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Department of Veterinary Medicine

Cambridge Veterinary School


VetMD. University of Cambridge 2009

M.A. University of Cambridge 1990

Vet.MB. University of Cambridge 1989

B.A. Medical Sciences University of Cambridge 1986

RCVS Certificate in Veterinary Radiology October 1993

RCVS Certificate in Small Animal Medicine October 1995

RCVS Diploma in Small Animal Medicine September 1997

European College of Veterinary Internal Medicine Diploma  September 2000

Recognised RCVS Specialist in Small Animal Medicine March 2003

Awarded Fellowship of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons  October 2016

2004 to date. University Senior Lecturer in Small Animal Medicine, University of Cambridge.

1998 – 2004 Waltham Lecturer in Small Animal Medicine, University of Cambridge

Jointly responsible for running the small animal medicine service in the referral hospital and teaching students and clinical residents small animal medicine in all areas, but particularly gastroenterology; hepatology and clinical nutrition.

Co-supervisor of one successful PhD students and many successful ECVIM diploma candidates (residents)

1994-1997 Waltham Resident in Small Animal Medicine and Clinical Nutrition, University of Cambridge.

1993-1994: Locum University Assistant Physician, University of Cambridge

1989-1993: Private Veterinary Practice (large and small animal and equine) in Clwyd; Bedforshire and Cambridge.


Penny Watson’s research focuses on liver and pancreas disease in dogs and cats, particularly chronic disease and fibrosis. There is a strong focus on comparative pathology and identifying the relevance to humans as well as small animals. Her work on canine chronic pancreatitis, in collaboration with Prof Michael Herrtage and pathologists in Cambridge (Tim Scase, Aude Roulois and Fernando Constantino-Casas) and Glasgow and funded by BSAVA Petsavers, has defined the prevalence of lesions at post mortem and breed-related differences in pancreatic pathology which suggest differences in aetiology between breeds. Concurrent clinical studies funded by the Pet Plan Charitable Trust identified the same breed relationships and showed the importance of chronic pancreatitis in causing clinical disease in dogs. Initial work in English Cocker spaniels suggest a disease similar to autoimmune chronic pancreatitis in humans. Ongoing studies in English Cocker spaniels, in collaboration with Fernando Constantino-Casas at Cambridge and Professor Michael Day at Bristol are investigating whether their disease is similar to human IgG4+ related disease. Genetic studies are also ongoing in the breed with Julien Bazelle (clinical resident - residency completed 2013), David Sargan and Jesus Aguirre-Hernandez.

Cavalier King Charles spaniels (CKCS) have also been identified in this research as having an increased risk of chronic pancreatitis and ongoing work in this breed is investigating potential mechanisms of multi-organ fibrosis and the role of platelet-derived mediators including serotonin. The initial part of this work is funded by BSAVA Petsavers and is being undertaken with Fernando Constantino-Casas and James Warland (clinical resident) and in collaboration with veterinary colleagues Professor Michael Day from the University of Bristol, Claire Rusbridge from the University of Surrey and Brendan Corcoran from the University of Edinburgh.

Chronic hepatitis in dogs is another key research focus. Dr Nick Bexfield’s PhD funded by the Wellcome Trust and co-supervised by Penny Watson with Prof Jon Heeney and Laurence Tiley investigated the potential role of novel viruses in the disease and also described breed-related hepatitis in the English Springer Spaniel (ESS). Novel methods of viral discovery have so far failed to find a convincing aetiological agent.  Nick also demonstrated that the recently described canine hepacivirus does not appear to be associated with chronic hepatitis in dogs and has shown an association between the dog leukocyte antigen and chronic hepatitis in the ESS. Ongoing work continues to investigate the genetics of the disease in the ESS and to try to identify the cause with the help and support of the breed health co-ordinators.

Biliary tract disease in dogs and cats is also an active research interest. An Emesis Council award has enabled Ben Harris (clinical resident – residency completed in 2012) to undertake a study of the prevalence and importance of biliary tract infections in dogs, including fluorescence in situ hybridization of dogs' livers in collaboration with Tristan Cogan at Bristol and other colleagues from the veterinary schools at Dublin, Bristol, Liverpool and Glasgow and at Dick White Referrals. 

Penny also has ongoing interests in a number of smaller student and resident clinical research projects, particularly in gastroenterology and clinical nutrition. Congenital portosystemic shunts have been a long term interest, particularly medical management, and she has published a number of book chapters and reviews on pancreatitis and liver disease in dogs and cats.


Key publications: 


Tamborini A, Jahns H, McAllister H, Kent A, Harris B, Procoli F, Allenspach K, Hall E, Day M, Watson P, O'Neill E. (2016) Bacterial cholangitis, cholecystitis or both in the dog. Journal of Small Animal Internal Medicine 2016 Jul;30(4):1046-55.

Kent A, Cross G, Taylor D, Sherwood R, Watson P (2016) Measurement of serum 7α-hydroxy-4-cholesten-3-one as a marker of bile acid malabsorption in dogs with chronic diarrhoea: a pilot study. Vet Rec Open. Apr 6;3(1):e000163. 

Kent ACConstantino-Casas FRusbridge CCorcoran BMCarter MLedger TWatson PJ. (2016) Prevalence of pancreatic, hepatic and renal microscopic lesions in post-mortem samples from cavalier King Charles spaniels. J Small Anim Pract 57: 188-93

Watson PJ. (2015) Pancreatitis in dogs and cats: definitions and pathophysiology. Journal of Small Animal Practice. Jan;56(1):3-12.

 Giuliano A, Meiring T, Grant AJ, Watson PJ (2015) Acute Hepatic Necrosis Caused by Salmonella enterica Serotype I 4,5,12:-:1,2 in a Dog. Journal of Clinical Microbiology. Nov;53(11):3674-6

Bexfield NH1, Watson PJ, Heaney J, Heeney JL, Tiley L. (2014) Canine hepacivirus is not associated with chronic liver disease in dogs. Journal of Viral Hepatology. Mar;21(3):223-8


Gómez Selgas A, Bexfield N, Scase TJ, Holmes MA, Watson P. (2014) Total serum bilirubin as a negative prognostic factor in idiopathic canine chronic hepatitis. Journal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation. Mar;26(2):246-51

Bexfield NH, Watson PJ, Aguirre-Hernandez J, Sargan DR, Tiley L, Heeney JL, Kennedy LJ. DLA Class II Alleles and Haplotypes Are Associated with Risk for and Protection from Chronic Hepatitis in the English Springer Spaniel PLoS One. 2012;7(8):e42584. Epub 2012 Aug 1.

Adam, FH, German, AJ, J Fraser McConnell, JF, TrehyMR, Whitley N, CollingsA, WatsonPJ and Burrow RD (2012). Comparative presenting features of acquired and congenital portosystemic shunts in young dogs. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 241: 760-765

Collings AJ, Gow AG, Marques A, Yool D, Furneaux R, Mellanby R, Watson PJ (2012) A prospective study of basal insulin concentrations in dogs with congenital portosystemic shunts. J Small Anim Pract 53:228-233

Bexfield, NH., Buxton, RJ., Vicek, TJ., Day, MJ., Bailey, SM., Haugland, SP., Morrison, LP., Else, RW., Constantino-Casas, F., and Watson, P. J. (2012). Breed, age and gender distribution of dogs with chronic hepatitis in the United Kingdom. Veterinary Journal 193: 124-128

Mansfield CS, Watson P., Jones BR. (2011) Specificity and sensitivity of serum canine pancreatic elastase-1 concentration in the diagnosis of pancreatitis J Vet Diagn Invest. 23:691-7.

Watson, PJ, Roulois, A, Holloway, A.  and Herrtage, ME. (2011) Characterization of chronic pancreatitis in cocker spaniels. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine 25; 797-804

Bexfield NH, Andres-Abdo C, Scase TJ, Constantino-Casas F, Watson PJ. (2011) Chronic hepatitis in the English springer spaniel: clinical presentation, histological description and outcome. Veterinary Record 169: 415

Greenhalgh SN, Dunning MD, McKinley TJ, Goodfellow MR, Kelman KR, Freitag T, O’Neill EJ, Hall EJ, Watson PJ, Jeffery NJ. (2010) Comparison of survival after surgical or medical treatment in dogs with a congenital portosystemic shunt. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 236: 1215-1220

Watson PJ, Roulois AJ, Scase TJ, Irvine R, Herrtage ME (2010) Prevalence of hepatic lesions at post-mortem examination in dogs and association with pancreatitis Journal of Small Animal Practice 51:566-72.

Watson PJ, Archer J, Roulois AJ, Scase TJ, Herrtage ME (2010) Observational study of 14 cases of chronic pancreatitis in dogs. Veterinary Record 167:968-76.

Raffan E, McCallum A, Scase TJ, Watson PJ. (2009) Ascites is a negative prognostic indicator in chronic hepatitis in dogs. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine 23: 63-66

Watson PJ, Roulois AJA, Scase T, Johnston PEJ, Thompson Hand Herrtage ME. (2007) Prevalence and breed distribution of chronic pancreatitis at post mortem in first opinion dogs. Journal of Small Animal Practice 48 609-618

Bexfield, NH, Watson PJ and Herrtage ME( 2006). Fluoroscopic evidence of oesophageal dysmotility in young terrier dogs. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine 20: 1314-1318


Bexfield, NH, Watson PJ and Herrtage ME (2006). Canine myasthenia gravis: management using ciclosporin in two dogs. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine 20: 1487-1490


Watson PJ, Wotton P, Eastwood J,Swift S, Jones B and Day M (2006) Immunoglobulin deficiency in Cavalier King Charles spaniels with pneumocystis in the UK. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine 20, 523-527

Dr Penny  Watson
Senior Lecturer in Small Animal Medicine
Medicine clinician and resident supervisor in the Queen’s Veterinary School hospital
Director of Studies in Clinical Veterinary Medicine and tutor (Emmanuel College)

Contact Details

Takes PhD students
Not available for consultancy


Person keywords: 
Immune-mediated disease