Companion News for week of September 23

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Vet handing over a prescription for pet care

Veterinarians say they need more training on opioid abuse prevention

Thirteen percent of surveyed veterinarians said they were aware of an animal owner who had intentionally made an animal ill, injured an animal, or made an animal appear to be injured to obtain opioid medications, according to a 2018 study that researchers recently highlighted at the annual American Veterinary Medical Association convention. Forty-four percent were aware of opioid abuse or misuse by a client or veterinary practice staff member, and 12% were aware of opioid abuse and diversion by a veterinary staff member. Due to a small sample size, the study’s results can’t be extrapolated to all practices, one of the authors acknowledged. Still, he said, “these data are sufficient to warrant immediate action.” Sixty-two percent of the veterinarians surveyed said they believed they had a role in preventing opioid abuse and misuse, while 73% said training on opioid abuse or misuse in veterinary school was fair, poor or absent. Respondents identified three continuing education priorities: opioid abuse prevention (81%), pain management guidelines (55%), and identification of online resources on opioid use and abuse (54%).

AVMA delegates vote on sexual harassment resolution


The AVMA House of Delegates during its annual session in August voted unanimously to approve a continuing resolution concerning sexual harassment awareness. The resolution recommends that the AVMA Board of Directors charge the AVMA Council on Veterinary Service to collaborate with the Student AVMA and the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America to investigate the current harassment policies that the AVMA provides to members and to develop additional resources. Wide data isn’t available on sexual harassment in the veterinary profession, but in an online poll by Bovine Veterinarian, 82% of female veterinarians reported they’ve experienced sexual harassment or discrimination, and 78% of respondents said they’ve witnessed a female veterinarian experiencing harassment or discrimination. “I have experienced sexual harassment from both clients and veterinarians. I would say more so from clients than my colleagues, thank goodness,” said Dr. Lindy O’Neal, a small animal veterinarian and owner of Animal Medical Center in Rogers, Arkansas.

Boehringer Ingelheim offers veterinarians Lyme disease prevention tips

With fall approaching, Boehringer Ingelheim is asking veterinarians to advise clients on prevention of Borrelia burgdorferi, a bacterial infection transmitted by ticks that can cause canine Lyme disease. The Companion Animal Parasite Council reported more than 318,000 U.S. dogs infected with the bacteria in 2018, a 50.9% increase from 2012. Lyme disease is primarily concentrated in the Northeast, Upper Midwest and Mid-Atlantic states, but cases have appeared in recent years in North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia. “The problem is, with each passing year, the black-legged tick continues to fan out into new areas,” said Dr. Andrew Eschner at Boehringer Ingelheim. The pharmaceutical manufacturer offers tips, featured in this article in Veterinary Practice News, for veterinarians to share with clients. For example, pet owners can make their yards less appealing to ticks by cutting grass short and eliminating brush piles.

DCM and grain-free: Why it’s time to take a deeper look at pet food trends

“Aside from the broader and longer trend of natural, it’s hard to recall a bigger pet food success story than grain free,” David Lummis, lead pet market analyst at Packaged Facts, writes in this commentaryin Pet Product News. But mounting concerns over the possible link between grain-free diets and canine heart disease, along with questions from veterinarians and pet food makers about the value of grain-free diets, provides a “cautionary tale,” Lummis says. “Although grain-free pet food in one form or another is almost certainly here to stay, now might be the time for the industry to think more broadly about what constitutes superpremium, investing more robustly in environmental, social and ethical issues such as sustainable, locally grown, fair trade and animal welfare.”

Maryland county proposes major animal protection changes

The Prince George’s County Council is considering sweeping changes to its animal ordinance, including outlawing the chaining of dogs outdoors, requiring owners to pay for the implanting of electronic microchips when their pets are picked up by Animal Services, and outlawing leaving pets outdoors in severe cold or heat. The bill also includes language defining “potentially dangerous” animals, giving authorities more power to identify problem animals and take corrective action before the offending pet harms someone. “We want to change the mindset of how we care for animals in Prince George’s County,” Animal Services Chief Rodney Taylor told WUSA 9. The proposed bill would be the largest major revision of the county’s animal codes in 20 years, Taylor said.

Growing pet care chain opens clinic at Georgia Walmart

Essentials PetCare opened its sixth walk-in clinic inside a Walmart store, Today’s Veterinary Business (also published by NAVC) reported. Essentials was founded in 2015 to provide wellness exams, vaccines and laboratory tests for cats and dogs and to treat minor illnesses, with the option to bundle many services. For example, a $175 puppy package includes an exam, vaccines, microchipping and three nail trims. This new clinic is located at a Walmart in the Atlanta suburb of Dallas. Essentials’ other clinics are in Texas and Florida.

State Department program inadequately cares for antiterrorism dogs sent overseas: Inspector General

The State Department is failing to provide adequate care to the working dogs it provides to partner countries to fight terrorism, and as a result, dogs are dying of preventable diseases, a new report from the department’s inspector general shows. The review, reported on by Government Executive, was prompted by a hotline complaint made to the inspector’s office saying that antiterrorism dogs sent to Jordan — the largest recipient of explosive detection dogs — were “dying due to various medical conditions, lack of veterinary care, and poor working conditions.” The inspector’s investigation found dogs sent to Jordan through a State Department training program were underfed and overwhelmingly past their working years. As of late 2018, Jordan had received 61 dogs and at least 10 died due to mistreatment from 2008 to 2016, the report said.

Supporting emotional and mental health in the veterinary profession

In the past, mental health was rarely discussed in the veterinary profession. But as issues like compassion fatigue and cyberbullying become more evident and more pressing, it’s important for veterinary professionals to use resources available, Abbie Hathaway, a certified veterinary technician, writes in Today’s Veterinary Nurse (also published by NAVC). The AVMA found in a study that 1 in 5 veterinarians has been a victim or works with someone who has been a victim of cyberbullying in the workplace. “The ability to air grievances and condemn veterinary team members and practices online worsens the situation,” Hathaway writes. In some cases, such as at Banfield, where Hathaway works, an in-house mental health professional is available for employees. But in addition to making use of resources like that, Hathaway says veterinary industry members “need to encourage each other to bring issues around cyberbullying, compassion fatigue, depression, and suicide into the public discussion — despite how uncomfortable, vulnerable and foreign this can feel.” Banfield is planningsuicide prevention trainings at its more than 1,000 clinics, to be completed by the beginning of 2020.