A life-size horse model, resplendent with latex intestines, is the latest tool at the University of Edinburgh to help in the training of veterinary students.
The Scottish university is the first in Britain to get one of the unique equine models.
The anatomical model will enable students to improve their diagnosis of colic, a leading cause of premature death in horses.
The equine simulator at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies contains large intestines and other organs made of latex. These can be inflated to different degrees to help familiarise students with the condition.
The model, recently developed by Veterinary Simulator Industries in close collaboration with Dr Emma Read of the University of Calgary, has been imported from Canada.
The simulator enables students to practice performing internal examinations of a horse’s intestines and sampling for free fluid in the abdomen.
It also has the potential to help students develop their ability to identify reproductive problems in mares.
The simulator was recently purchased, along with other animal teaching models, through the School’s Jeanne Marchig International Centre for Animal Welfare Education.
The centre, which forms an integral part of the university’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, was established in 2011 through a £2 million donation from the Marchig Animal Welfare Trust to improve the well-being of animals worldwide.
This includes seeking alternatives to the use of animals in teaching and research.
Animal alternatives for teaching include canine simulators on which students can practice intravenous injections and identify irregular heart sounds.
Specially designed models also enable students to practise suturing skin, intubation and neutering techniques.
Students can also carry out examinations on a cow simulator to help learn how to detect different stages of pregnancy and other reproductive conditions.
“The realistic attributes of these models will allow students to learn and then refine their basic dexterity and practical skills before undertaking the procedures on live animals,” said Dr Catriona Bell, who is senior lecturer in veterinary education at the veterinary school.
“This is not only safer and less stressful for the students, but is also importantly a more welfare-friendly way of learning.”
The school’s clinical skills lab is open on a drop-in basis, providing students with added learning flexibility.
Bell is also developing a model bovine tail as part of an international scholarship funded by the Higher Education Academy.
The model, which is also being created in collaboration with the University of Calgary and Veterinary Simulator Industries, will enable students to practice taking blood samples from the vein in a cow’s tail, a common site used for blood-sampling cattle.
Professor Natalie Waran, the director of the Jeanne Marchig centre, said: “These state-of-the-art resources will support excellent clinical skills training for students, both during formal teaching and informal self-directed learning.
“Through using animal alternatives, students can gain knowledge, develop their skills and gain confidence before carrying out clinical procedures on real animals. Not only is this good for student early learning, but it also supports our University and school’s commitment to promoting and maintaining high standards of animal welfare in teaching and research.”