the worst time to take it easy, cautions Palmer. “Don’t take it easy. Keep your effort and work hours up for that last year because anyone buying a vet practice is judging it on your last couple of years. It’s a shame to let fatigue compromise what you’ve built over decades.”


problems is that often, sellers overvalue their practices,” he says. “I wasn’t greedy; all I needed was enough to walk away with. I knew roughly what the premises was worth, and had a ballpark figure for the business itself. And those two figures added together was exactly what I got.”

Have a transition plan


Put your ducks in a row Before putting your practice on the market, help buyers see it in its best possible light. “Well-run, profitable businesses that have the compliance boxes ticked are the most attractive to acquirers,” says the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) president Dr Paula Parker. Key things prospective buyers look for, she says, include: l Businesses that can demonstrate “consistent and sustainable profits [with] growth potential”; l Those with good risk management— “when you acquire a business, you also acquire all the risks”; l Those that “have all the ‘compliance’ boxes ticked”, especially regarding HR and workplace health and safety—“this can sometimes be boring, tedious work, but it can bring us massively unstuck if it isn’t done”; l Businesses that have “depth in their teams, with committed and happy employees”. Build a ‘due diligence pack’, comprising “financial statements, compliance records, information of the team, KPI performance, strategy and brand articulation documents and further detail on assets, particularly property and equipment”, Dr Parker advises. “Prospective buyers will look for information on your business to complete their due diligence.”

Adjust your expectations Dr Ogden attributes his quick, successful sale to realistic expectations. “What a seller wants and what buyers are prepared to pay are two very different things and one of the biggest


“Sometimes, prospective purchasers think they need the vendor on site for a smooth transition—and mostly that’s the case,” says Gerges. “However, if you’re ready and eager to get on with your next chapter, protracted time frames may not be a win-win”—in which case, it’s important to ensure your practice is “as turnkey as possible”. Gerges lists the following: l Having documented policies and procedures; handover checklists; transparent, organised and easy-toaccess information—such as all your passwords and access details in one spot—in place; l Introducing the new owner to key suppliers and resources; l Facilitating a positive handover with your team and the new owner

Stay on to smooth the transition Continuing to work part-time in the practice can help seal the deal. Most new owners are more than happy for you to retain a place in the practice, at least for the transition period. “Most buyers like the seller to stay on, even if it’s a day a week,” says Palmer. “They want that continuity—and for the community to see that continuity.”

Know when to let go “When the old owner stays on, they can become a hindrance without even knowing it; sometimes, old habits die hard,” Gerges explains. “In such a dynamic, staff can get confused or frustrated, as does the new owner. So be clear about job roles, preferably via written agreement.” While Dr Ogden was happy his staff kept their jobs post-sale, he admits the transition was a challenge. “Initially, it was confronting to see the changes though most were long overdue,” he recalls. “But the whole point of me selling was to allow the place to survive.”

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Many vet nurses are subject to burnout as a result of the daily stressors on the job. Failure to address the early warning signs can lead to serious problems such as depression and other issues. Heather Vaile reports


point ‘BURNOUT’ IS YOUR mind and body’s way of responding to chronic stress. The term was coined by American psychologist Herbert J. Freudenberger in his 1974 book, Burnout: The High Cost of High Achievement. It described the effects of extreme stress and high ideals on people working in helping professions such as healthcare and social work. Today the expression is used far more broadly, and it is thought it can affect people in any job.

Dr Vanessa Rohlf is a former vet nurse who now works as a consultant, therapist and educator with a particular interest in the psychology of human-animal interactions. She says that while the term ‘burnout’ is often used interchangeably with ‘compassion fatigue’ in academic literature, there are some differences. Whereas burnout can leave you feeling constantly worn out, prone to illness, cynical, unfocused and de-motivated at work,


compassion fatigue “has similar symptoms to post-traumatic stress, like avoidance, feeling emotionally shut down and having intrusive, distressing thoughts, memories and nightmares”. While Dr Rohlf is not aware of any Australian research documenting the extent of burnout in veterinary nurses, she says, “We do know it is highly prevalent, if the UK is anything to go by. In 2016, they sampled 992 registered veterinary nurses and

they found that 92.8 per cent were in the moderate to high-risk category of burnout and 68.1 per cent were in the moderate to high-risk category for secondary trauma.”

The cause Janet Murray, the current president of the Veterinary Nurses Council of Australia (VNCA), believes that “long hours, prolonged stress, continued exposure to the trauma and pain of animals and low pay are

all factors that can contribute to burnout”. Dr Rohlf echoes this view. “Workplaces where there are high levels of work demands, things like really large case loads and staff working really long hours, for example; when that occurs and you’ve got limited resources, low levels of support from management or you don’t have a lot of training in that area, they’re the kind of things that place both vets and vet nurses at a greater risk of burnout.”


It can go on for months or years and become a serious health and career hazard. “Some people may leave their job, some people may leave the profession, but others might get help while working through it,” Dr Rohlf says. “Many people do come out the other end, so there’s hope. And when people do come out the other end, they say they feel much stronger. Often, they also feel that they have much more compassion for themselves and other people.”

“Some people may leave their job, some people may leave the profession, but others might get help while they’re working through it.” Dr Vanessa Rohlf, consultant and former vet nurse

How to help In an encouraging sign that the industry is aware of and responding to the various mental health challenges facing vet nurses, Murray mentions that the VNCA has recently launched a wellness hub for its members on their website (under resources). The hub contains useful apps, podcasts, links to various health websites and other practical information. Both Dr Rohlf and Janet Murray suggest other veterinary colleagues can provide support to a vet nurse who is at risk of or suffering from burnout by taking the initiative when things are quiet, finding a private place and asking them if they’re okay. Listen but don’t judge and really think about what the vet nurse is trying to tell you.

A cautionary tale Trish [last name withheld] is a former vet nurse who now works for a veterinary wholesaler in Perth. She worked as a vet nurse in two different practices for about 15 years altogether. “I started to feel burnout within the past two years,” she says. “I was feeling tired, grumpy and irritable and I could feel the care factor going. “I loved everyone I worked with, my bosses were great and the other nurses—we’re still friends now. It didn’t have anything to do with who I was working with; it was just a real

loss of care and accountability. I would have a meeting with my boss at least once a month and say, ‘Look, I’m doing payroll, accounting, reception, nursing, cleaning, all these things’.” “Then when I left they were actually really surprised and said, ‘Why didn’t you talk to us about this?’ “And I said, ‘I thought I did!’ “I was having meetings with them for at least six months before I finally said ‘I’ve had enough’ but they just didn’t get it. They were really lovely guys and I’m still mates with them today, but they just don’t get the hours that some nurses have to do. And you just get burned out and think, why am I doing this?”

Ten top tips for beating burnout 1. Know the symptoms. Researchers tend to agree that burnout has three main components: exhaustion, inefficacy and cynicism. While we all may feel like this from time to time, burnout usually involves experiencing these feelings over a significant period of time, e.g. a month or more. 2. Maintain strong social connections and reach out to others for help when you need it. Family, friends, colleagues, peers, even online support groups can be great sources of comfort, coping strategies and creative ideas for taking your mind off work.


3. Set boundaries and learn to say no. It’s easy to over-extend yourself if you’re a caring and empathetic person—but saying yes to everything and everyone is not good for your wellbeing or sustainable over the long term. 4. Let go of negative interactions. Try not to dwell on any unpleasant interactions that occur in the workplace. People often say and do things they don’t mean in a crisis. Burnout can magnify feelings of anxiety, depression, anger and hopelessness, making things seem worse than they really are. 5. Make sure you take regular breaks. This might be just a few minutes between client visits or a few days away for a planned mini-break. If you have a supportive employer, you may even be able to switch to a more flexible work schedule. 6. Practise good self-care, self-acceptance and self-compassion. Eat well, exercise regularly, try meditation or mindfulness, avoid alcohol and drugs and make sure you get enough sleep. 7. Spend time with the animals you love. Whether it’s your own pet(s), inpatients or the clinic cat, spending time with animals can remind you of why you do this job. And it’s good medicine too! 8. Consider learning a new professional or personal wellbeing skill. Sometimes burnout can be linked to a sense of a lack of control or a feeling of being taken for granted at work. Enrolling in a short course to keep your skills up to date will re-energise you and boost your self-confidence. 9. Seek professional counselling. If things start to feel overwhelming, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. Ask your GP for advice and/or a referral to see a psychologist. 10. Start looking for another job or other career opportunities. Sometimes burnout can relate to the emotional (and/or physical) toll of working with a relentlessly demanding person or a really tough job. If this is the case, moving on may be the best thing for you. Dr Rohlf offers counselling sessions and tailored group training for vet clinics in the forms of workshops and seminars on compassion-fatigue prevention and management, and on dealing with grief and bereavement.

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Watch this space

Digital marketing experts say it’ll be all about video in years to come—so should vets be getting on the YouTube bandwagon? Rachel Smith reports

IF YOU GO TO YouTube and search for ‘vets’, there’s no shortage of experts explaining how to remove a tick from Fluffy’s paw or what to feed your beloved pooch. But is this platform being ignored by a lot of vets? Could it provide good ROI? And is there a right way and a wrong way to start a YouTube channel? Experts say yes. Digital marketer Darren Hobbs from Vet Web Marketing in Melbourne agrees that businesses are yet to really tap into the potential of YouTube (and to a lesser degree, Facebook and Instagram Live)— but in his opinion, they should be. “Those platforms are programmed

to be more biased to these videos and therefore make it a lot easier for viewers to find,” he explains. “YouTube, in particular, can provide a lot of value to a veterinary clinic and should be part of a cohesive social media marketing strategy if you’re looking to expand your customer base and increase your revenue.”

Why YouTube? In the age of Google, your online presence is everything. According to the Sensis Yellow Social Media 2018 report, 64 per cent of consumers will be more likely to trust you and your brand if you interact


with consumers in a positive way on social media. And considering only five per cent of small and 11 per cent of medium businesses report using YouTube as a business tool, it could be time to get you and your business ahead of the curve. YouTube is defined as a ‘long-form media platform’, explains Hobbs. “Compared to Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, YouTube’s advantage is allowing businesses to engage with customers for a longer period of time.” People love video, too, adds veterinarian Dr Claire Stevens who has dabbled with both YouTube and Instagram videos. “It’s


“YouTube, in particular, can provide a lot of value to a veterinary clinic and should be part of a cohesive social media marketing strategy.” Darren Hobbs, digital marketer, Vet Web Marketing been revolutionary when it comes to content marketing and now we all have smartphones, it’s easy and accessible to all of us. There’s definitely a market out there for vets; it definitely increases traffic and I think people google my name after watching my videos or finding my Instagram page.”

What should you share? According to research released by Google in 2015, searches for ‘how to’ videos on YouTube grow by 70 per cent every year— and 91 per cent of smartphone users turn to their phones for ideas and advice when doing a given task. For vets, the key is creating a video content strategy around educational how-to videos on everything from grooming and hygiene to general pet upkeep. Raising awareness and helping pet owners improve the wellbeing of their pets is the strategy behind vet Peter Higgins’ YouTube channel. “I do work at Sydney Uni and in private practice but for me, YouTube is a stand-alone venture,” he explains. “I want my channel to be on pet care and an educational and community service about things like removing ticks, items around the house that are dangerous for cats and dogs and other animals. It’s aimed at building my profile and that of vets in general.” Dr Stevens agrees—and warns against sharing content that might come across as unprofessional or downright unpleasant: think vet students posing with cow placentas, vets grinning next to an anaesthetised cat, or videoing surgeries.

Tips on taking good videos Ideally, you need to have interesting, video-worthy content to share—and no, you don’t need to hire a camera crew or buy expensive equipment. Your smartphone is fine, and videos taken with it can make you more relatable, says Darren Hobbs. l Keep it steady. Use a tripod or selfie-stick tripod that has a bluetooth remote you can pair with your phone to start and stop the video. “If your recording is jerky and all over the place, you’ll lose credibility,” says Hobbs. l Practice makes perfect. “You have about 10 seconds to grab a viewer and YouTube is largely a personality thing so in your videos, practise being engaging and having a sense of confidence,” says Dr Peter Higgins. l Make your video easy to find. “Ensuring that tags, names, length ... and many other factors are optimised plays a large part in the quality of the upload itself and how easy it is for a typical viewer to find the video on YouTube,” says Hobbs. l Don’t be too salesy. “I think consumers are turned off if they sense you’re doing YouTube purely for commercial reasons and not necessarily for the benefit of the person and their cat or dog,” says Dr Higgins. l Ask owners first! “Always get written consent from the owner before posting pets and their stories on any of your socials,” says Dr Stevens.

“That’s not to say you can’t document the behind-the-scenes vet world—some vets do it really well and are good storytellers and if there’s a happy ending, that’s great. But I avoid filming medical procedures such as when a patient is being intubated, catheterised or is under anaesthetic. I’d hate for a complication to arise and know a nurse was filming when they could’ve been doing something more important.”

Where’s the value? Posting regular YouTube videos definitely raises the profile of the practice and helps potential customers start building a relationship with the vets—before they’ve


even set foot in the door or phoned for an appointment, says Hobbs. “It’s hard to quantify and measure off just one media platform, but businesses that put in time to create video content and use that content to advertise correctly will eventually see a monetary return—whether that’s due to new customers or previous customers coming back more often,” he explains. Hobbs also says offering behind-thescenes glimpses of your business offers a sense of transparency, which customers love. “It’s immensely valuable and hard to find an advertising medium that’s not online, that can provide the same results so easily and inexpensively.”

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New radiation technology developed by a team of experts, among them 2017 CSIRO Breakout Female Scientist Dr Yolanda Surjan, looks set to change the face of cancer treatment across veterinary clinics. By Chloe Warren



Dr Yolanda Surjan is hopeful her team's pioneering radiation treatment will soon be available to clincs Australia wide.

Photography: Liam Driver

IN ANIMALS—as in humans—for every cancer diagnosis there is a diverse range of treatment options and prognoses—and the news often isn’t good. It is no wonder explaining a beloved pet’s cancer diagnosis to their distressed owner is one of the hardest jobs a vet has to do. The treatment options available can cause stressful side-effects and, sometimes, permanent disfiguration. Some pet owners, quite understandably, just aren’t willing to take the risk. Easy the Belgian shepherd was eight years old when he developed a common canine cancer. “I would never have said yes to cancer treatment if it affected the dog in any way—if the dog was to feel sick or stressed,” recalls Easy’s owner, Elga. “I was determined to never put him through chemo. I’ve known of so many other people who have tried it and it didn’t work. Their dogs looked so ill and then they passed away anyway. We’d never had let him suffer that way,” she says.

“It’s the very first time that this type of equipment and these type of radiation protocols are being developed for animals, so it’s an Australian first— and potentially it’s a world first, too.” Dr Yolanda Surjan, founder, RadVet


Dr Surjan demontrating the use of lasers for accurate positioning in cancer treatment on a Cavoodle named Boston.

“To me, a dog’s cancer diagnosis meant the end, and that’s it. We were so upset. The vet’s face turned white as he gave us the diagnosis. It was a huge shock.” Elga’s vet happened to be Dr Rob Zammit of Vineyard Veterinary Hospital, one of the few vets in Australia with a unique treatment option at hand. Dr Zammitt is part of a specialist research team that includes University of Newcastle academic, radiation therapist, business owner, and 2017 CSIRO Breakout Female Scientist, Dr Yolanda Surjan. This team of experts is looking to change the face of cancer treatment across veterinary clinics, having developed radiation therapy protocols that can be administered onsite, independently of the large machines typically used for external beam radiation treatment.

Onsite radiation therapy “It’s the very first time that this type of equipment and these type of radiation protocols are being developed for animals, so it’s an Australian first—and potentially it’s a world first, too,” clarifies Dr Surjan. “There are linear accelerators that are being used to treat more deepseated tumours, but in terms of skin cancer treatment in a veterinary clinic, no-one is doing this.” Radiation therapy is a specific branch of cancer medicine used in hospitals to treat various cancers including those of the cervix, prostate, head and neck, breast, and brain. Throughout the treatment, cancerous cells are exposed to ionising radiation, which introduces DNA damage and activates cell death. It can be used independently, or in conjunction with other therapies, such as surgery and chemotherapy.


Currently in Australia, there are only a few linear accelerators available for veterinary use. “Pet owners might travel to these locations and stay for five or six weeks while their animals are being treated,” explains Dr Surjan. “We deliver our treatment over a much shorter period of time, and we don’t need to be treating the animals every single day. We’re still in Phase I trials but we can deliver the therapy onsite to horses, dogs and cats.”

Who benefits As for Easy, after his three-week course of treatment, his biopsies came back clear and Elga and her family couldn’t be happier. “When Rob told us about this clinical trial, I asked, ‘What does it do to the dog?’ and he said, ‘Well, the dog should be fine,’ and he was! Easy would hop into the car after each treatment and come home with us. We went to the

“We’ve used humans as the guinea pigs. We can say to our clients, ‘It’s been thoroughly tested on humans, so it ought to be safe for animals now!’” Dr Rob Zammit, vet, Vineyard Veterinary Hospital

beach, he did his agility training—he was just a normal dog.” As with any treatment though, some patients are unsuitable. Not all cancers respond to the treatment, and there’s a careful screening process involved. “We had one case where a patient came in with a giant tumour on the inner thigh, and you can’t irradiate that sort of area, it’s just too big,” recalls Dr Zammitt. “But then on another occasion, we’d been looking at a cancer in and around a dog’s mouth. We’d already had to debulk but couldn’t get in there to remove it. One of the specialists actually suggested removing half the jaw. The people weren’t prepared to put the dog through that kind of trauma—and now we won’t have to.”

RadVet RadVet was born out of Dr Surjan’s PhD

project. She knew that as a clinician and academic, this was the next step in her career. “I knew it had to be something I loved. Really, I landed on my feet in that I found something I was interested in and that could make a difference to animal treatment,” she says. She was inspired when a colleague told her about a NSW veterinary clinic that used radiation therapy on horses. Dr Surjan went on to perform a comprehensive literature review—a huge summary of how vets across Australia were using radiation therapy—and gained very useful insight into what was happening and how it could be improved. With the help of industry contacts, veterinarians, and consumers, she was able to combine all of that insight with what is already known about radiation therapy for humans and streamline it into radiation therapy protocols for animals.


When she was selected as part of CSIRO’s ON accelerator program, she learned how to turn her idea into a reality. “From there, getting this up and going has come from having conversations with the right people who are interested in taking things further.” Among these ‘right people’ were Dr Rob Zammit and Dr Christine Smith, the managing director of the Agnes Banks Equine Clinic. “It was great to be able to bring all of Yolanda’s knowledge from working with humans into the veterinary clinic,” says Dr Smith. “We’ve had to completely re-adapt what we’re used to doing,” says Dr Surjan. “So if you can imagine my normal work in a hospital, where I can tell Mrs Jones to sit very still while I do what I need to do – going to working with 700kg horses which are standing up and sedated… it all makes my research even more exciting.”


One of Dr Surjan’s research team’s first equine patients was Willow the six-year-old warm-blood mare, who developed a sarcoid in her shoulder region. “She was completely unrideable just a year after I bought her,” remembers Willow’s owner, Julie. “People often disregard sarcoids, especially in the online forums. They’ll say, ‘Oh well, mine just fell off,’ or, ‘Just use some turmeric powder!’” Willow’s sarcoid was particularly aggressive, and failed to respond to numerous treatment attempts, including chemotherapy and laser treatment. These caused an array of painful sideeffects, so when Julie saw an article about the radiation therapy trial at Agnes Banks, she took Willow in for an assessment. “I know there is no such thing as a miracle cure, and radiation therapy doesn’t work for everyone, but if we had used that option first, it would have made a big difference,” she says. “After the chemo, I had to put a cradle on her for four weeks to stop her attacking the sores. But with the radiation therapy,

Dr Surjan and her research assistant, Lauren Andreou, with Boston and Andreou's dog, Basil.

there was absolutely no pain—we just put her in the paddock after treatment and she hasn’t looked at the sarcoid since. It’s now completely gone. I’m just waiting for the scar tissue to mature so I can put a saddle on her.” The RadVet team is looking forward to making these protocols affordable and accessible for clinics across the country. In order to make this a reality, they need to enrol more trial participants

so they can move on to the next step of implementation. “We’ve used humans as the guinea pigs,” says Dr Zammit. “We can say to our clients, ‘It’s been thoroughly tested on humans, so it ought to be safe for animals now!’” If you're interested in working with the RadVet team, contact christine.smith@ for horses and robert@ for cats and dogs.


Summer pests product guide Discover the latest products that will keep fleas and ticks at bay



Summer pests product guide

NexGard Spectra®—New label indications for mites, flea tapeworm, and an additional hookworm species NexGard Spectra, an endectocide containing afoxolaner (an isoxazoline) and milbemycin oxime (a macrocyclic lactone), was registered in 2017 to provide broadspectrum protection against fleas, ticks (including paralysis ticks), heartworm, and gastrointestinal nematodes (roundworms, hookworms and whipworm). Subsequent to this registration, studies conducted and submitted to the APVMA for assessment have demonstrated the effectiveness of afoxolaner in NexGard Spectra against mites resulting in the addition of indications for the treatment and control of demodectic mange (caused by Demodex spp.), sarcoptic mange (caused by Sarcoptes scabiei), and otodectic mange (caused by Otodectes cynotis).1-3 The NexGard Spectra label indications for the control of gastrointestinal worms have also been expanded to include two further species. Based on clinical studies, NexGard Spectra now has a label indication for the prevention of flea tapeworm (Dipylidium caninum) infestations. Control of this parasite is achieved through the action of afoxolaner on the primary intermediate host, the flea. Reactivation and maturation of D. caninum metacestodes to an infective form takes place following infestation of a host by an adult flea. Afoxolaner, due to its rapid speed of kill for fleas, prevents maturation of the immature stage, and thereby prevents flea tapeworm infestation in dogs.4, 5 NexGard Spectra has been demonstrated to control an additional species of hookworm, Ancylostoma ceylanicum, a parasite that has been noted as an emerging public health concern in parts of Australia, particularly tropical regions. As a zoonotic risk, A.

ceylanicum is unique among the hookworms in that it not only has the potential for causing cutaneous larva migrans, but may also develop into adult worms in the intestine of humans, resulting in a patent infection. Due to their short pre-patent period (as little as two weeks), regular anthelmintic treatment of at-risk animals is recommended to provide optimal protection against hookworms.6, 7 A full listing of current label indications for NexGard Spectra can be found in the following references below. See product label for full details and directions for use. If you have questions, speak with your Boehringer Ingelheim Territory Manager, call our Veterinary Medical Services Team on 1800 808 691, or email

dog ticks (Rhipicephalus sanguineus) and bush ticks (Haemaphysalis longicornis) for one month. It provides effective control of pre-existing paralysis tick infestations within 24 hours. Ixodes holocyclus ticks do not occur in WA. In tick season, daily searching for, and removal of, any ticks found is recommended. 
 l NexGard Spectra treats and controls demodectic mange caused by Demodex spp., sarcoptic mange caused by Sarcoptes scabiei and ear mite infestations. 
 l NexGard Spectra prevents heartworm disease caused by Dirofilaria immitis and treats and controls roundworms (Toxocara canis and Toxascaris leonina), hookworms (Ancylostoma caninum and A. ceylanicum) and whipworms (Trichuris vulpis).

NexGard Spectra® Updated Label Indications For the treatment and prevention of flea infestations, control of ticks and mites, prevention of heartworm, and treatment and control of intestinal worms in dogs and puppies from eight weeks of age. l NexGard Spectra rapidly kills adult fleas and is indicated for the treatment and prevention of flea (Ctenocephalides spp.) infestations, for the control of newly acquired adult fleas and for the control of flea allergy dermatitis. Following administration, fleas are killed within 6-8 hours. Rapid onset of action kills newly acquired fleas before they can lay eggs. Fleas can transmit flea tapeworm (Dipylidium caninum). Effective flea control with NexGard Spectra prevents flea tapeworm infestation in dogs. 
 l NexGard Spectra treats and controls paralysis ticks (Ixodes holocyclus), brown

References: 1. Beugnet, F., et al (2016) Efficacy of afoxolaner in a clinical field study in dogs naturally infested with Sarcoptes scabiei. Parasite, 23, 26. 
 2. Carithers, D., et al (2016) Assessment of afoxolaner efficacy against Otodectes cynotis infestations of dogs. Parasit Vectors, 9(1), 635. 
 3. Lebon, W., et al (2018) Efficacy of two formulations of afoxolaner (NexGard® and NexGard Spectra®) for the treatment of generalised demodicosis in dogs, in veterinary dermatology referral centers in Europe. Parasit Vectors, 11(1), 506. 
 4. Beugnet, F., et al (2017) Preventive efficacy of NexGard Spectra® against Dipylidium caninum infection in dogs using a natural flea infestation model. Parasite, 24, 16. 
 5. Beugnet, F., et al (2015) Comparative speed of efficacy against Ctenocephalides felis of two oral treatments for dogs containing either afoxolaner or fluralaner. Vet Parasitol, 207(3-4), 297-301. 
 6. Tielemans, E., et al (2017) Efficacy of afoxolaner plus milbemycin oxime chewable tablets (NexGard Spectra®, Merial) against adult Ancylostoma ceylanicum hookworm, in dogs. Vet Parasitol, 238, 87-89. 
 7. Tropical Council for Companion Animal Parasites (2018) Guidelines for the diagnosis, treatment and control of canine endoparasites in the tropics. 1st Edition.



Summer pests product guide

Endogard treats and controls intestinal worms While many cats and dogs are treated with anthelmintics, a significant proportion of owners are not correctly following treatment guidelines. Of those treated with an Allwormer, research shows only 11.8% of dogs and 5.5% of cats were treated along the recommended protocol.1 Failure of pet owners to adhere to prescribed worming protocols is a leading cause of ineffective parasite control, potentially compromising animal and human health. Pet owners turn to the expertise of veterinarians and nurses to understand the ever-increasing and complex parasiticide options available. So, why aren’t pet owners following veterinary advice? It is a key role of veterinary health professionals to educate owners, yet a poor understanding of the clinical implications and zoonotic risks of intestinal worms, particularly to children, is not the only factor contributing to poor protocol adherence. There are a number of additional barriers, and these may include financial constraints, forgetfulness, communication

issues, product confusion or challenging animals. Understanding these underlying reasons for non-compliance is crucial for implementing strategies to overcome them. There is a clearly identified need for a simple, easy-to-use and highly efficacious broad-spectrum intestinal worming protocol, as preventive treatments that are easy to administer,2 with proven palatability3 have been shown to positively influence treatment compliance. Endogard treats and controls intestinal worms in cats and dogs with a single, palatable dose of highly efficacious praziquantel and oxibendazole. These potent active ingredients have a proven efficacy of 100% against clinically significant hookworm and roundworm, with no indications of resistance— unlike products containing pyrantel. The real liver flavouring of Endogard is mixed through the entire tablet, ensuring it remains palatable to even the fussiest of pets when fragmented. In addition to demonstrated high-level

efficacy and palatability, Endogard offers clinics more than an Allwormer. Detailed client and in-clinic materials are available to aid in worming education, alongside client reminder tools to effectively aid in increasing compliance. Ongoing in-clinic education ensures consistency in the advice provided, preventing confusion and enhancing understanding on the importance of Allwormers. Nurses are ideally placed to proactively influence clients as they visit the practice due to the trusted relationship they share. The involvement many nurses have with clients while in clinic allows them to be influential in encouraging owners to follow prescribed treatments and further identify barriers to compliance. Achieving owner compliance to worming protocols is multifaceted and can be achieved through appropriate product selection, client education, on-going staff training and the clinic working together to best understand and address client needs.

1. Matos, M, Alho, A, Owen, S, Nunes, T, de Cardalho, L, 2015, “Parasite control practices and public perception of parasitic diseases: A survey of dog and cat owners”, Preventative Veterinary Medicine, Issue 122, 174–180. 2. Talamonti, Z, Cassis, C, Brambilla, P, Scarpa, P, Stefanello, D, Cannas, A, Minero, M, Palestrini, C, 2015, “Preliminary Study of Pet Owner Adherence in Behaviour, Cardiology, Urology, and Oncology Fields”, Veterinary Medicine International, Vol. 2015. 3. Winnick, S, Lucas, D, Hartman, A, Toll, D, 2015, “How Do You Improve Compliance?”, Paediatrics, Vol. 11, Issue 6.


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This month, our vets review an Apple watch, a microscope, cage doors and an ultrasound unit.

Motic SFC-26 microscope by Yvette Berkeley, Castlemaine Veterinary Clinic, VIC This microscope was here when we bought the practice. There’s nothing fancy about it—it’s just a solid piece of equipment that I use every day. What’s good about it Its biggest advantage is that I can give clients an immediate answer to certain problems. If an animal has a skin lesion, I’ll use the microscope to discover if it’s something benign or something nasty. I can then recommend the appropriate medication, whether it’s antibiotics or anti-inflammatories. I can also advise the client if it needs to be removed surgically or if further investigation is required with a sample sent to the lab. I also use it to check a dog’s ears to see if that dog has a yeast or bacterial infection. Once again, there’s no need to send anything to the lab—the information is all at my fingertips. A microscope is an extremely handy piece of equipment for investigating ears, skin, lumps, abscesses or any kind of fluid within the body. This microscope is bifocal and I’ll often let the client have a look at the results. Most of them love to see exactly what’s going on.

Apple Watch Series 3 by Dr Emma Barrett, Coral Coast Veterinary Hospital, Carnarvon, WA Being an on-call vet with my own horses, children and a busy life, it’s not always comfortable to carry a phone with me. The new series Apple Watch has solved that problem. What’s good about it The Series 3 Apple Watch has a GPS and cellular function that can be used independently from a mobile phone. I’m in a regional practice and on call all the time. This watch allows me a little bit of freedom in knowing that I’m still able to answer and make calls without physically having to carry my phone. I can also receive messages, notifications, updates and emails without a handset. The Apple Watch can be set up to share your existing mobile number with your phone provided your plan is compatible. It also comes with a range of functions and the ability to access all your usual apps. Its connectivity is excellent and the volume is ample. I use it to set alarms and reminders, and notifications always come through. There are obviously limitations when dealing with such a small screen. It can be a little finicky to write messages or emails but there is a function that converts voice to text that works very well. A side benefit is that I’m not as distracted by other things on my phone. Important calls and messages come through but it’s easy to ignore social media and things like that.

What’s not so good At the moment we’re renovating our clinic and a microscope with a screen is on my wish list. I would like one with a broader field of view as this one is quite narrow. Displaying the image on a screen would make it much easier to show and discuss the results with clients. It also makes it easier to consult with colleagues and send off an image to a specialist. I would also like to see microscope user’s skill and knowledge improved. I did a six-month post-grad course on clinical pathologies that vastly elevated my skill set in regard to the microscope.

What’s not so good You just have to make sure to charge it regularly. Apple claims a fully charged battery will last about three days but I’m sure that will depend on how much you use the watch. It comes with a little magnetic charger where it can charge overnight.

Where did you get it GrayMed (www.graymed. carries a range of microscopes.

Where did you get it Apple (




of the

Suburban cage doors

Sonosite M-Turbo ultrasound

by Dr Steve Lindores, Albany Creek Veterinary Surgery, QLD

by Dr Linda Schiemer, Nanango Veterinary Surgery, QLD

Last August, we moved our business premises and wanted to add larger walk-in dog cages. We were able to move our existing stainless-steel Suburban cages but also wanted some larger walk-in cage space.

We own a couple of other ultrasounds that get plenty of use in the clinic. However, we use the M-Turbo when making calls outside the surgery. It’s a reliable and handy piece of equipment.

What’s good about it We have found the Suburban stainless-steel cages are a very highquality item. With the help of our local Queensland Vetquip rep, Wayne Williams, we chose a walk-in cage door with an opening size to suit while the actual cage could be made to whatever dimensions we required. My local cabinetry company made partitions that were lightweight, strong and water resistant. The cage doors can be supplied with or without a frame at the bottom. With no bottom frame, the door comes right down to the floor and there is no obstacle for dogs or staff to trip over. It also makes it very easy to clean out the cage. The new stainless-steel doors look fantastic and make observing and monitoring the dogs very simple. Cages are not an ultra-tech investment but we are really happy with the end product. Owners love to see the clean appearance of the stainless-steel cage doors and the nice space their pets have available. These are essential items and get used multiple times every day. I have had no negative issues at all, and the design and installation assistance I received from Wayne and Vetquip was exceptional. What’s not so good While I have been perfectly satisfied with this product, you need to be careful about one thing when fitting the doors. Most cage floors slope so that water will drain away and that slope can stop the doors from fully opening. We had an issue when we first fitted the doors but by simply adding a washer to the hinge, the problem was resolved. You can also minimise this problem by fitting a framed bottom that brings the door off the floor. Where did you get it VetQuip (www.vetquip.

What’s good about it The M-Turbo is a small, portable ultrasound about the size of a laptop. We use it exclusively for equine work—generally reproductive, musculoskeletal and tendon scanning. Even though it’s small and portable, it’s very tough. It takes a fair beating when we are out and remains unaffected by dust and weather. It has great image quality for a portable unit. When I’m doing a pregnancy scan on a mare, the owners can get very excited about the results. I usually save the scans to a USB drive and give it to the owners. The M-Turbo also stores the images so we can download them to the patient file later. It also makes it easy to send off scans to specialists when we’re referring a case. Once I get back to the clinic, the M-Turbo attaches to a charger so it’s ready for the next visit. I also have a transformer in my car so I can charge it during those longer working days. The M-Turbo also has a number of different probes available, depending on how you use it. They are very easy to take off and replace. What’s not so good We’ve owned this unit for a few years and it’s had a lot of use. Unfortunately, the battery is starting to go and needs to be replaced. We’re just not getting a great deal of charge out of it at the moment. Where did you get it BCF Ultrasound (


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Scoutʼs honour “MY FIRST INTRODUCTION to scouting was accompanying Mum to a local Joey Scout meeting over 20 years ago. She was delivering a native wildlife talk with some of the animals we had in care at the time. I immediately recognised a good friend of mine from school among all the other kids having fun. I joined the following week, received my uniform and I haven’t looked back. “I loved scouting immediately. I enjoyed trying new things and having fun doing activities totally different to an ordinary school day. “At the age of 12, we would often plan, pack and then go on a 30km hiking expedition. We’d prepare full journey plans and coordinate checkpoints with leaders, then hike off through bushland on a Friday night. We would return in time for school on Monday morning. I’m also very proud to have achieved and received my Australian Scout Medallion and the Baden-Powell Scout Award. “A highlight of being a Scout are the jamborees that are held every three years. Over 10,000 national and international Scouts share 10 days of activities, expeditions, networking and independence. “As I’ve grown older and progressed through each of the youth sections— Joeys, Cubs, Scouts, Venturers and Rovers—I’ve really enjoyed being challenged socially, physically, intellectually, culturally and emotionally. Some of my closest friends today are people I’ve met through Scouts— including my husband. “These days I undertake an adult leader role. I’ve helped run various Scouting activities including camps, abseiling, canoeing and patrol activities. It’s a real privilege to guide young people through these activities and help them become the best they can be. I’m currently an assistant region commissioner (marketing and communications) in the Far North

Region. I work with our local leaders and support committees to promote Scouting through social and printed media, improving communications between sections. My role also involves youth member engagement and contributions


to the national youth program review. “What I love about Scouts is that it is an all-inclusive, completely non-discriminatory organisation. It’s challenging, interactive, fun and it grows with the individual.”

Interview: Frank Leggett

Scouting has been a way of life for Alexandra Digweed, VN and practice manager at Boongarry Veterinary Services in Cairns, QLD, since she was six.

You slog it through the mud. We’ll wade through the numbers

We may not have walked in your shoes but, after 25 years of specialising in the veterinary profession, we certainly understand what you are going through. This experience has enabled us develop a range of products and services that have been designed to meet your specific needs. And in working so closely with you, we’ve learned to be nimble, flexible and innovative. It’s a partnership. While you’ve been honing your skills to help animals, we’ve been honing our know-how to help you.

Car loans | Commercial property | Credit cards | Equipment finance | Fit-out finance | Foreign exchange | Home loans | Personal loans | Practice purchase | Practice set-up | Savings accounts | SMSF | Transaction accounts | Term deposits | Vehicle finance The issuer of these products and services is BOQ Specialist - a division of Bank of Queensland Limited ABN 32 009 656 740 AFSL no. 244616 (“BOQ Specialist”).

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Visit us at or speak to your local finance specialist on 1300 131 141.

HE DOESN’T CARE WHO’S BEHIND INNOVATIONS THAT HELP HIM STAY IN THE GAME Of course not, that’s our job. At Boehringer Ingelheim, we’re committed to developing products that make a difference to animal wellbeing. Take Pexion®, the only new veterinary treatment to be registered for canine idiopathic epilepsy in over 100 years and now recommended as a firstline option. Innovation that helps restore quality of life. Now that’s something we all care about.

Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health Australia Pty. Ltd. Level 1, 78 Waterloo Road, North Ryde NSW 2113. ABN 53 071 187 285. Pexion® is a registered trademark of the Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica GmbH – used under licence. All rights reserved. PEX-181033.