Companion Animal News for week of October 7

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Veterinarians urged to act after low global vaccination uptake reported

Animal health and welfare is at risk worldwide from low vaccination uptake, according to a new reportfrom the global animal medicines association HealthforAnimals. The report, highlighted by U.K.-based Vet Times, found that pets and livestock worldwide were unnecessarily suffering preventable diseases because of a range of barriers holding back widespread vaccination, including politics, costs and an anti-vaccination movement. The authors give 80 recommendations of actions for manufacturers, animal owners, veterinarians and governments to take to increase uptake. “Vaccines are a cornerstone of health and a veterinarian’s most valuable tool for protecting animals from disease, but numerous barriers often stand in the way of adoption, such as protectionist tactics and trade barriers that ultimately limit the availability of vaccines,” said Carel du Marchie Sarvaas, executive director of HealthforAnimals. The report identified six overarching barriers to vaccination: economic, political, scientific, regulatory, field use and social.

How to respond when controlled substances are stolen

Veterinary practices are often targeted for theft, loss or diversion of controlled substances, former practice owner Jan Woods writes in Veterinary Practice News. This is a serious issue given the nation’s ongoing opioid epidemic. “Unfortunately, just being aware of the problem won’t help you when you’ve suffered an actual theft or substantial loss,” Woods says. Woods provides a checklist of steps practice managers can take to determine whether they’ve experienced a significant loss of substances, using guidelines from the Drug Enforcement Administration. Once a significant loss has been identified, Woods advises practice managers to take important steps, including notifying relevant authorities and discussing the issue with staff.

Applications open for 2020 Zoetis veterinary student scholarships

Zoetis announced will once again partner with the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges in 2020 to offer scholarships to second- and third-year veterinary students in the United States and the Caribbean. Award recipients will each receive $2,000 for the upcoming academic year (2020-2021). Applications are open online through December 2. The scholarship is in its 11th year, and to date, the program has awarded more than 3,300 scholarships totaling more than $6.7 million, according to the announcement. Winners will be announced at the 2020 Student American Veterinary Medical Association Symposium.

Dog owners paying 300% more for organic and vegan dog food: study

Some alternative dog food diets, like organic and vegan, were found to be as much as 300% more expensive than other diets, according to a new study from industry research firm Woof Whiskers. The more expensive diets were found to cost about 50-79% more than the average. The study analyzed more than 1,300 dry dog foods and found that the average price per pound in 2019 is $2.19. Major manufacturers Iams and Purina sell their food at the lower end of the price spectrum, at $1.23 and $1.13. “These findings indicate that as Americans spend more than $30 billion on pet food annually, some are willing to shell out for diets that match their own without clear evidence of it being beneficial for their dogs,” according to the announcement. The study also found that 44% of dog foods contained chicken as the first ingredient, almost four times as much as lamb, the next most common first ingredient.

Overweight owners have overweight dogs: study

Dogs are twice as likely to be heavy or obese if their owners are, according to new research from a University of Copenhagen team. “Based on our findings, it seems that the way owners give their dog treats is related to the owner’s weight,” said study author Dr. Charlotte Bjornvad, who explained that while some owners seem to offer treats to reinforce training or encourage more activity, others share treats as a “hang out” indulgence. The Danish term for this is “hygge,” roughly translated as “cozy,” Alan Mozes writes in HealthDay. Hygge refers to enjoying mutual relaxation, inactivity and snacking. Pet obesity is a major problem in Western countries, Bjornvad pointed out. The team’s research found that heavy dogs live an average of 1.3 fewer years due to a higher risk for osteoarthritis. Gender also affects canine obesity risk, according to the study, with female dogs more prone to obesity than males. Additionally, male dogs who are neutered were found to face a risk of becoming heavy or obese three times greater than dogs who aren’t. “Maybe we could use this to get humans to make healthier lifestyles for themselves,” said Lona Sandon, a clinical nutrition program director at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

Food rewards: Way to a dog’s heart is through its stomach

Using treats as rewards for dogs is the easiest and most effective way to train them, a growing body of research shows. Other methods don’t work as well, experts say, and can even harm the dog and the human-animal bond. For example, research has shown that using punishment in dog training has serious side effects, like fear, anxiety and aggression. Punishment also seems to negatively affect the dog-owner bond. “If you have a fearful dog, using food is especially important because it builds a positive association through Pavlovian conditioning with the person providing it,” Erica Feuerbacher, a Virginia Tech assistant professor, told the Associated Press. Feuerbacher did a study comparing a food reward for dogs to the reward of petting and praise. “They’ll work harder and respond faster for food than for social interaction,” she said.

Covetrus announces expanded partnership with Veterinary Study Groups

Animal health technology company Covetrus announced a newly expanded strategic partnership with Veterinary Study Groups. VSG is the umbrella corporation for 52 veterinary management groups comprising more than 1,000 members who own 1,430 practices in North America. Covetrus will now include its prescription management platform and specialty pharmacy products in its current supply chain agreement with VSG. Covetrus also said it’s joined with VSG, the American Veterinary Medical Association and other stakeholders to further develop the VSG/AVMA Principles of Veterinary Data Ownership and Stewardship.

Mars diagnostic tool can predict chronic kidney disease in cats 2 years before onset; Idexx kidney function test included in disease staging guidelines

Mars Petcare released a diagnostic test that it says can predict chronic kidney disease in cats two years before the patient shows signs or symptoms, Today’s Veterinary Practice (also published by NAVC) reports. The test, called RenalTech, has been shown to be more than 95% accurate, according to Mars. Antech Diagnostics released the tool in September to its customers, free of charge. Researchers developed the test after evaluating 20 years of data from 150,000 cats treated at Banfield Pet Hospitals, narrowing down six laboratory parameters that appeared to be the most important for identifying cats at high risk of developing chronic kidney disease. The condition is the No. 1 cause of death for cats over the age of 5 and affects 30-40% of cats over the age of 10. Veterinary diagnostics developer Idexx Laboratories, meanwhile, announced that symmetric dimethylarginine (SDMA)-based chronic kidney disease staging guidelines have been generated and approved by the International Renal Interest Society. Idexx offers veterinarians SDMA tests to evaluate patients. SDMA, an amino acid, helps veterinarians assess kidney function in cats and dogs, according to Idexx. A persistently elevated concentration of SDMA indicates issues that result from loss of kidney function. The updated staging guidelines will help veterinarians “more accurately understand the utility of SDMA and how to interpret it,” the announcement said.

NAVC CEO to depart at end of 2019

The North American Veterinary Community (NAVC, publisher of the Fountain Report), announced that CEO Thomas M. Bohn will resign from the organization at the end of this year, to take a position leading the Association for Corporate Growth. Eugene O’Neill, NAVC’s deputy CEO and chief financial officer, has been appointed by the organization’s board as interim CEO. Bohn joined NAVC in 2013 and “led unprecedented growth and diversification for the nonprofit, more than doubling annual revenue from $11 million to more than $26 million in 2019, tripling its customer base and expanding its portfolio,” according to the announcement. He’s also credited with expanding NAVC’s offerings beyond its annual Veterinary Meeting & Expo (VMX), allowing the organization to spread revenue across multiple business lines. O’Neill, who will be serving as interim CEO, also joined the organization in 2013, after serving as vice president of finance at the Institute of Internal Auditors.