BMC Veterinary Research: editor picks of 2017

2017 was an exciting year for BMC Veterinary Research, which published a wide range of interesting articles across its many subject-specific sections. Here are a few of the Editor’s favourite articles published over the last year.

Editor, Dr. Hayley Henderson:“It was a successful year, and we would like to thank all of our authors, referees and our dedicated editorial board for their support and contribution. There is a greater push for more complete and transparent reporting in veterinary research, and for effective collaboration between human and veterinary healthcare professionals. Some of our 2017 publications highlight the importance of these endeavors, and we have used these papers to help create our 2018 objectives to improve veterinary and animal research reporting. We look forward to sharing our plans with our readers soon.”

Environmental enrichment for captive cats

Cats kept exclusively indoors may become bored or stressed which can exacerbate negative behaviors such as being aggressive or destructive. Catnip (Nepeta cataria) is a well known olfactory stimulant which causes a euphoric response in some domestic cats and is used by some cat owners to enrich their pet’s environment.

Bol et al. aimed to test catnip and other plants with anecdotal evidence of causing euphoric responses in cats. The researchers tested catnip, silver vine, Tatarian honeysuckle and valerian root on 100 domestic cats.

Their results showed that most of the sampled cats had a positive response to the olfactory stimulation. One in three cats did not respond to catnip. A much higher percentage of cats responded to the silver vine (80%) and approximately 50% of the cats responded to the honeysuckle and valerian root. Interestingly, 75% of the cats which did not respond to catnip did respond to silver vine, and a third to the honeysuckle.

The authors concluded that silver vine and Tatarian honeysuckle may be good alternatives for cats which do not respond to catnip, and suggest that olfactory stimulation may be effective for improving quality of life for cats.

Exploring the influence of funding source on the quality of animal randomized control trial reporting

Randomized control trials are essential for veterinary evidence-based clinical research and it is important that trial reporting is transparent and complete. Animal trials are often poorly reported compared to human trials, mainly because human trial guidelines are considered more rigorous.

Wareham et al. reviewed a sample of veterinary randomized control trials published in 2011. Their study looked at the number of outcomes measured, number of animals enrolled, whether primary outcome measures were stated, and sample size calculations were performed before animals were enrolled. The authors also studied whether the trial funding source influenced trial design and delivery.

They concluded that veterinary clinical trial, design and delivery could be substantially improved and suggested that low quality reporting impedes veterinary evidence-based practice.

Their results showed that in 126 trials, the median number of outcome measures reported was 5 and median number of animals enrolled in each trial was 30, neither of which significantly differed across funding groups. Primary outcomes were stated in 40.5% of the trials studied, and interestingly these were more likely to be stated if the trial was funded by a pharmaceutical company. Only 14.3% of the trials reported their sample size calculation. They concluded that veterinary clinical trial, design and delivery could be substantially improved and suggested that low quality reporting impedes veterinary evidence-based practice.

Searching for the source of “phantom” scratching in canine syringomyelia

Syringomyelia is a complex neurological condition which affects some dog and cat breeds. The condition is characterized by a malformation in the spine affecting the flow of cerebrospinal fluid, causing “pockets” of fluid, called syrinx, to accumulate in the spinal cord. A common clinical sign in dogs is phantom scratching, a compulsion to scratch towards the shoulder or neck without actually scratching.

Nalborczyk et al. performed a retrospective cohort study on the medical records of 37 Cavalier King Charles spaniels with a diagnosis of symptomatic syringomyelia. All dogs’ MRI files were reviewed to determine the maximum perpendicular dimensions of syrinx in the spinal cord quadrants.

Source: Pixabay

Their results showed that phantom scratching in the dog may be associated with a syrinx located in the C2-C5 vertebrae, which correlates to a section of the spinal cord called the superficial dorsal horn. The authors concluded that phantom scratching in dogs may happen after superficial dorsal horn cervical neurons are damaged. It may be possible that this neuronal damage influences the activity of scratching behavior.

Outlining quality assurance and best research practices for non-regulated veterinary clinical studies

Animal clinical trials can generate volumes of useful data which can translate knowledge from clinical research to veterinary and human clinical practice. However, the usefulness of these studies is dependent on the quality of their reporting. Davies et al. outlined quality control and assurance procedures which they believe should be built into all veterinary clinical studies.

The authors referred to numerous resources for designing and conducting regulated clinical trials as well as suggesting the use of local guidelines to improve trial design and execution. The authors commented that even in non-regulated clinical trials, following trial guidelines would make them more useful for translation into the clinical setting.

It is further discussed that funders, publishers and quality assurance organizations are increasingly exploring ways to improve the quality of reporting including using standardized guidelines and policies. The authors concluded that research outcomes should be constantly scrutinized as new data emerges in regulated and non-regulated research settings.

Stimulating collaboration between human and veterinary health care professionals for One Health

The One Health approach is a concept which aims to improve health and well-being of humans and animals by using an interdisciplinary approach to address the relationship between health care for humans and animals as well as the environment. The approach requires a collaborative effort between human and veterinary healthcare professionals; however documented collaboration between these groups is limited.

Professional associations may develop the One Health approach by acting as a facilitator to increase collaboration between health care professionals.

In this study Eussen et al. explored the social dilemma experienced by health care professionals to help understand how the collaborative effort could be improved. The authors developed a questionnaire  to assess the relationship between collaboration and a common goal. The survey was completed by 368 respondents, 16% were human healthcare professionals 84% were veterinary healthcare professionals.

It was found that a common goal stimulates collaboration. The authors suggested that professional associations may develop the One Health approach by acting as a facilitator to increase collaboration between health care professionals.

Exploring the possibilities of diagnosing adverse food reactions in dogs and cats with in vivo and in vitro tests

Adverse food reactions in dogs and cats usually involve eliminating certain foods from the diet and using provocation tests to identify intolerances or allergies, which is a similar method used in human medicine. However this method can be considered laborious by pet owners, and there is a low rate of compliance.

A laboratory test using samples of blood, saliva or hair could be more convenient for pet-owners who have animals showing signs of an adverse food reaction. In this study, Mueller and Olivry systematically reviewed 22 publications reporting data for adverse food reaction tests.

Source: Pixabay

The authors found articles describing several different tests such as lymphocyte proliferation tests, serum tests for food-specific allergies and colonoscopy tests. Lymphocyte proliferation tests gave the most promising results, but are difficult to perform. Until a more simple protocol can be developed, this test can only be used as a research tool. The other tests reviewed were not considered currently useful so the best diagnostic procedure remains the elimination diet with provocation trials.

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