Weekly companion animal news: May 6, 2024

Veterinary care, animal hospitals are scarce

As pet ownership numbers continue to rise across the United States, the number of veterinarians has lagged well behind. “We know there’s a shortage, and it’s worsening,” said Barbara Hodges, a veterinarian who is director of advocacy and outreach for the Humane Society of the United States. Mars Veterinary Health estimates that by 2030, there may be a shortage of as many as 24,000 companion animal veterinarians, even accounting for students who will become vets over the next decade. There are a few factors driving the shortage, Hodges, a veterinarian since 2001, told USA Today. More people own pets than ever before, but the number of veterinarians is holding steady, meaning companion care vets are seeing more animals and are busier than ever. Other issues, such as a lack of transportation and financial struggles, also present barriers to care.

Value becomes focus for pet industry: Packaged Facts

The pet industry is at an inflection point due to macroeconomic and industry-specific factors, meaning providing value to pet owners is key to being competitive, Packaged Facts says in a new report. “The promise of money savings and added value is possibly the oldest promotional maneuver,” said report analyst David Lummis. “But with the economic trauma of the pandemic and its aftermaths still rippling through, there may be no better time to focus on value to attract shoppers and engender customer loyalty.” According to Packaged Facts’ January 2024 survey, nearly one-third of pet owners have had their ability to buy nonessentials negatively affected by the economic environment, and three quarters are on the lookout for lower prices, special offers and sales.

California regulators oppose bill that would expand technician duties

California veterinary regulators are opposing a bill that would allow registered veterinary technicians to neuter male cats, the VIN News Service reports. The proposed bill would allow RVTs who have obtained training in cat neuter surgery to castrate cats following written protocols established by a supervising veterinarian who must be on the premises when the procedure is done. The California Veterinary Medical Board would be in charge of approving the training curriculum. The VMB’s vote on April 17 against the bill is not binding on legislators, but it represented the bill’s first public vetting by the regulators who would be charged with enforcing its provisions. The measure is now before the Assembly Committee on Appropriations, which it needs to clear in order to be considered by the full Assembly. The bill must pass that chamber by May 24 in order to progress to the Senate.

Climate change fuels rise in heartworms among pets in the Pacific Northwest

Heartworm disease, traditionally more prevalent in warmer southern states, is becoming more common in Oregon and Washington as temperatures rise, Oregon Public Broadcasting reports. As heavy rainfall in the spring combined with warmer summer temperatures have fueled mosquito outbreaks locally, more dogs and cats are becoming infected with heartworms in the Northwest Pacific. From 2018 to 2023, heartworm disease among pets increased by 33% in Oregon and 55% in Washington, according to patient data compiled by Banfield Pet Hospital. Because the parasite has only been common in warmer southern states until recently, fewer people are accustomed to treating their pets for heartworms in the Pacific Northwest. About 20% of pet owners in the region give their pets heartworm medication, compared to 32% nationally, according to Dr. Jennifer Rizzo, president of the American Heartworm Society.

Shelters United launches ‘veterinarian of record’ program to increase access to care

Shelters United, a group purchasing organization that allows animal welfare groups to purchase animal care supplies and products at discounted prices, is building what it says is a first-of-its-kind “Veterinarian of Record Program.” The goal of the program is to increase access to care for shelter pets and improve relationships between veterinarians and animal rescues. While rescues rely on a veterinarian of record to provide care for pets awaiting adoption and to purchase necessary prescription medications, there’s currently no veterinarian of record model to help veterinarians and rescue organizations work together, according to Shelters United. When it’s completed, the new program will include a toolkit, an online education course and a state-by-state resource directory. PetSmart Charities has contributed funding for the resource, which is planned to launch in late 2024.

ELIAS Animal Health expands manufacturing capacity ahead of product approval

ELIAS Animal Health said it’s expanding its manufacturing capacity in a larger facility located in Lenexa, Kansas, as it prepares for the commercial launch of the ELIAS Cancer Immunotherapy later this year. ECI in January was determined by the USDA as demonstrating a reasonable expectation of efficacy. According to the announcement, ECI is set to be the only adoptive cell therapy of its kind approved for the treatment of canine osteosarcoma.

Elanco warns of syringe problem for feline anemia treatment

Calibrations on a syringe used by pet owners to administer a drug for treating anemia in cats with chronic kidney disease could become unreadable, raising a danger of mis-dosing, according to Elanco Animal Health. The drug, Varenzin (molidustat), is a new product typically given at home through a syringe that delivers the medication into the cat’s mouth. Elanco said the scale on the outside of the syringe can become unreadable if it comes in contact with the medicine. “This situation can occur during administration if the syringe is not firmly inserted into the bottle when drawing out the medication, which can result in leakage down the outside of the syringe,” the company reported. “Because the medication is based in a flavorful sunflower and fish oil base, these oils can remove the ink on the outside of the syringe after several exposures.” The VIN News Service has more.

Cats suffer H5N1 brain infections, blindness and death after drinking raw milk: study

A day after cows on a Texas dairy farm began showing symptoms of a mysterious illness now known to be H5N1 bird flu, cats on the farm that had consumed some of the raw milk from the sick cows also became ill. While the cows would go on to largely recover, the cats developed depressed mental states, stiff body movements, loss of coordination, circling, copious discharge from their eyes and nose, and blindness. Within days, over half of the farm’s 24 or so cats died from the flu. In a study published in the Journal of Emerging Infectious Diseases, researchers in Iowa, Texas and Kansas found that the cats had H5N1, not just in their lungs but also in their brains, hearts and eyes, leading to concern over the potential for transmission of H5N1, Ars Technica reports.

New SoundByte: CarePoint VET blood collection tubes

CarePoint VET blood collection tubes allow for improved inventory management thanks to their excellent expiration dating compared to competitors, according to manufacturer Allison Medical. The tubes can easily be integrated into practices’ existing workflows and are a versatile choice to adapt to varied working conditions, the company says. Find out more in the SoundByte from Veterinary Advantage.