Weekly companion animal news: July 4, 2022

To drive more veterinary visits, clinics should focus on value of care: survey

U.S. pet-owning households spent an average of $354 in 2020 on veterinary care—including services and medications—accounting for 33% of total spending on household pets. That’s according to the AVMA’s latest Pet Ownership and Demographics Sourcebook, which draws on a survey of more than 2,000 pet owners conducted in early 2021 about trends in 2020. “(Concerns about) value and affordability were the primary reasons for not seeing a veterinarian, which is in line with previous research,” said Rosemary Radich, principal data scientist in the AVMA’s Veterinary Economics Division. “Although convenience and location are important, they are not the top predictors or drivers for regular care. Focusing on communicating the value of veterinary care and providing affordable options are going to be more successful at moving the needle for regular care.” Households with annual incomes of more than $75,000 were most likely to own pets, the survey found, and people who lived in houses or mobile homes were more likely than apartment renters to own dogs. Cat ownership didn’t vary significantly by type of residence.

Behavior concerns cause pet care appointment backlogs as owners go back to work

As people continue returning to pre-pandemic routines, they’re concerned about how their pets will react to schedule changes and more time apart from owners. Even more than separation anxiety, “canine reactivity” is a major concern, Dr. Carlo Siracusa, associate professor of clinical animal behavior at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine, told The Philadelphia Inquirer. Streets are more crowded and noisier now with increased foot and car traffic, and many puppies adopted during the pandemic have never experienced that before, he said. This makes them more likely to lunge into traffic or at passersby. Many people put off addressing issues like this until recently, possibly seeing the need now due to changes in their work or social schedules. “It has absolutely overwhelmed us,” Siracusa said, adding that his veterinary practice is short-staffed and the waitlist for appointments is usually long.

Researchers test new kidney stone treatment for cats

A new therapy called burst wave lithotripsy has shown promising results breaking down kidney stones in a Vancouver harbor seal, and researchers are looking at its potential to help cats. The therapy, which uses focused ultrasound pulses to pulverize the stones, was pioneered at the University of Washington as a successor to shock wave lithotripsy. The harbor seal at the Vancouver Aquarium that underwent the procedure seems to be much better following the therapy, which broke down many of his stones into fragments of 1 millimeter or less from diameters in some cases greater than 2 centimeters. Scientists at the University of Minnesota are working with the Washington researchers to test the therapy on cats. Early tests showed the device delivering the therapy could fragment feline kidney stones in a water bath in 10-50 minutes. The team plans to test the device initially on up to three cats with kidney stones to make sure there are no major complications, and a second treatment phase would involve treating seven cats. The treatment is also in development for human medicine, the AVMA reports.

Startup relies on dogs’ sense of smell for early cancer detection in people

An Israel-based startup is banking on dogs’ sense of smell to develop a breath test that can detect cancer early in people, The Jerusalem Post reports. The company, SpotItEarly, notes that dogs have a profound ability to smell “cancer odor”: Each type of cancer has a unique odor, which dogs can detect in a fraction of a second. The company is developing the test so it can be conducted at home or at a clinic. To take the test, the patient dons a designated mask and breathes into it for five minutes, after which the mask is sent to the company’s lab. There, trained dogs sniff each sample, flagging samples that give off the cancer odor. SpotItEarly uses artificial intelligence to analyze the dogs’ actions and physiological reactions to test for lung, prostate, breast and colon cancer, with other types to follow. The company has raised $6.2 million in seed funding, and it’s now carrying out an extensive clinical study on the test’s efficacy. It reported high sensitivity of the test in a preliminary study of 700 samples.

Pets—especially dogs—have helped people weather the HIV/AIDS and COVID-19 pandemics, survey shows

Pets have helped people weather both the HIV/AIDS and COVID-19 pandemics, according to a survey of long-term HIV/AIDS survivors. “The underlying question in our minds has always been: What role do pets play for people who are so isolated and suffering so much stigma?” said study leader Lynette Hart, a professor of veterinary medicine at the University of California, Davis. The researchers surveyed about 150 people across the United States who contracted HIV or AIDS before 1996. Respondents, mostly men, said they felt far more grief, isolation and stigma during the AIDS pandemic than during COVID. Older men reported being better able to cope during COVID, especially if they had a dog, the survey found. “I don’t think dogs are magically making them better, but dogs are making a difference,” Hart said. Cat owners were comforted by their pet but still reported feeling isolated, suggesting they might need more support, Hart said. HealthDay reports.

AVMA seeks comment on proposal to recognize fish medicine as a veterinary specialty

The AVMA is seeking comment on a proposal for fish veterinary medicine to be recognized as a specialty within the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners. The American Association of Fish Veterinarians, with support from the World Aquatic Veterinary Medical Association, is leading the effort to have the specialty recognized. Board certification can help veterinarians stand out among their peers, said Dr. Johnny Shelley, immediate past president of the AAFV. It can reassure aquaculture producers that the veterinarians they hire can provide the level of care they need, he said, and it can similarly reassure government agencies that the veterinarians they hire understand fish health-related issues. He noted veterinary colleges and other organizations are increasingly viewing fish care as an important topic of education. Comments to the AVMA can be submitted through September 2.

Australia veterinary school joins AAVMC as provisional member

Queensland, Australia-based James Cook University has joined the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges as a provisional member. Provisional membership is available for any college or school of veterinary medicine that grants the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree or equivalent but is not yet accredited by or has not gained “reasonable assurance” from the AVMA Council on Education. JCU is the fifth institution in Australia to join the AAVMC. Graduates of the university practice as veterinarians in Australia, the United Kingdom and New Zealand. The AAVMC includes members from several countries in addition to the United States.

Federal Trade Commission orders JAB to divest veterinary clinics in advance of major acquisitions

The Federal Trade Commission last week took its second action in a month against JAB Consumer Partners “to prevent the private equity firm from further consolidating control over specialty and emergency veterinary clinics,” the agency announced. As a condition of JAB’s proposed $1.65 billion acquisition of the parent company of veterinary clinic owner Ethos, the FTC is ordering the firm to divest clinics in Richmond, Virginia; Denver; San Francisco; and the Washington, D.C., area. This announcement comes shortly after the FTC said JAB would have to divest clinics in California and Texas as a condition of its proposed $1.1 billion acquisition of competing clinic operator SAGE Veterinary Partners. The agency has also implemented requirements for JAB to get approval for certain acquisitions, and the company must notify the FTC before acquiring any specialty or emergency veterinary clinic within 25 miles of a clinic it already owns anywhere in the country. “Divestitures will help preserve current competition, and the prior notice and approval requirements will allow the FTC to keep a close watch on these markets moving forward,” said Holly Vedova, director of the Bureau of Competition.