Weekly companion animal news: August 21, 2023

Nationwide introduces customizable pet insurance plans

Nationwide is introducing a new insurance offering designed to allow pet owners to customize each coverage category to meet the needs of their pet. The modular design of the product, which is now available online, enables members to dial up or dial down the coverage type most important to them. According to Nationwide, the platform offers hundreds of customizable combinations. Users can select accident coverage and choose between annual maximum or unlimited options. Examples of covered accident conditions include broken bones, poisoning, lacerations and more. Customers can also add or decline illness coverage, choose their annual deductible and add or decline wellness coverage.

California bill to give physical therapists greater scope with animals stalls

A bill passed by the California Assembly and presented to the California Senate, titled AB 814, is currently paused in a committee and will not be revisited this calendar year, the American Animal Hospital Association reports. The bill would give physical therapists in the state of California the legal right to work on animals without veterinary supervision and with very minimal training. Allowing veterinarians to refer their patients to physical therapists who practice independently would also remove any liability associated with the physical rehabilitation therapy itself from the veterinarian. This is not the first time such legislation has been presented in California. In a letter to the California Senate Assembly Business and Professions Committee signed by the president of the Animal Physical Therapy Coalition and several veterinarians, proponents of the bill argue that consumers in California need increased access to animal rehabilitation services.

HABRI announces Human Animal Bond Innovation Award winners

The Human Animal Bond Research Institute announced the winners of its annual Human Animal Bond Innovation Awards. The awards recognize companies and organizations with innovative products and programs designed to advance the human-animal bond and create a more pet-friendly society. The winners include Tito’s Handmade Vodka (pet-inclusive culture), Street Dog Coalition (public service), The Dr. Vernard Hodges “It Takes a Village” Foundation Inc. (media), Amazon (products and services) and BestyBnB (pet-inclusive infrastructure).

University of Arizona’s first College of Veterinary Medicine class set to graduate this month

The first University of Arizona College of Veterinary Medicine class is set to graduate this month. The state’s first and only public veterinary medicine program, launched in 2020, is unique in that the curriculum spans three years, unlike most U.S. veterinary degree programs, which are traditionally four years. The program design allows students to enter the workforce one year sooner. Another distinct aspect of the program, according to the university, is that students interact with live animals from the very beginning, unlike conventional four-year programs in which students often don’t touch animals until their third year. Graduates will specialize in various disciplines, including emergency and critical care, small-animal general practice, equine medicine and mixed-animal practice.

Mars to acquire SYNLAB Vet, a European veterinary reference lab

Mars has entered an agreement to acquire the assets of SYNLAB Vet, a European provider of specialist veterinary laboratory diagnostics, from SYNLAB Group. Upon the close of the transaction, SYNLAB Vet will join Mars Petcare, which offers products and services across veterinary health and diagnostics, nutrition, innovation and technology. This acquisition will enable the science and diagnostics division of Mars Petcare to expand its veterinary laboratory business in Europe in addition to its full-service global veterinary diagnostic offerings across veterinary labs, point-of-care, imaging and software. The closing of the transaction is subject to regulatory clearance.

Loyal partners with Banfield to analyze health records from more than 100,000 dogs

As part of its research into canine aging, veterinary medicine company Loyal has collaborated with Banfield Pet to analyze electronic health records of 131,140 dogs spanning 20 years of care. Banfield’s dataset spans a large and diverse set of dogs—about 2.7 million veterinary visits from over 130,000 dogs across its more than 1,000 hospitals in the United States. Large datasets like this help Loyal identify trends that may be too subtle to detect in smaller datasets. Moreover, it’s a longitudinal dataset: The medical data for each dog extends over time, spanning multiple visits over the course of the dog’s life. Longitudinal datasets allow Loyal to establish a link between earlier events and later health outcomes, as well as explore changing relationships that indicate how lifestyle changes may increase or decrease the risk of a disease.

New tool maps DNA in dogs to advance cancer research

The University of California, Davis has launched a Canine Tumor Genome Atlas, which eventually may store hundreds of gene samples from companion dogs diagnosed with osteosarcomas, oral melanomas and gliomas—three cancers that are very similar to the same cancers found in humans. Through comparative oncology, scientists seek to find cures that work in dogs with the hope similar therapies may work in people. The Canine Tumor Genome Atlas will house a collection of biological samples that contain mutations and alterations in tumor gene expressions. The tool will allow researchers to mine the data after the genetic makeup of tumors is analyzed and sequenced.

Veterinary technician builds pet ambulance business

Albert Sanchez, a veterinary technician, started Veterinary Ambulance of Southern California in 2021 after witnessing pets not having reliable and affordable transportation in emergency situations. Another ambulance business existed, but over the years, Sanchez said, the service became less available and more expensive. He eventually gathered funding to get started and transformed a cargo van into an ambulance with noise-canceling panels, oxygen tanks, bedding, cages and monitoring equipment. Veterinary Ambulance of Southern California offers emergent, urgent and general transports for pets. Sanchez says he often helps pets that are too heavy or too old to walk, pets that need oxygen and pets whose owners don’t own a vehicle or are unable to drive. He also receives calls from general practitioners who have ill pets that need to be taken to an overnight care facility. NBC San Diego reports.