Credentials: Veterinary Surgeon • Professor of Comparative Veterinary Reproduction

Homebase: School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, University of Nottingham   

Where in the world: Leicestershire, England

The one who knows horses can help cats and dogs

 

Professor Gary England, a member of our Puppy & Kitten Expert Board, is a Veterinary Surgeon and Foundation Dean at the University of Nottingham School of Veterinary Medicine and Science. A lover of research, teaching, and practice in equal measure, Professor England is not only the head of the veterinary school at Nottingham but is also still, as he modestly calls it, a jobbing vet, doing one day of clinical practice each week alongside his teaching schedule. There are only so many hours in each day. May as well put them to good use.

Over his career, Professor England has seen reproduction and neonatology cases across all species. Cross-species practice is captivating – because of the differences and the similarities. As Professor England sees it, the study of one will always help another. While some species are completely different, we can still learn things about the physiology of one that can then be applied to another. And when an animal group is highly valued for any number of reasons, more funding is made available for real in-depth research.

One great example is the world of horses. In his previous life, Professor England spent 12 years running an equine reproduction practice, an experience he believes benefits the canine world. “There has been a lot of study time and financial investment dedicated to Thoroughbred horses and their reproduction because of the potential value of a racing foal,” he explains. “So, areas like neonatal care in horses are very advanced. We can learn from that wealth of knowledge and see how it can apply to smaller animals like cats and dogs.”

Professor England is also the head veterinarian for Guide Dogs UK – the charity providing mobility for the blind and partially sighted -- overseeing their breeding programme from a veterinary perspective and liaising with other vets. One of the largest breeding programmes in the world, they take care of breeding upwards of 1500 pups per year.

 

“We can learn things about the physiology of one species that can then be applied to another.”
— Prof. England, Veterinary Surgeon

 

Bringing this large-scale view and expertise to the Royal Canin Puppy & Kitten Expert Board spoke to Professor England. The role of maternal nutrition on foetal well-being and how it impacts the life chances of each puppy is of particular interest to him. As he says, “True for humans and lots of other species, you are what your mother ate. What you feed a mother, cat and dog included, influences the health of her future pups.”

The role of environmental chemicals in animal reproductive issues is also a driving force behind the research being done by Professor England and his team. They have published papers on their impact on cell function and animal reproductive issues, generating invaluable information that can help head off problems earlier on. A better understanding of the problem means the team can devise a plan detailing what can be done to address the issue.

Professor England continues to spend his days teaching the veterinary arts as they apply across a multitude of species. And any day spent helping cats and dogs to live healthier lives is a day well spent.

5 questions with Prof. England


Are you a more of a dog or a cat person? 

I grew up with dogs, so possibly more of a dog person. But having said that, we almost always have a cat, too. We have adopted retired guide dogs, usually Golden Retrievers – we are on the waiting list at the moment. I love the interaction between cats and dogs. One of each seems to complete a family. At the moment, we have a Bengal cross named Turbo.

Question you hear most often from students?

The question I hear most often is, ‘Why?’ And I love it. Best question ever. It shows that the students are listening, interested, fully engaged, and they want to know more. The best students come in curious and keep that quality going for a lifetime.

One of your best qualities?

One of the things I would like to think I am good at is looking at things in a different way. And challenging “the questions in my field. Prodding, really. ‘Wouldn’t it be quite interesting to discover why that works this way...and does it have to?’ I love to turn things on their head.

What's the weirdest work of your everyday work life?

Azoospermia. It is just an interesting sounding word, and it simply means a complete absence of sperm in a semen sample. It’s a word you wouldn’t find in a song, except perhaps something written by Monty Python!

What would you be if you weren’t a scientist?

It would have been incredible to have been the guitarist in AC/DC or some other amazing band. I play in a band now and it is a total pleasure. I love music, love playing the guitar. With lockdown, we don’t go out at night so we put something on Netflix, I basically pick at my electric guitar on the far sofa (unplugged, so I am not bothering anyone) and pretend I am Slash. It’s all good fun.


“What you feed a mother influences the health of her future pups.”

— Prof. England, Veterinary Surgeon

Meet other members of the team