Weekly companion animal news: December 4, 2023

Loyal hopes to receive conditional approval for canine life-extension drug by 2026

Biotech company Loyal announced it has moved one step closer to bringing a life-extending drug for canines to market. “The data you provided are sufficient to show that there is a reasonable expectation of effectiveness,” according to the FDA in a letter sent to the company. The drug, which Loyal has declined to identify for proprietary reasons, has met one of the requirements for “expanded conditional approval,” a fast-tracked authorization for animal drugs that fulfill unmet health needs and require difficult clinical trials. The drug is not available to pet owners yet, and the F.D.A. must still review the company’s safety and manufacturing data. But conditional approval, which Loyal hopes to receive in 2026, would allow the company to begin marketing the drug for canine life extension, even before a large clinical trial is complete, The New York Times reports.

Purina awards research grants to better understand human-pet bond

As part of its ongoing effort to understand pets and the bond people share with them, Purina has awarded $120,000 in research grants to four scientists from around the globe. Through the company’s bi-annual Purina Sponsorship for Human-Animal Bond studies program, Purina provides up to $30,000 in research funding per project to scientists seeking to study facets of the human-pet bond. Grant winners of the 2024 Human-Animal Bond Studies Research looked at the genetics of canine hyper-sociability and its impact on adoptability of shelter dogs; the effect of touch in human-canine interactions; attachment to pets among women with a history of childhood abuse; and whether dogs improve students’ well-being without harming their own.

‘Cat Friendly Practices’ perform more testing and diagnosis than non-CFP practices, study finds

The American Association of Feline Practitioners announced results from a retrospective study comparing practices with the Cat Friendly Practice designation to those without. The study used data provided by the AAFP and Idexx. It found that CFPs performed diagnostic testing at 12% more clinical visits and bloodwork at approximately 10% more total clinical visits and 9% more wellness visits. Additionally, the average revenue of a practice visit at CFPs was 17% higher than non-CFPs, according to the study.

Global pet care sales continue to rise, reaching nearly $170 billion in 2022

A growing global middle class of pet owners has propelled consumer spending worldwide on their pets, with sales growing at a compounded annual rate of 8.7% over the last five years, The Messenger reports. In 2022, global pet care sales rose 12% to $168.5 billion, according to a report by Bank of America Global research. Western Europe made up 20% of sales, followed by Asia Pacific at 16% and Latin America at 9%. About half the world’s population has a pet at home, with households in the United States, European Union and China alone owning about 500 million dogs and cats, according to data from Health for Animals. In the United States, 66% of households owned a pet in 2023, up from 56% in 1988 but below the peak of 70% in 2020, according to a study from the American Pet Products Association.

Vetsource releases continuing education courses in veterinary pharmacy

Vetsource announced the launch of accredited continuing education courses in veterinary pharmacy. Developed by the Vetsource Clinical Committee and its own pharmacists to fill the gap in veterinary-specific education, each course is accredited and available free of charge. Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians can earn one credit hour for each course. The Vetsource Clinical Committee partnered with the University of Colorado Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Science to host and accredit the courses. Additional courses will be added over the next few years. The Vetsource pharmacy team also has a longstanding partnership with Oregon State University to host local pharmacy students on their rotations. A new partnership with the Pacific University School of Pharmacy was recently formed to provide similar opportunities to their students.

Veterinarians Without Borders Canada expands to United States, rebrands as VWB North America

Veterinarians Without Borders/Vétérinaires Sans Frontières, a Canadian nonprofit organization focused on animal health to improve the health of communities, announced an expansion into the United States, with the establishment of the registered U.S. charity Veterinarians Without Borders USA. Together, these two charities are rebranding as Veterinarians Without Borders North America. According to the announcement, VWB North America works in more than a dozen countries and serves more than 1.5 million people and animals annually through a range of programming, including emergency response efforts, establishing animal health systems and empowering marginalized populations. VWB North America recently provided support in response to the Saipan typhoon, Turkey earthquake, Ukraine crisis, Northern Canada wildfire response and the Pakistan floods.

FDA approves pregabalin oral solution to relieve anxiety in cats

The FDA approved Bonqat (pregabalin oral solution) for the alleviation of acute anxiety and fear associated with transportation and veterinary visits in cats. The drug is administered orally approximately 1.5 hours before the start of the transportation or veterinary visit and can be given on two consecutive days. Bonqat is the first FDA-approved animal drug containing pregabalin, according to the announcement. It’s only available by prescription from a licensed veterinarian because it’s a DEA Schedule Class V drug with a potential for human abuse. In addition, professional expertise is required to monitor the safe use of the product, including proper dosing and administration.

As AI grows, pet care data could help improve human health tests

Researchers are using results from pets’ veterinary tests for things like hookworms and other parasites to train artificial intelligence tools that not only speed up animals’ results but also improve human diagnostics, The Wall Street Journal reports. The Mayo Clinic this year began using diagnostic algorithms developed by a Salt Lake City-area startup called Techcyte that uses its work with animal data to inform its AI development. Mayo is also working with Techcyte to develop AI-based cancer detection tests. Big testing companies like Quest Diagnostics will start using Techcyte algorithms next year for fecal testing for parasites. Veterinarians are providing the groundwork as they increasingly use artificial intelligence in pet care, with Antech, Idexx and Zoetis offering AI-based tests. Zoetis worked with Techcyte to develop a diagnostic device called Vetscan Imagyst.