Weekly companion animal news: August 14, 2023

Connecticut veterinarians feel pressure during hiring crunch

Five years after Dr. Blaire Michael acquired Powder Ridge Veterinary Hospital in Middlefield, Connecticut, her practice is booming, as pet ownership has increased along with rising expectations for veterinary care by customers. While new clinics are helping meet the growing demand, many practices that are not as well-staffed as Powder Ridge are struggling to keep up, a predicament exacerbated by a widespread shortage of veterinary professionals, CT Insider reports. At the same time, the need for more veterinarians has highlighted the lack of nearby graduate programs for students in Connecticut who aspire to join the profession. Increasingly, veterinarians are worrying about the mental health of their staff who work long hours under stressful conditions.

Pet owners want to spend now, but they may be more cautious later this year: Vericast

Pet owners plan to increase their spending on food, treats, supplements and hygiene products as well as birthday and holiday gifts, according to recent consumer survey data from more than 700 pet owners and Vericast’s annual 2023 Retail TrendWatch. “Amid cautious spending behaviors, there is still a strong appetite to spend on pets,” said Taylor Coogan, pet industry expert and client strategist at Vericast. “However, external factors such as the end of the student loan repayment pause, a shifting job market and other factors may influence how a consumer thinks about pet spending later this year. With the holiday season approaching, now is an opportune time for brands to evaluate how they will communicate the value they provide to pet owners.”

Hill’s Pet Nutrition and Harvard researcher collaborate to advance pet microbiome research

Hill’s Pet Nutrition and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health researcher Dr. Curtis Huttenhower are partnering to create the One Health Microbiome Resource. The OHMR reportedly will be the first of its kind and will offer a comprehensive reference database of human and companion animal microbiomes. The resource includes microbial genomes, companion animal microbial community profiles and tools to utilize them together. As part of the collaboration, Hill’s Pet Nutrition has provided expanded DNA sequencing resources. This data will enable new types of companion animal microbiome analyses and further improve the field’s ability to understand the microbiome in human health, according to the announcement.

PAWS Chicago opens new mobile veterinary clinic to reach neighborhoods with limited access to care

PAWS Chicago is launching a mobile clinic this month that will bring free veterinary care to South and West Side neighborhoods. West Englewood, Englewood, Woodlawn and Back of the Yards are pet resource deserts, where accessing vet clinics is disproportionately difficult, according to PAWS. The clinic is about relationship-building in these communities and sharing information about other veterinary care offered at their centers, especially spaying and neutering. The mobile clinic is the size of an ambulance, with room for people and animals, plus refrigerators, exam tables, medications and a veterinarian. Pet owners can make appointments with the program for such services as vaccinations and treatment of infections, as well as surgeries, which PAWS offers free to eligible owners. Axios reports.

Flea-borne typhus led to reported deaths in L.A. County for the first time in decades

For the first time in almost three decades, flea-borne typhus was tied to three deaths in Los Angeles County last year amid a rise in reported cases of the illness, the Los Angeles Times reports. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report tallied 171 cases of flea-borne typhus reported in L.A. County in 2022, a significant increase from the 31 cases reported in 2010. The findings were published by the CDC in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The three people who died in L.A. County—a 68-year-old man, a 49-year-old woman and a 71-year-old man—had other conditions that may have put them at higher risk of severe illness.

Cyprus allows human COVID-19 medications to be used against deadly virus mutation in cats

Cyprus’ veterinary association lauded a government decision to allow its stock of human COVID-19 medication to be used on cats to fight a local mutation of a feline virus that has killed thousands of animals on the Mediterranean island but can’t be transmitted to people. The association said in a statement that it had petitioned the government for access to the medication at reasonable prices from the beginning of this year, when the mutation that causes lethal Feline Infectious Peritonitis began to crop up in the island’s cat population. The medication’s brand name is Lagevrio and its active ingredient is Molnupiravir. Reportedly 2,000 packages of the drug will be made available to veterinarians incrementally over the next month. The Associated Press reports.

Lincoln Memorial University plans new veterinary campus in Florida

Lincoln Memorial University’s veterinary school has plans to open a second location in Orange Park, Florida, near Jacksonville. The new program at LMU, slated to open with 150 seats per class, is one of at least 10 new programs emerging in the United States—a response to the current perception that the country is short on veterinary care and looking to fill the demand. LMU did not indicate when its new location would open. The university’s Tennessee campus opened its veterinary school in 2014 with an initial class of about 90 students. It expanded to 125 first-year seats and, in January, added a second class of 100 seats to nearly double its output, the VIN News Service reports.

Work-study program at Minneapolis animal hospital aims to increase diversity in veterinary medicine

At Mission Animal Hospital just outside Minneapolis, a successful work-study partnership with Cristo Rey Jesuit High School–Twin Cities has proven to be beneficial for both the practice and the students who participated, the American Animal Hospital Association reports. Across the country, there are 37 Cristo Rey corporate work-study programs, but this is the first one in a veterinary clinic. The Mission Animal Hospital program came to be through a proposal from the Minnesota Veterinary Medical Association’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Action Team, which saw an opportunity to take steps toward increasing representation and a sense of belonging in veterinary medicine by connecting with youth in diverse communities. The Cristo Rey–Twin Cities student population was a good fit for this goal, with 86% of students identifying as Hispanic, 10% as African or African American, and 4% as multiracial.