ACT Division President Update - October 2023

27 Oct 2023

Dr Michael Hayward, President ACT Division

ACT vet is a nominee for Australian of the Year 2024 ACT LOCAL HERO
The Founder of ACT Pet Crisis Support and a mobile vert clinic for the disadvantaged, Dr Eloise Bright, has been nominated for a Local Hero award in the 2024 Australian of the Year Awards. Please join me in congratulating Eloise, who is bau harum (a sweet fragrance) of a our profession, and also a member of the ACT Division Committee.

Toxoplasma is NOT reliably killed by freezing
For at least 35 years we have believed, and taught clients that, freezing effectively inactivated the tissue cysts (bradyzoites) of Toxoplasma gondii in meat, based on statements like “Tissue cysts in pork were rendered nonviable at -12 C for 3 days”(Dubey 1988 Am J Vet Res49(6):910-3) and “Infective T. gondii was isolated from untreated samples from all animals [mutton] used, but in no case from cured, smoked or frozen [-20oC] meat” (A Lundén 1, A Uggla 1992, Int J Food Microbiol 15(3-4):357-63. doi: 10.1016/0168-1605(92)90069-f). This has formed the basis of recommendations such as “Freezing or irradiation can kill tissue cysts without affecting meat quality” in Toxoplasma Gondii Infection in Cats: ABCD guidelines on prevention and management, Hartmann et al 2013 Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery 2013 15: 631 at:DOI: 10.1177/1098612X13489228 (

However, recent research has shown that freezing is unreliable in killing Toxoplasma. Garcia et al inoculated a five month old pig with 4,000 sporulated T. gondii oocysts, and it and a control pig were slaughtered 60 days later. Samples of raw, and dry cured, ham with then refrigerated or frozen. Presence of T. gondii was confirmed by PCR (in the experimental samples). Samples (2-4 cm thick) were then frozen for 1 to 7 (raw) or 14 (dry cured) days in a domestic freezer at – 20oC.

Samples were then processed (acid-pepsin digestion) and then inoculated intraperitoneally into SPF mice. Mice were then analysed by serum IFA and PCR of brain tissue.

“Freezing of raw meat at -20oC for 1, 2, 3, 6, and 7 days (or dry cured meat for 14 days) did not reduce the infectivity of T. gondii. Mice infected with frozen samples seroconverted, and the CT in the brains of these mice was 27.69 to 35.22”

It seems we need to change our recommendations to clients to not rely on freezing of meat to protect cats and themselves, but rather to rely on cooking. This is particularly important given information provided by Quinn Mackie at the AVA conference in Adelaide in May, that 44% of Australian lamb mince (sourced from supermarkets) contains Toxoplasma DNA (Dawson et al 2020 Lamb as a potential source of Toxoplasma gondii infection for Australians Aust N Z J Public Health 44(1):49-52. doi: 10.1111/1753-6405.12955. Epub 2019 Dec 11.)

The acute effects of Toxoplasma in humans are well known, but researchers now believe there are strong association between chronic Toxoplasma infection and bipolar disorders, schizophrenia, suicidal ideation, and decreased reaction times (at least).

Equine Veterinarians Dermatology evening
Isn’t it exciting when we see someone we think we know quite well revealing a new area of their personality, knowledge and skills! On Thursday 12 October, veterinary specialist dermatologist Dani Holahan lectured to 13 local equine vets about pruritus in horses (and one definitely non-equine vet). Dani’s experience was very evident as she presented about the presentation, diagnosis and treatment of Equine Atopic Dermatitis, Food Allergies, Contact Dermatitis, Arthropod envenomation (Culicoides, biting flies, Chorioptes), Pinworms, Drug reactions, Dermatophytes, Malassezia, Staph. infections, Vasculitis, Pemphigus foliaceus, and even otitis externa.

Dani Holahan is an amazingly generous and passionate veterinarian, who most of us only knew as a small animal specialist practitioner. But she is excited to see skin disease in horses also! As a Murrumbateman resident, she is already diagnosing paddocked horses from afar (although the owners don’t know it yet!). Dani, thank you for a wonderful evening.

This is the third meeting the Division has been able to hold for our horse vet colleagues, and we trust the group will continue to communicate and meet together regularly from now on.

Codes of Practice under the ACT Animal Welfare ACT- Cats and Poultry – your chance to comment!
The ACT AWAC, of which Division member Melanie Latter is a member, has been busy! After revising the Codes for Ferts, Rabbits, Guinea Pigs, and Rats and Mice recently (Division reviewed and made substantial comments), they have now invited us to comment on new versions of the ACT Codes of Practice for the welfare of Poultry, and of Cats.

There is still time if you would like to read and contribute to our comments on these Codes – Comments on the Code for Poultry is due by Tuesday 31 October, and the one for cats by Monday 6 November. Please email either Liz Gemes, Senior Advocacy Officer, and myself ( 

Consultation: NSW Draft Medicines, Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Regulation
The NSW Government is proposing changes to this regulation, under which (together with the associated Act) vets have prescribing, dispensing etc rights and obligations when working in NSW. Proposed changes include, apparently, the possibility of fully electronic prescribing (paper script not required). NOTE – any changes in NSW will not change the current rights and requirements in the ACT!
Send your feedback to the AVA Senior Advocacy Officer Liz Gemes for consideration for inclusion in the formal AVA submission. Please send feedback to by 12 November 2023. Make your own submission directly via, by Friday 22 December.


On Monday I received a request from WIN News to speak about a suggested “uptick” in the incidence of companion animals affected by Ixodes holocyclus (the paralysis tick) in the ACT. A swift call-out to local practices elicited 5 responses – thank you! - with this information:

  • Capital Paws (group of nine practices) – “three cases last week, not sure about the whole year” (it is unclear if this response represented the whole group or just one of the practices)
  • Canberra Veterinary Hospital –“three cases last week – first case this year. 2-3 cases in all of 2022”
  • Animal Referral Hospital (includes 24 hour emergency service) – “about 10 cases since July with 2 on a ventilator. This is actually a little less than in previous years. They have all been down to the coast”
  • Village Vet – “1 case in May, 4 cases “in the last month,” nil in 2022”
  • Canberra Cat Vet – nil cases (not surprising for cats rarely taken to the coast, ACT legislation requires cat confinement 100% in many suburbs, and in the rest, a grandfather clause means all cats born in the last few years also need to be confined)

The original media release was from Canberra Veterinary Emergency Services with, I think, 7 cases, 2 of which had been on a ventilator and 2 additional requiring oxygen – more than they had seen in the same period last year.

My own practice, Gungahlin Veterinary Hospital, has seen no primary accession cases so far this year.

It’s probably too soon to make a call on whether there are more affected Canberra pets this year, but it is a good talking point to remind clients of the need to protect their pets.

There have been a few attempts to collect data on the incidence and signalment of tick cases over the last few years – I’ve never seen any data out of any of them. I think it would be very helpful if ACT and region vets pooled basic data about their case numbers and this was made available to all practices in the area. We have put together the following survey to collect information. Through the division newsletter we will periodically report  the findings for the ACT and associated districts. Remember the University of Queensland is requesting specimens of ticks for geographical mapping tick species - simple questionnaire and relevant details available at this link.

QR code for the Survey


This year is the 20th Anniversary of the devastating fires in late 2003. After a Division suggestion, the AVA (thanks Robyn Whitaker and Liz Gemes!) is putting together a feature with photos, reminiscences and lessons, as well promoting the new Disasters Information webpage and equine emergencies/afterhours leaflet.

Look out for a specific email soon 😊