Further your surgical skills with Dr Bruce Smith

As vets we all strive to improve the quality of life of our patients. Sometimes in order to achieve this goal, our patients may require surgical procedures which are technically challenging. Surgical procedures involving the patella and stifle are often complex but rewarding. Are you up to the challenge of furthering your skills in this area?

Dr Bruce Smith enjoys the challenges involved with surgery to joints, in particular the stifle and patella. His current roles as Clinical Director, Small Animal Veterinary Teaching Hospital, University of Queensland & Councillor, Australian & New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists allow Bruce to devote a significant amount of time to help other specialists and clinicians achieve their goals. VetPrac is fortunate to have Bruce as an educator at the upcoming Patella and Stifle workshop.

Let’s get to know Bruce, and his pathway to becoming a specialist surgeon and committed educator.



What inspired you to become a veterinarian and then go onto specialise in surgery?
“I recall that of all the clinical disciplines (and I was determined to be a clinician) it was surgery that grabbed my attention and imagination as an undergraduate and it grew from there”.

Do you have a favourite surgery or procedure that you like to perform?
“Definitely those procedures that can restore function, reduce pain and allow the animal to express itself in movement – so orthopaedic and spinal. More specifically I have a deep appreciation and respect for engineers and bio mechanists and the implants and procedures that they have made possible”.

What is it about surgery involving the patella and stifle that you enjoy the most?
“The surgical management of a dynamic structure – such as a joint – are intellectually and technically challenging and rewarding. The patella is certainly such a challenge”.

Do you have any advice for general practitioners that wish to pursue further education in orthopaedic surgery?
“Motivation is the key; if you have it you will persist and if you persist you can achieve. There is so much access to informational and skills knowledge these days that a purposeful practitioner can easily self-inform. However, surgery is ultimately a balance of knowledge, technical skill, and good judgement. As such surgery has to be repeatedly & correctly practiced to become a skilled performance. This takes discipline, constant vigilance and good habits, both technical and mental. Developing good habits takes lots of time and hard work – there are no short-cuts, but practical instruction courses are a start”.

Are you working on any projects at the moment?
“Currently my time is primarily taken up with helping other specialists & clinicians achieve their goals. However, I maintain a keen interest in what is new and will cheerfully get involved in intern and resident projects”.

What do you enjoy about teaching?
“Ultimately teaching is learning, and this is a professional habit that I have nurtured over my career and it has rewarded me well. I see younger veterinarians facing the same challenges I did in developing their career, and believe that the exchange of skills, knowledge and experience is one of the true joys of being a professional”.

What do you like to do to wind down? What do you like to do for fun?
“Not a lot these days – slowing down, taking time to “smell the roses” and to catch up on a mountain of reading”.

Dr Bruce Smith can be contacted at basmith@ozemail.com.au


Join Dr Bruce Smith, Dr John Punke and Dr Peter Young at Patella & Stifle Surgery in November. This practical hands-on workshop has limited places available. Book your spot now or download the brochure for more information.


Surgical Instrument Care for Vet Techs & Nurses

Veterinary technicians and nurses have exceptional educational opportunities with VetPrac. We value your skills, knowledge and enthusiasm as an essential part of the veterinary care team.

On May 27 and June 17, veterinary technicians and nurses are invited to join us online for a complimentary two part series on instrument care and maintenance presented by the wonderful Cindy Grew from B Braun. Places are limited so register now to secure your spot.

Thank you for this introductory blog Cindy!

To write a blog about yourself is not easy! How do you describe yourself, what it is you do and who are you? Put me in a room with a group of people and I can talk all day, but this is difficult….so here we go.

My name is Cindy Grew and I am the Business Development Coordinator for the Vet Care division of B. Braun Australia and New Zealand.

When I am not working full time for B. Braun, I am a mother of 3 beautiful girls, wife to a supportive husband (I travel a lot), vet nurse and a wildlife carer.

I like to keep busy and learn new things; it is my love of learning that brought me to leave my fulltime position as a vet nurse, trainer, and practice manager.

For the past 8, actually now I think about it almost 9 years, I have had the privilege to be a part of an amazing team of vets and nurses at 3 hospitals, one of which is 24hrs.

The decision to leave the clinic on a full-time basis was a difficult one; who can really walk away from caring for animals every day? However, it has been so worth it.

I’ve been working for B. Braun for 2 and a half years, and part of my role is to train and educate vets, techs and nurses. Training people is something that I truly enjoy and to be able to offer this to veterinary clinics around Australia and New Zealand has been incredible. I learn a lot from my discussions with so many amazing veterinary professionals which has made me a better trainer.

I feel that continuing one’s education is vital; it helps us become better, more adaptable to our workplace and more accepting of change. To be able to bring different levels of training to nurses and techs is really important to me and to be able to offer this training remotely is incredible.

Everyone should have this opportunity, and no one should miss out.



Join Margie and Cindy on Wednesday May 27th. We’ll cover how to identify damaged and non-functioning instruments, how to clean, dry and store them and what to look for during the inspection process. Are you inspecting them every time? We will help give you the tools to process your instruments, so that you have a better understanding of the importance of their function. Then it’s over to you – tell us what it’s like in your practice and let’s go over your challenges.

Places are limited so register now to secure your spot.


Dr Charles Kuntz reviews the iM3 tabletop mouth gag

Treatment for respiratory and associated ailments in brachycephalic patients are proving common due to the popularity of these breeds. VetPrac’s Fix the Face: Brachycephalic and Ear Surgery workshop is open for registrations and we’re fortunate to have a wonderful education team led by Dr Charles Kuntz.

Register now to join us in October for hands on training with expert educators and experience using the latest equipment such as the iM3 TTMG tabletop mouth gag (TTMG).

The TTMG was designed by iM3 with the help of specialists to hold anaesthetised patients in the best possible posoition for examination and treatment of the oral cavity.

Dr Charles Kuntz has provided this review about his experience using the tabletop mouth gag (TTMG).



“I have been using the iM3 tabletop mouth gag (TTMG) for about 4 years for positioning of the head for numerous procedures, most commonly brachycephalic airway surgery. This device is absolutely perfect for positioning dogs’ heads for this procedure and saves a lot of time and expense (think endless rolls of tape) normally required for positioning brachy’s heads for surgery. The other really nice thing is that it is adjustable. We can have the head in one position for the nares and then change the position for the soft palate and saccules. I strongly recommend the use of the TTMG for this purpose”.

Dr Charles Kuntz
Specialist Surgeon
DVM, MS, MACVSc, Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons, Registered Specialist of Small Animal Surgery, Fellow of Surgical Oncology.



Join us in October! Dr Charles Kuntz, Dr Tania Banks, Dr Abbie Tipler and Dr Kat Crosse are our wonderful team of educators for this practical hands-on training. Registrations are open for the Fix the Face workshop and places are limited so book now to secure your place.


Optimising your use of Opioids [video]

This “Learn with Margie” Zoom Rounds instalment about Optimising Your Use of Opioids is at capacity and registrations are closed.

Don’t worry though! We have many more Zoom Rounds scheduled and you’re invited to register for these before they fill.


💡 Learn Anaesthesia and Pain Management with Dr Margie McEwen

🗓 Wednesday evenings from 7.30pm EST on allocated dates

📍 Online in a private zoom meeting

🎟️ https://lnkd.in/gQ9dY77

🚨 Places are limited so register now to secure your spot!

⬇️ Check out Margie’s latest vlog.



Unlock the secrets of Abdominal Ultrasound

Do you want to improve your skills in abdominal ultrasound but don’t know how to get started?

Dr Michelle Lau, a senior registrar in Veterinary Radiology at the University Veterinary Teaching Hospital Sydney, has offered some useful tips to those of you who are keen to make use of this amazing diagnostic tool which can offer so much without harm or trauma.

Michelle will be joining VetPrac as an educator at the Abdominal Ultrasound workshop in Brisbane on October 31 – November 1, 2020.


Michelle wanted to be a veterinarian since she was 7 years old! Her best friend at primary school mentioned it one day and the idea just stuck with her as she was growing up. Her interest in diagnostic imaging developed very early in her veterinary career.

During her internship year at QVS/Pet ER she did a lot of emergency night shifts where the veterinary team performed radiographs and brief ultrasounds overnight. She enjoyed it a lot (particularly ultrasound) and wanted to gain more knowledge in this field. Michelle soon realised that she wanted to specialise in diagnostic imaging.

For Michelle, the most enjoyable aspect of abdominal ultrasound is the amount of information that can be gained in a non-invasive, non-harmful way. She particularly loves it when ultrasound gives her useful information that complements other clinical findings (e.g. bloodwork) for a more definitive diagnosis.



Michelle encourages new grads to use every possible opportunity to practice ultrasound.

For example, briefly practice ultrasounding on animals that are already clipped for desexing. Michelle states “It sounds cliché, but continual practice is important. Also, don’t be afraid about not knowing things – this is completely normal, and you will get better with time”.

For general practitioners wishing to improve their skills in abdominal ultrasound Michelle suggests doing continuing education (e.g. VetPrac ultrasound courses, the long-distance graduate certificate in ultrasound offered by Melbourne Uni), reading textbooks (e.g. Small Animal Diagnostic Ultrasound) and continually practising ultrasound in your practice.


Abdominal Ultrasound workshop with VetPrac


Michelle does not deny that performing abdominal ultrasound can be challenging. Michelle finds that ultrasounding the cranial abdomen in big, deep chested dogs is always a challenge. And sometimes she finds it hard to locate the right adrenal gland.

Some practical tips that Michelle learnt from experience relate to clipping adequately and sedation. ” It’s better to clip more fur off than clipping too little; avoid dousing the animal in alcohol and gel and then realising you need to now clip off wet, goopy fur. You may need to clip further cranially than you think you’ll need to, particularly in big and deep chested dogs. Where it’s possible and safe to do so, sedating patients makes it a lot easier to ultrasound.”

When Michelle is not working at perfecting her ultrasound skills, she loves to exercise (especially running!), rock climb/boulder and hike. In her downtime, she enjoys reading, hanging out with family and friends, and cuddles and walks with her dog Rocky, an 8 yo Foxy with a lot of personality.

So, if you’d like to begin a journey to unlock the secrets of abdominal ultrasound, and find that elusive right adrenal gland, why not join Michelle at the VetPrac abdominal ultrasound workshop.


Registrations are open for these Abdominal Ultrasound workshops

Click on the images for more details


VET TIPS for treating perioperative pain in veterinary patients

Opioids are very effective analgesics for treating perioperative pain in our veterinary patients. Join us on May 6th to learn practical tips for managing your patients’ pain.

Click here to register or download the brochure for more information.


#1 Opioids have little cross tolerance between most receptor subtypes, which means that you can try other drugs within the same receptor class as another strategy to manage pain.

#2 Greater potency ≠ Greater efficacy
A partial agonist buprenorphine has greater potency (requires less mg to exert its effects) than full agonist morphine but does not produce the same maximal level of analgesia (less efficacy).

#3 Morphine and pethidine when administered rapidly intravenously (IV) can result in a histamine release in your patient.

#4 Whilst Antagonists completely reverse the opioids effect (and side effects) they also increase intracranial pressure

#5 Antagonist use if not carefully considered and administered will lead to acute awareness of pain, which can lead to sympathetic stimulation resulting in catecholamine release, cardiac arrhythmias, hypertension and possible death.




Dr Christine Hawke: Making a difference in animal dentistry

The desire by vets to improve their patients’ health and reduce pain is universal.

Have you ever considered how recognising and treating dental disease in our pets can dramatically improve their quality of life? This realisation was the catalyst that sparked Dr Christine Hawke’s interest in dentistry.

In a recent interview, Christine gave me a candid account of her beginnings in veterinary dentistry – an area that was not always her favourite part of veterinary practice!

“I was always petrified of surgery and hated dentistry as I didn’t understand it; I used to have many tactics for avoiding doing dentals (even house-calls were preferable and that is saying something!). I was a budding internal medicine vet, had just completed my PhD in immunogenetics, of all things, and starting a clinical teaching position at the University of Sydney when I had to choose between running either the spey or dental clinic. Having sworn I’d never do another spey in my life, I had to learn dentistry on the fly. I was shocked to realise how much oral disease our small animals suffer with, how they do not express their pain, and the sheer extent of dental disease as a welfare issue in our pets. The difference we can make to our patients’ health and comfort with good dental care is astounding.”

I asked Christine what parts of veterinary dentistry she finds interesting and what she believes general practitioners would benefit from learning about and performing better?

“I am really interested in developmental issues in puppies (and just generally interested in puppies of course!!) – they are far more common than most of us realise. The malocclusions are the most obvious ones – we see a lot of linguoverted or ‘base narrow’ canines, overshot or undershot jaws and the like, especially as we have bred dogs to have ‘designer’ head shapes with less attention paid to their functionality. GPs can pick these up with a really good physical examination. If GPs know when treatment is required or not, and the treatment options available, they can not only limit the amount of pain and trauma but decrease the long-term issues these dogs have by offering early intervention.

The other big, underrated thing GPs can start doing is counting the teeth in dogs at six months (it’s easy when they are under anaesthesia for desexing). Unerupted teeth seem to be becoming more common, especially with the rise in brachycephalic breeds, and about a third of these will give rise to a destructive dentigerous cyst during the dog’s life. A simple dental xray can rule out whether there is an unerupted tooth, and early removal of the tooth can literally save the jaw from an inoperable pathological fracture down the track.”



With respect to dental extractions, Christine learnt from experience rather than just reading a textbook and has the following advice:

“ I have learned that extractions are not as difficult as they seem if you plan them well (just like any surgery) – my tip is to use anatomy and physics (the easy physics, like straight lines, clear pathways and which way to use the force for good rather than evil, not the hard stuff like quantum entanglement) to make your job easy. Knowing how and why things go wrong (and it is usually the same mistakes we see, over and over again) is the best way to avoid dental disasters.”

For new graduates who want to improve their knowledge and skills in veterinary dentistry, Christine has the following advice:

“Take your time and plan your extractions. Don’t rush and don’t lose your patience. Stick to the basic principles and, as you get more experience, you will get faster. You also don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Use the experience of those around you to pick up tips and improve your skills. If you don’t have mentors around you to help, look for postgraduate training, especially those with good hands-on workshops to hone your skills.”

What does Christine do on her days off?

“I have kids, need I say more? I am a skilled ‘muber’ driver (‘mum’s uber’). But when I get my own spare time, I do like to write fiction and I love to read, especially books that are on actual paper rather than a screen.”



Want to learn more from Christine, and share her passion for veterinary dentistry?

Join us at Practical Skills Bootcamp with a nuts and bolts curriculum specifically designed for experienced vets, new grads, or those returning to work. We’ll get you fit for the job with topics in abdominal surgery, dentistry and animal behaviour. Along with wet-labs, we have communication and meditation topics in this 3-day workshop jam packed full of theory and practical sessions you can implement immediately in your clinic.


Christine can be contacted on 1300 838 336 and www.sydneypetdentistry.com.au



The “Two Traceys” – Legends of animal behaviour

At VetPrac we love teamwork, and thrive on it, from planning workshops to facilitating workshop participants to work together in their learning experience! When I met Dr Tracey Henderson and Tracy Irons a few years ago, I was blown away by their working relationship; it’s certainly something to witness – a perfect example of a team achieving more than the sum of its parts. There’s a reason why within VetPrac circles we call them the 2 Traceys!

Dr Tracey Henderson always had pets and loved them; she grew up wanting to be a farmer, but her parents wouldn’t let her come home on the farm as they wanted her to ‘strive higher’. And the rest is history! When she graduated in 2000, she started puppy preschool at her first job at Willunga Veterinary Services. That is where her passion for behaviour unexpectantly grew! And grow it did! The more she learnt and consulted, the more passionate she became. Tracey finds it so rewarding being able to help pets and their owners live their best lives with mental illness. Since 2004 Tracey has been offering behaviour consultations – initially at Willunga Veterinary Services, and then at Australian Veterinary Behaviour Services, which she co-founded with Tracy Irons in 2012. She left GP practice about 5 years ago to do 100% behaviour – now she can live and breathe it!!!

Tracey and Tracy have known each other for many years, but probably really became friends when they were both pregnant – their two girls were born 1 day apart in 2008! And again, the rest is history. When I asked Tracey about her working relationship with Tracy, she said “Tracy and I get along really well both in the consulting room, the clinic and presenting workshops. We are both as passionate as each other about animal behaviour. Her strengths are my weaknesses and vice versa – we bounce off each other so well. The secret of a successful working relationship includes similar motivation level and work ethic, good communication, honesty, kindness and support.”

Tracy Irons has worked for 8 years at the RSPCA as a behaviour trainer and kennel supervisor, and became a Delta trainer in order to have the qualifications to work with a behaviour vet! (No prizes for guessing which vet that might have been!). She recalls that she first met Tracey when she came to assist at the RSPCA. Their friendship and love for behaviour developed from then. They call themselves the “behaviour nerds”. Tracy says that the secret to their relationship is honesty, dedication and lots of laughter… and wine!!!!



I asked them both if they had noticed any behavioural problem that is significantly more common now, compared to say, 10 years ago?

Tracey said that over the last 10 years she’s been seeing a lot more anxiety cases in general, but that this is probably because pet owners are more aware that there is help available, and behavioural medicine is becoming more widespread and referred more often.

Tracy has noticed an increase of diagnosing dogs with “hyperarousal disorder”. She says that “instead of being labelled as a “naughty dog or disobedient” these dogs are suffering emotionally. And the owners are so grateful for our support and assistance”

In Tracey’s opinion, recent veterinary graduates receive inadequate undergraduate training in behaviour. She believes that they aren’t adequately trained to advise pet owners about behavioural issues, “which is concerning because many pet owners turn to their vet as their first port of call for a behavioural problem”. She is also concerned that they may not receive adequate training in animal handling to be able to safely manage “difficult” dogs and cats in their everyday GP practice case load. At Roseworthy University in South Australia Tracey is allocated just 2 hours to teach dog behaviour to the 5th years, and another 2 hours for cat behaviour.

Experiencing the 2 Traceys in a workshop, it’s hard not to develop a keen interest in behaviour.

When asked about what they enjoy about teaching, Tracey said “I am so passionate about behavioural medicine and educating people on how to recognize mental illness and understand pet’s behaviour in general, which in turn helps pets improve their quality of life. I love watching participants get excited and motivated as they learn throughout a workshop.”

Tracy says “I enjoy the moment when participants learn something that they haven’t learnt before. And from then the participant has a keen interest in behaviour.”

Believe it or not, the 2 Traceys do enjoy their leisure time in different ways!

Tracey likes to walk her dog in the mornings to start her day off well. She likes to spend time with her horse and her dogs, and loves spending time with her family. She also loves camping, with no internet or devices, and off the grid!



Tracy and her husband have just started sailing racing nacras which is a great opportunity for them to spend time together. They have 5 children between them, so they spend a lot time on the river water skiing, and down at the beach.



To experience firsthand this amazing duo of Traceys, come along to the VetPrac Practical Skills Bootcamp on October 16-18th at UQ Gatton. This workshop is open to new veterinarians, those returning to work after a break, or experienced veterinarians looking for a refresher course. We’ll cover everything from animal behaviour to abdominal surgery, dentistry, communication, and so much more!



Dr Tracey Henderson and Tracy Irons can be contacted at Australian Veterinary Behaviour Services (AVBS), 116 Main Road, McLaren Vale, SA 5171

Phone: 08 7480 0597 Email: info@avbs.net.au



Vet Tips for Patella & Stifle Surgery

We’re looking forward to VetPrac’s Patella & Stifle Surgery workshop at the University of Queensland, Gatton Campus, in June. Have you booked your place yet?

Join Dr John Punke, Dr Peter Young and Dr Bruce Smith at this practical hands-on workshop to develop your skills and practice modern techniques in cruciate repair.

Dr Punke has kindly developed these tips for us to share with you. Be sure to register to join us in June for more tips and expert advice regarding Patella & Stifle Surgery. We hope to see you there!

Tip 1

Tibial tuberosity transposition (TTT) is the most important and nerve-wracking procedure to perform in the majority of medial patellar luxation cases. Indeed, failure to perform this procedure is the most common cause of surgical failure. Build confidence through our specialist’s practical tips and tricks created from years of experience.


Tip 2

Dogs with medial patella luxation (MPL) have been shown to have an INCREASED risk of rupturing their cranial cruciate ligament (CCL).  MPL surgery earlier in life can minimize osteoarthritis and protect the CCL long term resulting in a happier and healthier patient.


Tip 3

There is very much an art to performing surgery for MPL. The trochlear wedge recession and a more recent modification, the trochlear block recession technique, both allow elevation of the articular cartilage in the trochlear groove, deepening of the groove, and replacement of the cartilage. As there are no fixations, simply the pressure of the patellar to hold in the newly formed piece of cartilage, the success of the procedure relies upon the surgeons fine carving skills. With the support of highly skilled specialist surgeons and real tissues, you can hone your carving skills for better patient outcomes.


Register now to secure your place in the Patella & Stifle Surgery workshop. Dr John Punke, Dr Peter Young & Dr Bruce Smith will be on hand to guide you through the intricacies of this focused arthroplasty workshop. Registrations are limited so we recommend you book now to avoid missing out!

What is a Canine Rehabilitation Therapist?

Dr Kirsten Kirkby-Shaw explains the role of canine rehabilitation therapists and how their examination techniques differ to veterinary practitioners. Check out video featuring Dr Kirkby-Shaw and Dr Ilana Mendels.

Don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more of our awesome videos.



Join Dr Kirsten Kirkby-Shaw and the wonderful team from Canine Rehabilitation Institute for Introduction to Canine Rehabilitation.

Participants will gain a fundamental understanding of canine anatomy, physiology and biomechanics. Build relevant structures on canine skeletons using clay, and get hands-on experience palpating live dogs. Common orthopaedic and neurological disorders of the canine patient are covered including both conservative and surgical treatment options. Canine rehabilitation modalities including traditional physical therapy and integrative therapies are introduced, as well as ways they can be incorporated into a veterinary practice.

This workshop is open to veterinarians, physiotherapists, vet nurses and technicians. Vet nurses/technicians must submit an employer letter indicating they work with a veterinarian or physical therapist certified in canine rehabilitation or registered for this workshop.

Click here to register for this workshop or download the brochure for more information.