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How goldfish make alcohol to survive without oxygen

    Credit: © ChiccoDodiFC / Fotolia

Scientists at the Universities of Oslo and Liverpool have uncovered the secret behind a goldfish's remarkable ability to produce alcohol as a way of surviving harsh winters beneath frozen lakes.

Humans and most other vertebrate animals die within a few minutes without oxygen. Yet goldfish and their wild relatives, crucian carp, can survive for days, even months, in oxygen-free water at the bottom of ice-covered ponds.

During this time, the fish are able to convert anaerobically produced lactic acid into ethanol, which then diffuses across their gills into the surrounding water and avoids a dangerous build-up of lactic acid in the body.

The molecular mechanism behind this highly unusual ability, which is unique among vertebrates and more commonly associated with brewer's yeast, has now been uncovered and is published in the journal Scientific Reports.

The international team has shown that muscles of goldfish and crucian carp contain not just the usual one, but two sets of the proteins normally used to channel carbohydrates towards their breakdown within a cell's mitochondria -- a key step for energy production.

While one set of these proteins appears very similar to that in other species, the second set is strongly activated by the absence of oxygen and shows a mutation that allows channelling of metabolic substrates to ethanol formation outside the mitochondria.

Further genetic analyses suggest that the two sets of proteins arose as part of a whole genome duplication event in a common ancestor of goldfish and crucian carp some 8 million years ago.

Dr Michael Berenbrink, an evolutionary physiologist at the University of Liverpool, said: "During their time in oxygen-free water in ice-covered ponds, which can last for several months in their northern European habitat, blood alcohol concentrations in crucian carp can reach more than 50 mg per 100 millilitres, which is above the drink drive limit in these countries.

"However, this is still a much better situation than filling up with lactic acid, which is the metabolic end product for other vertebrates, including humans, when devoid of oxygen."

Lead author Dr Cathrine Elisabeth Fagernes, from the University of Oslo, said: "This research emphasises the role of whole genome duplications in the evolution of biological novelty and the adaptation of species to previously inhospitable environments.

"The ethanol production allows the crucian carp to be the only fish species surviving and exploiting these harsh environments, thereby avoiding competition and escaping predation by other fish species with which they normally interact in better oxygenated waters.

"It's no wonder then that the crucian carp's cousin the goldfish is arguably one of the most resilient pets under human care."

The work is the result of a collaboration between scientists at the University of Liverpool, UK, and the University of Oslo, Norway. The work was funded by the Research Council of Norway.

Retailers advised not to horse around with unregistered veterinary chemical products

Retailers are advised to use caution when stocking veterinary chemical products for use in or on horses, following Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) concern that a number of natural horse products may not be registered.
According to APVMA CEO Dr Chris Parker, the regulator is seeing a number of veterinary chemical horse products claiming to be natural, organic or chemical-free on the market that are not APVMA registered and are therefore illegal to import, possess, advertise and supply.
“The definition of a veterinary product is broad and inclusive under Australian law. This means both natural and man-made substances are regulated by the APVMA if they claim to have a therapeutic effect on an animal.
 “The market for veterinary horse products has expanded in recent years and many new products marketed as natural, organic, or chemical-free may not have been assessed by the APVMA,” Dr Parker said.
“It’s a concern because some of these products claim to have a therapeutic effect or enhance the physical qualities of horses, but have not been independently assessed to confirm they are actually safe or work as claimed.
“Businesses have a duty of care to make sure the veterinary chemical products they promote and supply in Australia are registered.”
To raise awareness of the requirements for veterinary chemical product registration, the APVMA is running a targeted campaign to inform Australian retailers of their obligations and help consumers recognise a registered veterinary chemical product before purchase.
Both retailers and consumers are encouraged to check product labels for an APVMA approval number.
Dr Parker also cautioned against buying veterinary chemical products directly from overseas.
“Just because a product is registered for use in another country, does not mean it’s legal to import, supply and use in Australia,” Dr Parker said.
If you have bought a product that you think should be registered but doesn’t have an APVMA approval number on the label, please contact the APVMA at or call 1300 700 315.
Learn more about natural veterinary horse products and your responsibilities at
No amorous pets within 500 feet of a church, and other weird animal laws

We’re sure there are good reasons behind all of these laws, but they aren’t always obvious
For example, California still has a law on the books making it illegal for animals to mate within 500 feet of a tavern, school or church. Too bad animals can’t read. We’re sure there was a good reason for this law, but we can’t think of one.

California law also bans the feeding of any and all wild animals, which to the shock of many, includes squirrels and birds. The law was written to keep people from using food to lure wild animals out into the open, where they could be more easy killed.

In the case of birds, legislators and wildlife officials wanted to prevent them from being captured for the illegal bird market or killed for their plumage.

All parties pretty much agree that no one is likely to get arrested for having a bird feeder in their backyard. As long as the birds were there anyway, it’s seen as OK to feed them.

The law even extends to protecting their feathers, making it illegal to possess most bird feathers, even if you only picked one up off the ground. While aimed at keeping birds safe, many people feel it is a quill too far, especially with fines ranging from $15,000 to $100,000.

California also has a thing about domesticated ferrets. They’ve been banned as pets for 84 years based on the — some say misguided — premise that ferrets on the loose would destroy the environment.

They wouldn’t, as proven by the 48 other states that permit ferret ownership, but those wanting to legalize the pets have yet to convince state officials of that.. Advocates say that comparing a domesticated ferret to a wild one is like comparing a poodle to a wolf, but officials still fear herds of marauding ferrets would kill birds, prairie dogs and fish.

If you’re caught with a ferret, the animal will be confiscated or you can arrange to have it transported to a ferret sanctuary state, which would be anywhere other than California and Hawaii. You might also receive a $1,000 fine.
Managing joint pain in dogs and cats
Arthritis is a human condition that our furry friends sadly also suffer from, especially as they grow older.
Hosted by Australian Small Animal Veterinarians (ASAV), a special interest group of the Australian Veterinary Association, the FASAVA Congress is for veterinarians in the Asia Pacific region who predominantly treat pets. This weekend, small animal surgery specialist, Dr Stephen Fearnside, will discuss the options that are available here and now and what the future might hold to help manage chronic pain in Aussie family pets.
“A significant proportion of the pet population suffers from osteoarthritis. As medical advancements continue, our patients live longer and as a result the number of patients we see with chronic diseases such as osteoarthritis will increase and will require management.
“Fortunately, we’ve become better at recognising the problem and there are plenty of management options for veterinarians to investigate and use,” Dr Fearnside said.
When managing patients with osteoarthritis, veterinarians look to address three key issues:
•             reducing pain
•             improving mobility and quality of life
•             slowing disease progression.
“Rehabilitation and physiotherapy are playing an increasing role in the multi-modal management of chronic pain in dogs and cats.
“Therapies such as massage, joint mobilisation, stretching and targeted exercise programs have become increasingly used in the management of osteoarthritis. Other therapies such as cold laser and therapeutic ultrasound are also being investigated,” Dr Fearnside said.
It’s well understood that obesity plays an important role in contributing to the progression and development of osteoarthritis. Dr Fearnside says that pet owners should discuss weight management strategies with their veterinarian in the effort to combat the disease.
“It’s very hard for pet owners to see their animals suffering and in pain. Providing pets with a healthy and active lifestyle, a nutritious diet, and a preventative health care plan formulated in consultation with a veterinarian gives them the best chance of living long and happy lives.
“While a cure for osteoarthritis is not yet in sight, we do have many management options available to us in our effort to reduce pain and improve the quality of life of our pets suffering with the disease,” he said.
The AVA recommends that pet owners speak to their veterinarian about their pet’s mobility and joint health.
The FASAVA Congress is being held at the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre from 11-14 August 2017. For more information, visit

UK News
Cats are gaining in popularity

The market research company Euromonitor has published a study about cats, which contains some interesting facts.

Cat treats in particular have seen exponential growth in most regions, albeit from a small base, making them the most dynamic category globally in 2017. According to Euromonitor, cats are gaining in popularity in the UK due to their smaller size and socioeconomic factors.

One example of this is that between 2011 and 2016, value sales at constant prices in the US cat litter segment expanded by 17.8 per cent to $ 2.4 bn. The number of US households with a cat also increased by 10.3 per cent to 40.7 million between 2011 and 2016.

According to the Euromonitor study, Internet retailing accounted for 3.0 per cent of value sales of dog and cat food in the US during 2016, up from 1.6 percent in 2011.

102 reasons to vaccinate horses against Hendra
Equine Veterinarians Australia (EVA) is urging horse owners to vaccinate their horses against the deadly Hendra virus following three new confirmed cases in just four weeks.

President of EVA, Dr Ben Poole, said it’s critical that horses located in and around high-risk Hendra areas are vaccinated against Hendra virus

“Another three horses in NSW have died from this preventable disease, which poses serious health risks not just to horses, but humans as well,” Dr Poole said.

From 1994, when the virus was first identified, to August 2017, there have been 60 known Hendra incidents resulting in the death of 102 horses. During this period, Queensland has recorded 40 incidents and NSW has had 20.

“Every one of these horses that has died because of Hendra represents one more compelling reason for horse owners to vaccinate their horses.

“The risk this disease poses to human health is also very real and it is important that the equine community remains vigilant in protecting horses and people from Hendra,” Dr Poole said.

Since the first outbreak was recorded in 1994, there have been seven confirmed cases in people, all of whom had significant contact with horse body fluids. Of those who tested positive for Hendra, four sadly died from the disease, including two veterinarians.

Dr Poole said the vaccine, introduced in 2012, is the most effective way to minimise the risk of Hendra virus. The vaccine is fully registered by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority.
“Vaccination is the most effective way to ensure high standards of horse health and welfare while also protecting veterinarians, horse handlers and owners from contracting this deadly virus.

“Hendra virus is impossible to diagnose without laboratory testing. The signs of this disease can be extremely variable. When your horse is vaccinated against Hendra virus, the probability of your horse having the disease is extremely low and therefore is more likely to receive timely and appropriate therapies.
“We need to remember that right across the country, there are thousands of equine events every year. These events bring together a large number of horses from a wide range of geographical locations, and this compounds the risks associated with Hendra virus infection if horses have not been vaccinated,” Dr Poole said.

Horse owners should contact their local veterinarian for more information about the Hendra virus vaccination.

Collaboration the Key to Controlling Cats on the Tiwi Islands

Marianna Munkara had her face painted as part of the community cat awareness BBQ

Keeping cats as companion animals has been increasing in popularity on the Tiwi Islands with local community members expressing that cats are valuable in assisting to control rat and mice within their homes.  But when you consider that one female cat and her offspring can produce up to 500 kittens a year it is clear to see why action was needed to assess the impact cats were having on the community. 

It’s why AMRRIC teamed up with the University of New England and the Tiwi Land Council to deliver a program funded by the Threaten Species Commissioner on the Tiwi Island community of Wurrumiyanga from 5-9th June.  The University of New England conducted research that included camera surveillance, door to door surveys and four hourly patrols to monitor cat activity during the day and the night.  Based on findings of the research the program determined that the best approach to controlling cats in the community was to undertake a surgical desexing program as well as to provide community education around the impacts cats can have on the community and surrounding wildlife.  This approach considered the community’s values which is vital to the success of the program.

AMRRIC delivered six education sessions to the Murrupurtiyanuwu Catholic Primary School focussing on the impacts of cats on wildlife and the importance of surgical desexing.  In addition Traditional Owners worked with AMRRIC to develop a video about responsible cat ownership to play in the local shop and health clinic. The video was a huge success with community members stopping to watch and discuss the video.

A community cat awareness BBQ was also held with the support of the local Red Cross Centre. Over 100 community members attended, viewing cat education materials and enquiring about cat desexing, and the impacts their cats have on the bush land and native animals.

As a result of working with local community members, the program was a great success with a total of 30 cats being desexed over two days.  It’s just another example of how collaboration can achieve great results.


The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) applauds the NSW Government in legislating Boxing Day trade across all parts of NSW after it was welcomed by retailers, employees and consumers during a two-year trial.


An independent review with comprehensive feedback from business owners, employees and shoppers has revealed this legislation will level the playing field for retailers who were previously prohibited from taking part in the Boxing Day sales simply because of their location.


ARA Executive Director, Russell Zimmerman said this announcement is great news for NSW retailers as Boxing Day is one of the busiest trading days of the year.


“Consumers want to shop on Boxing Day, and retailers want to trade, it’s as simple as that,” Mr Zimmerman said.


“Giving NSW retailers an opportunity to trade on this public holiday not only gives retailers a chance to increase their sales it allows physical stores to compete with online and interstate retailers.”


As the retail sector is the largest private employer, the ARA believes this decision is also great news for NSW retail staff.


“Allowing Boxing Day trade in all areas of NSW gives retailers the opportunity to roster volunteer staff on one of the biggest trading days of the year,” Mr Zimmerman said.


“Public holiday rates are a great way for employees to earn money and increasing trading hours for NSW retailers significantly reduces underemployment.”


This legislation aligns with the ARA’s submission to the NSW Government which supports deregulated trading hours on Boxing Day and will be introduced in the coming months.


The ARA will work with retailers and their employees to ensure they are fully aware of their rights ahead of Boxing Day this year.

Thoroughbred horse levy at the starting gates

 A new research and development levy for the thoroughbred horse industry begins 1 September
  • The levy, supported by industry, was a 2016 Coalition election commitment and delivered in the 2017-18 Budget, with $1.2 million in industry-matching funding
  • R&D will target better disease control, stronger foals and horse welfare measures
 Thoroughbred horse breeders and the whole industry will soon have greater certainty about investment in priority long-term research and development, with a new research and development levy to begin on 1 September.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce, said the government was delivering on its $1.2 million election commitment to support the industry’s request to establish a levy, which will fund research to develop better disease control, stronger foals and horse welfare measures.
“Stallion owners will pay a levy of $10 per mare covered per season and mare owners will pay a levy of $10 per mare returned per season,” Minister Joyce said.
“The government will match industry’s own contributions up to $400,000 per year, with the levy thus expected to generate a total of $2.4 million for R&D over three years.
“The R&D levy is aimed at maintaining a strong, productive and profitable thoroughbred horse industry.
“The Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) will manage the levy funds collected by industry, and work with industry to develop a research and development plan.”
Mr Joyce said the levy was an important development for Australia, home to the second largest thoroughbred breeding industry in the world, after the United States, with 660 stud farms supplying thoroughbred horses to both domestic and overseas markets.
“The industry employs 65,000 people, particularly in rural and regional areas and is worth $5 billion per annum to the Australian economy, so there’s no room for horsing around with industry risks like horse diseases.
“The levy will fund projects for the benefit of the whole industry, such as those focussed on reducing injury, the incidence and impact of diseases and parasites and improved foal development and breeding outcomes.
"It could also be used to fund research to improve the safety of industry participants and the welfare of horses; and enhance the environmental sustainability of the industry.”
As announced by RIRDC, the industry advisory group for the thoroughbred levy has been set up and met for the first time on 28-29 June 2017. Their first piece of work is developing the 5-year plan for how the thoroughbred R&D funds should be spent.
The advisory panel comprises:
  • Professor Nigel Perkins from the School of Veterinary Science at the University of Queensland (CHAIR)
  • Jacqueline Stewart, (Keeper of the Australian Stud Book)
  • Dr Catherine Chicken (consultant to the Scone Equine Hospital on pathology and infectious disease)
  • Judith Medd (Racing and Wagering Western Australia Industry Veterinarian)
  • Derek Field (Widden Stud General Manager)
  • Tas Rielley (owner/operator of Basinghall Broodmare Farm).
Fast Facts:
  • The peak industry body for Australia’s thoroughbred breeding industry, Thoroughbred Breeders Australia, represents 3,780 individual breeders and industry participants.
  • In the 2015-16 season, 19 406 mares were covered to produce 12 701 live foals.
  • Stallion owners will pay a levy of $10 per mare covered per season. Mare owners will pay a levy of $10 per mare returned per season.

Agricultural chemical manufacturer pays the price for contaminated herbicides

The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) has fined Accensi Pty Ltd (Accensi) $100 000 for the supply of herbicides found to contain additional chemical actives other than those listed in the registered formulation.
APVMA Chief Executive Officer, Dr Chris Parker, said Accensi had settled the payment of four separate infringement notices each totalling $25 000, under section 83(1)(a) of the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Code Act 1994.
“These are the largest fines ever issued by the APVMA under the Agvet Code. The fines reflect that the APVMA treats issues affecting the quality of agricultural and veterinary chemicals seriously,” Dr Parker said.
“Crop protection is a multi-billion dollar industry in Australia and farmers rely on agvet chemical manufacturers and registrants to supply registered products that are safe and will work as directed to eliminate pests and weeds and improve agricultural productivity.
“So when we discovered that a manufacturer had supplied chemicals that didn’t meet the registered formulation, we investigated with the full force of the law.”
The APVMA first became aware of the issue in December 2016, when companies affected by the contamination provided notice to the APVMA of several voluntary recalls that they were undertaking.
In addition to settling the infringement notice amounts, Accensi has been invited to provide an Enforceable Undertaking, regarding contamination control of all SC Herbicide products produced in the future.
The APVMA continues to work with registrants on the voluntary recall of affected agricultural products.

Details of agvet chemicals subject to a voluntary recall are now published and available from 
Could DNA testing make eye disease a thing of the past in Aussie dogs?
Unfortunately, eye problems are not uncommon in Australian dogs. Now with DNA testing, breeders can identify dogs at risk of developing eye disease later in life, and passing the disease onto the next generation of pups.
Hosted by Australian Small Animal Veterinarians (ASAV), a special interest group of the Australian Veterinary Association, the FASAVA Congress is for veterinarians in the Asia Pacific region who predominantly treat pets. This weekend, Dr Anna Deykin from Brisbane Veterinary Specialist Centre, will discuss inherited eye conditions and the role of eye tests in helping to eliminate eye conditions in certain breeds.
“There are many dog breeds in Australia that suffer with congenital and inherited eye conditions. Conditions such as cataracts, glaucoma, dry eye and retinal atrophy are all common in Australia and can have a genetic component. These eye problems can cause irritation, pain and even vision loss in some cases,” Dr Deykin said.
The Australian Canine Eye Scheme (ACES) is a national assessment system for registered dog breeds. It offers a reliable screening service for a range of congenital and inherited eye conditions. The program is administered by the Australian Veterinary Association and eye assessments are carried out by registered veterinary eye specialists.
“The ACES scheme is invaluable to breeders and prospective dog owners because by identifying dogs with eye defects, breeders can plan their breeding programs in a way that minimises the chances of affected dogs passing on painful or vision-threatening eye conditions from one generation to the next,” she said.
Many inherited eye diseases now also have a DNA test.
“Many eye conditions have a later onset so while a dog may appear normal during an eye exam, a DNA test will identify whether it is likely to develop an eye condition later in life.
“By knowing if a dog is a carrier of an eye condition, the breeder can again use this valuable information to plan their mating programs in a way that reassures other breeders and prospective dog owners of the eye health of their litters,” Dr Deykin said.
The AVA advises prospective pet owners to be informed and speak to their veterinarian regarding any health problems associated with specific breeds, prior to purchasing a pet.
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