Weekly companion animal news: October 24, 2022

Tenants balk as landlords impose extra ‘pet rent’

Pet owners are often willing to shoulder a good deal of extra expenses for their pets, but more rent may be too much for some, MarketWatch reports. Cybersecurity analyst Chris Ross in Manassas, Virginia, pays $45 a month in pet rent. Adding his 59-pound dog to the lease required a nonrefundable $300 deposit to cover new carpets when he leaves. A spokesperson for the National Apartment Association said the group doesn’t have concrete data on how widespread pet rent is in the United States. Part of the challenge for pet owners may be the rise in rent prices generally. Rent growth is leveling off after increasing steeply at the beginning of the pandemic, but the national median was still up 11% in August from a year before, according to Redfin.

Pet surrenders rise amid inflation—especially guinea pigs

U.S. animal shelters are seeing an increase in surrenders and a decline in adoptions as pet owners deal with rising costs. Pet food prices have outpaced general inflation by 0.6%, and a surprise veterinary bill can put 42% of pet owners into debt, according to a recent Forbes study. While the ASPCA found last year that 90% of dog owners and 85% of cat owners who adopted during the pandemic kept their pet, guinea pigs purchased during the pandemic “are being returned in droves,” said Katy Hansen, director of marketing and communications at New York’s Animal Care Centers. “On average, at this point in the year, we’ve taken in 200 guinea pigs. This year we’re over 650,” she told The Guardian. Many pet owners seem to have failed to anticipate the expenses and work required to care for the animals.

Pet food sales remain strong, but industry challenges may lie ahead

This year has been challenging for consumers as prices skyrocket and supply chain bottlenecks lead to product shortages. Still, as of this fall, pet food sales have remained strong even as growth in many non-food pet categories has slowed, David Lummis, lead pet market analyst at Packaged Facts, writes in Pet Product News. Pet food is on track to top $45 billion in sales in 2022 and $60 billion in 2026. “The factors most likely to dampen pet food sales in the short term are continued supply chain issues depriving pet owners of their preferred brands, and sticky inflation, which could result in even more well-off pet owners trading down to lower-cost private label and value brands,” Lummis says. But for now, pet shoppers are still spending, particularly on premium foods that drive sales.

Veterinary technicians are critical for practices’ success, but they need the opportunity to do their best work: AVMA

In honor of last week’s National Veterinary Technician Week, the AVMA urged practices to empower technicians to use their full skill set. “Ask technicians themselves if they have abilities that aren’t getting used and whether they want to contribute in new ways,” the AVMA says. “And ask associate veterinarians if any of their tasks could be performed by technicians.” The association offers additional advice to help practices empower their technicians. And marketing company S&A offers eight facts to demonstrate the importance of these veterinary team members.

Mars launches animal shelter volunteer initiative

Mars Petcare has launched its largest-ever animal shelter volunteer program, through which it will call for volunteer support from its employees and from pet advocates across the United States and Canada to serve shelters. The Service Humans Needed program calls on advocates and pet owners to be “service humans” who volunteer at local shelters, foster and adopt pets, and share adoptable shelter pets on social media. The program also encourages 500,000 hours of employee volunteer support at local shelters and will lend some of its pet brands’ social media platforms to support awareness of shelter needs.

Loyal wants to create an anti-aging drug for dogs, then do the same for humans

A California startup is trying to develop a drug that would delay aging in dogs and extend their healthy lifespan. The company, Loyal, founded by Celine Halioua, has raised about $58 million and has two drugs in development. A product like this would be the first of its kind for any species, but Halioua also sees this as a potential springboard to developing a similar drug for humans, Wired reports.

Pet genomic tools are on the rise, though experts warn there are still unknowns

Demand for higher-quality pet care has given rise to a booming pet genomics industry, including DNA tests for people to give their pets at home and diagnostic tests and treatments in the veterinary clinic. PetDx is among the notable players in the space. The company launched its OncoK9 liquid biopsy test last year. Still, some experts note pet owners should approach these new tools with caution. They don’t have to go through the same federal oversight process as human diagnostics, and much of the science behind them is still in its early stages, The Scientist reports.

Pet owners who feed their dogs raw diets consult veterinarians less, survey shows

Pet owners who fed their dogs raw, whole prey or similar diets differed demographically from those who bought kibble, canned and other traditional pet food formats, according to a recent survey by researchers at France’s National Veterinary School of Alfort. Thirty-eight percent of the 429 respondents said they fed their dog raw food, while 55% said they fed a conventional diet, and 7% said they fed a mix of both. “This study shows that veterinarians are rarely consulted as a source of advice by owners using nonconventional diets, which may indicate a lack of trust in French veterinarians on the importance of pet nutrition or a lack of veterinarian’s communication regarding their nutrition competencies,” researchers wrote in the journal BMC Medical Research. “These results may help to better understand these populations of owners and improve communication with veterinarians about nutrition.” Petfood Industry reports.