Weekly companion animal news: September 4, 2023

Thrive Pet Healthcare to close veterinary emergency hospital amid union talks, citing doctor shortage

Thrive Pet Healthcare confirmed it intends to close a Rochester, New York, veterinary hospital no later than November 27. Staff at Veterinary Specialists Emergency Services say they learned of the decision through an email from Thrive that was meant to go to referral practices announcing a plan to close the hospital later this year. The closure will result in 132 staff layoffs, according to a notice filed by Thrive with the New York Department of Labor. The news comes as hospital support staff, who voted in 2022 to form a union, were in contract talks with management. If the planned closure goes ahead, it will be the third hospital since 2020 to close in the middle of labor negotiations, according to the VIN News Service. Thrive in a statement said its decision was due to a lack of emergency doctors in the area.

Hill’s Global Symposium to focus on veterinary oncology

Hill’s Pet Nutrition will host its annual Hill’s Global Symposium, an education event available for veterinary professionals. Titled “Feeding the Fight Against Cancer,” this year’s symposium will bring together experts in canine and feline cancer and nutrition. The event will be hosted in Lisbon, Portugal, September 25-26 and offered online, both live and on-demand, for free via Hill’s global education platform, Hill’s Veterinary Academy. More than 15 sessions spanning topics such as early detection and diagnosis, supportive care for the cancer patient and how to build a partnership with pet owners to deliver the best outcomes will be offered from industry experts.

New digital service from IAMS connects pet owners to veterinary technicians and nutrition advisers

The IAMS brand has launched the PETconnect by IAMS digital service, providing pet owners real-time access to a licensed veterinary technician or a nutrition adviser. With the free service, users can ask questions about their pet’s nutrition needs, such as when and how much to feed them, life stage behaviors as their pet grows, their general well-being and more, all of which is available immediately with no login required. Following the discussion, PETconnect by IAMS-licensed veterinary technicians or nutrition advisers may follow up with a summary of the conversation along with resources.

Nutrition-associated DCM not caused by legume-rich pet diets: study

A six-month study found both grain-inclusive and grain-free canine diets had no negative effect on digestibility, according to BSM Partners, a pet care research and consulting firm, and the University of Illinois. For the study, researchers formulated four canine diets. Two diets were grain-free, contained pulse ingredients and potatoes, and included either low or high amounts of animal protein. Two diets were grain-inclusive, contained no pulse ingredients or potatoes, and included either low or high amounts of animal protein. “While some have postulated that pulse-rich diets could perhaps be a cause of nutrition-associated dilated cardiomyopathy in canines due to a potentially negative effect on digestibility, our results showed all diets were highly digestible,” the authors said. Pet Product News has more.

Petco Love teams up with Anivive Lifesciences and former NFL player on Valley fever initiative

National nonprofit Petco Love, Anivive Lifesciences and former NFL football player Rob Gronkowski announced a partnership focused on bringing awareness to the growing threat of Valley fever. Petco Love’s network of animal welfare partners will host complimentary vaccination clinics, with a special focus on helping pets most in need. Valley fever is more common in arid and desert areas such as the southwestern United States. For the 30 million dogs at risk, this partnership informs pet parents, veterinarians and the general public about Valley fever and its wide-reaching consequences, according to the announcement.

California should allow a telehealth VCPR, LA Times editorial board says

The Los Angeles Times editorial board supports a bill in the California legislature that would lift the requirement that veterinarians see an animal in person before treating it through telehealth. The bill, which has already been passed by the California Assembly, “offers a smart and reasonable change that could help tens of thousands of underserved pets get needed care,” the board says. The California Veterinary Medical Association is neutral on the bill and the California Veterinary Medical Board supports it. The AVMA opposes it, saying the bill opens the door to online direct-to-consumer veterinary services more concerned with dispensing drugs than offering care. However, the editorial board says, “we shouldn’t overly restrict a much-needed portal for care over the fear there might be a few bad actors,” arguing those concerns should be addressed by state and federal regulators.

Takeaways from the 2023 Animal Health Summit

Akston Biosciences was selected as the award winner at the 2023 Animal Health Summit Emerging Companies presentations. The event allowed entrepreneurs to share their visions of how they would impact the future of animal health. Akston Biosciences is using a proprietary monoclonal antibody production platform to develop long-acting insulin drugs for dogs and cats that would allow for once-a-week injections. Other highlights from the conference included the presentation of the Iron Paw Award to Dr. Fabian Kausche and discussion on the importance of mental health in the veterinary profession.

Scientists question ability of ‘button dogs’ to piece together human language

For anywhere from $20 to more than $200, pet owners can purchase paw-friendly buttons, each representing a word such as “walk” or “play,” to give their pet a human voice. On TikTok, some of these “button dogs” appear to be able to combine two words to create a unique meaning—for instance, “squeaker” and “car” could refer to an ambulance. In at least one instance, a sheepadoodle on TikTok is said to put together four-word phrases. But can dogs really use language in this way? Canine cognition experts are skeptical at the idea of dogs coming up with novel word combinations. They are capable of learning words, scientists say. But while a few exceptional dogs have been trained to learn hundreds of words, most seem to top out at fewer than a dozen. Studies have shown that dogs interpret communication differently from humans, Scientific American reports.