Dear Reader

IF YOU ASK veterinary nurses, especially those in training, the question, “Why did you become a veterinary nurse?” in most instances the answer will come back loud and clear, “Because I love animals.” But as their careers unfold, they find the realities of ‘loving animals’ become all too apparent and the tender emotion is tempered by a degree of objectivity that is essential to being a ‘good nurse’.

This issue of the VNJ sets out to reflect this voyage of discovery in several practical ways. For instance, there can be few more heart-warming sights than the arrival at the veterinary practice of a young family carrying its new puppy or kitten, eager to do all the right things to ensure it has a good start in life.

At this point, they are receptive to most of the advice they are given and although it might be just ‘another vaccination’ to you, to them it is a key moment and one that should be grasped for all its preventive nursing worth. Missed, and it is perhaps the biggest lost opportunity that can occur in a pet animal’s life.

So, by all means talk about the basics of nutrition, disease prevention and parasite control, but don’t forget behaviour; because at the time you first see most of these young pets, the window for imprinting the ground rules for a healthy shared existence within the family home environment will already be closing and time will be of the essence.

As vet and behaviourist, Sarah Heath, writes in her article on page 19, ‘Traditionally, socialisation and disease control have been viewed as conflicting objectives. Socialisation has been acknowledged as the process whereby behavioural problems are prevented, but has been viewed with suspicion because of a fear of putting kittens at greater risk of disease as a result of their broadened experiences.

‘In reality, social development and preparation for life in a domestic environment are important aspects of disease control and an alternative view is that socialisation and disease control are not mutually exclusive considerations. Indeed, adequate and appropriate socialisation is not only necessary from a behavioural perspective, but can also be important as an additional method of disease control.’

We do well to remember that by the time we see young puppies and kittens, the socialisation process is well advanced and that the key to real success lies much earlier in their lives – when they are still with the breeders. So, as well as running puppy parties and doing all we can once we are presented with these cuddly creatures, perhaps we should be considering ways in which we can engage with breeders and help educate them too?


David Watson, BVetMed MA MRCVS Editor

• VOL 25 • No7 • July 2010 • Veterinary Nursing Journal