VNs have a vital role in supporting the annual National Health Equine Health Survey, say the Blue Cross charity and BEVA.

Now in its fourth year, the survey reveals crucial information about common diseases, which could eventually lead to new advances in diagnosis, treatment and prevention.

The 2014 online survey runs from May 18-24 at Surveys from previous years have already provided useful details about skin problems, lameness, weight issues and colic. The results are shared across the sector to help establish benchmarks for equine health and disease in the UK and define priorities for research, training and education.

The data is also released to equine and veterinary colleges and universities to be used as primary source material.

Blue Cross education officer Gemma Taylor said: “Veterinary nurses are vital for maximising the survey’s impact as they have such important interaction with their clients. They are the best people to explain the long-term perspective of the survey to clients and to encourage them to take part.

“It’s a quick, easy, online snapshot survey that takes only five minutes to complete and, as an added incentive, respondents can win some great prizes.”

Last year’s survey revealed 18.6 per cent of horses were suffering from lameness issues, predominantly degenerative joint disease – a five per cent increase on the previous year. This suggested a need to increase awareness of lameness management and prevention among the veterinary profession and owners.

It is hoped that at some stage, possibly even next year, data from the five annual surveys will be peer-reviewed.

Josh Slater, professor of equine clinical studies at the Royal Veterinary College, said peer review not only meant the data was accepted as valid by the scientific community, but that it would become more widely available.

“It means it goes to databases where researchers can easily find it and use it, which is the whole point of doing it,” said Prof Slater, who has helped steer the survey since its inception as part of the joint DEFRA/horse industry national health and equine welfare strategy in 2007.

“We’re aiming to eventually get 100,000 respondents because the more surveys that are completed, the more robust and more useful the data becomes,” he said.

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