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AI helps diagnose dogs suffering chronic pain
Pain associated with CM is challenging to confirm
Facial changes associated with Chiari-like malformation identified

Cavalier King Charles spaniel (CKCS) dogs are predisposed to Chiari-like malformation (CM) – a disease that causes deformity of the skull, neck (cranial cervical vertebrae) and, in some extreme cases, leads to spinal cord damage called syringomyelia (SM). While SM is straightforward to diagnose, pain associated with CM is challenging to confirm.

A new artificial intelligence (AI) technique, developed by the University of Surrey, could eventually help veterinary professionals to identify individual dogs with CM. The same technique identified unique biomarkers that have inspired further research into the facial changes in dogs affected by Chiari-like malformation (CM).

In a paper published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, researchers from Surrey’s Centre for Vision, Speech and Signal Processing (CVSSP) and the School of Veterinary Medicine (SVM) detail how they used a completely automated, image-mapping method to discover patterns in MRI data that could help vets identify dogs that suffer from CM-associated pain.

The research helped identify features that characterise the differences in the MRI images of dogs with clinical signs of pain associated with CM and those with syringomyelia, from healthy dogs. The AI identified the floor of the third ventricle and its close neural tissue, and the region in the sphenoid bone as biomarkers for pain associated with CM; and the presphenoid bone and the region between the soft palate and the tongue for SM.
 
Identification of these biomarkers inspired further research, that found that dogs with pain associated with CM had more brachycephalic features with reduction of nasal tissue and a well-defined stop.
 
Dr Penny Knowler, the SVM’s lead author of the work, said: “This study suggests that the whole skull, rather than just the hindbrain, should be analysed in diagnostic tests. It also impacts on how we should interpret MRI from affected dogs and the choices we make when we breed predisposed dogs and develop breeding recommendations."
 
Adrian Hilton, distinguished professor from the University of Surrey and director of CVSSP, said: “This project demonstrates the potential for AI using machine learning to provide new diagnostic tools for animal health. Collaboration between experts in CVSSP and Surrey’s School of Veterinary Medicine is pioneering new approaches to improve animal health and welfare.”
 
Both studies were funded by the Memory of Hannah Hasty Research Fund. The AI study was also supported by the Pet Plan Charitable Trust.

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Rare chimp birth announced at Edinburgh Zoo

News Story 1
 The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) welcomed the birth of a critically endangered western chimpanzee on Monday 3 February at Edinburgh Zoo's Budongo Trail.

The baby girl will be named in the coming days through a public vote, and staff will carry out a paternity test during its first health check to determine the father.

Mother Heleen's first infant, Velu, was born in 2014, making this new baby only the second chimpanzee born in Scotland for more than 20 years.

Budongo Trail team leader Donald Gow said: "While we celebrate every birth, this one is particularly special because our new arrival is a critically endangered Western chimpanzee, a rare subspecies of chimpanzee."

Image (c) RZSS/Donald Gow. 

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BEVA offering free membership to vet students

The British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) is offering free membership to veterinary students. As part of a new initiative with the aim of encouraging more veterinary professionals into equine practice.

According to BEVA, less than one in ten veterinary students choose to work in equine practice. The association hopes that this initiative will provide insight into the field and the benefits of a career in equine medicine.

Benefits of membership include:
▪ access to a network of nearly 3,000 members
▪ special student rates to attend BEVA Congress
▪ online access to BEVA's Equine Veterinary Education (EVE) journal
▪ free access to the association's online learning platform
▪ free access to BEVA's practical veterinary apps
▪ exclusive discounts on a range of things from cinema tickets to grocery shopping.

BEVA will be releasing a series of short videos over the next few months from BEVA Council members, explaining what inspired them to work in equine practice.

Image (c) BEVA.