Weekly companion animal news: October 23, 2023

Veterinary care companies raise millions of dollars in new funding

Petfolk, a veterinary urgent and primary care company, raised $40 million in a Series B round led by Movendo Capital, CEO Audrey Wystrach told Axios. The company, which offers 24/7 virtual and instant veterinary services, has eight locations now and plans to open four more by the end of the year. The funding raise values the business at $200 million post-money, a source familiar told Axios. Existing investors, including White Star Capital and Idea Farm Ventures, also participated in the round. Funds will go toward expanding throughout the Southeast, with cities like Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Orlando and Miami on the shortlist, Wystrach said. This comes shortly after Dutch, a pet telehealth platform, raised $18 million in Series B funding. According to Dutch’s CEO, Joe Spector, a new law in California allowing veterinarians to deliver remote care without first establishing an in-person veterinarian-client-patient relationship will lead to similar policies in other states, spurring the expansion of telehealth. And in other recent funding news, Bond Vet has received $50 million in funding to further its expansion.

Veterinary workforce expected to grow with more veterinarians in the educational pipeline, data shows

The number of veterinarians entering the workforce can be anticipated to grow substantively over the next decade as the profession’s educational pipeline continues to expand, according to the AVMA. Three new veterinary medical schools are graduating their first classes in 2023, 2024 and 2025, and at least 12 additional schools are in various stages of development. In addition, class sizes in existing U.S. veterinary colleges are growing at an increasing pace. The latest enrollment data from the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges also suggests that while first-year enrollment has increased an average of 2% annually since 1980, annual increases were significantly above that level for the last three years, reflecting larger class sizes at existing veterinary colleges, as well as new veterinary colleges that have begun enrolling students. Overall enrollment at U.S. veterinary colleges hit 15,157 for the 2022-23 academic year, up from 11,255 in 2012-2013, according to AAVMC.

Plug and Play Topeka selects 24 startups for animal health, ag-tech accelerator program

GO Topeka, the economic development group for Kansas’ capital city, recently announced that Plug and Play Topeka, a global innovation platform that creates industry-specific accelerator programs, has selected 11 animal health startups and 13 ag-tech startups for the fall 2023 cohort. These early-to-mid-stage startups hail from more than 10 countries, including the United States, Canada, Germany, France, the United Kingdom and Australia, among others. Chosen by founding partners of the program, including Cargill, Evergy, Bimini Pet Health and Hill’s Pet Nutrition, the startups represent a broad range of new innovations focused on areas like automation, soil health, pet nutrition, alternative protein and sustainable packaging, according to the announcement. Entrepreneurs representing these startups will now participate in a three-month-long accelerator program to connect them with resources and help their businesses grow.

NAVC, VCA launch marketing campaign to show the importance of veterinary nurses and technicians

The NAVC, with support from VCA Animal Hospitals, announced the launch of an international marketing campaign to raise awareness of, and support for, the life-saving role veterinary nurses and technicians play in veterinary practices and in the overall health care of animals. According to the announcement, the campaign will deliver educational and engaging materials to veterinary practices worldwide reaching thousands of pet owners with the goal of changing perceptions of veterinary nurses and technicians and fully utilizing their skills and education. Trust Your Vet Tech kicked off this week in support of National Veterinary Technician Appreciation Week and builds on the NAVC’s Veterinary Nurse/Technician Empowerment Campaign launched in 2021 to elevate and advance the role of veterinary nurses and technicians across the veterinary profession.

COVID infection can damage canine brain, study suggests

Dogs experimentally infected with the SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant but not showing neurologic or respiratory signs of COVID-19 had evidence of degenerative brain disease on necropsy, the University of Minnesota’s CIDRAP reports. The study, led by Konkuk University researchers in South Korea, was published in Emerging Infectious Diseases. The research team intranasally infected six female beagle dogs with the SARS-CoV-2 Delta virus. Three uninfected dogs inoculated with a placebo served as controls. The investigators obtained nose-throat, mouth-throat, fecal swabs and blood samples from the dogs at 10 different time points. Antibodies were detected in the blood of infected dogs and SARS-CoV-2 DNA was detected in the brain. The study provides evidence that SARS-CoV-2 infection can damage the brain as well as the lungs in dogs, the research team reported.

Commentary: Why pet stores can humanely sell puppies

Kathleen Peters, vice chairperson of Florida’s Pinellas County Commission, believes pet stores can humanely sell puppies. She argues that a collaboration with private business provides transparency about pets’ origins, health and accountability to do the right thing for the animals. “Last year, the Pinellas County Commission decided to allow retail pet stores to remain in our community,” Peters writes in the Tampa Bay Times. “This decision led to a unique partnership that ensures the health and safety of puppies in our community’s pet stores—and transparency about how they were raised.” Local families deserve options and accurate information to decide how and where to find a pet, she adds. “Only breeders and pet stores can provide specific breeds, guarantee that a puppy will be available and provide assurances about a pet’s genetic or medical history.”

New tool helps plan for pets’ care during challenging life situations

Pet Peace of Mind, a nonprofit that aims to ensure pets of people with serious illnesses are cared for, has introduced a tool for pet owners to plan for their pet’s well-being during challenging life situations. Pet owners can use the tool to create a rehome plan for their pet. It includes key information such as an identified pet guardian, elements of the pet’s daily routine, details specific to the pet’s health, a power of attorney and next steps. It must be notarized, according to Pet Peace of Mind.

SoundByte: Renal Essentials Pro Liquid from VetriScience

VetriScience’s Renal Essentials Pro Liquid can be administered orally or mixed into food to help support kidney and urinary tract health in cats. Ingredients such as astragalus, vitamin B12 and antioxidants help maintain proper kidney health and function by promoting optimal renal circulation and detoxification, according to VetriScience. More information is in the SoundByte from Veterinary Advantage.