Weekly companion animal news: August 23, 2021

FDA says more than 130 dog deaths and 220 illnesses may be linked to Midwestern Pet Foods

The FDA is warning pet owners that Midwestern Pet Foods’ products have been associated with death and illness in hundreds of pets. The agency said it issued a warning letter to the company because inspections of manufacturing plants revealed evidence of violations, USA Today reports. As of August 9, the agency said, it was aware of “more than 130 pet deaths and more than 220 pet illnesses that may be linked to eating brands of pet food manufactured by Midwestern” containing potentially unsafe levels of aflatoxin. Midwestern recalled several types of dog food in December, and the recall was expanded in January. The cases haven’t all been confirmed as aflatoxin poisoning through laboratory testing or veterinary record review, the FDA said. “This count is approximate and may not reflect the total number of pets affected,” the agency said.

Are we in a veterinary workforce crisis?

AVMA chief economist Matt Salois and chief veterinary officer Gail Golab address several common beliefs about the challenges facing the veterinary profession as the United States moves into the next phase of the pandemic. Practices are stressed, dealing with a loss of productivity and high burnout. But according to Salois and Golab, some potential solutions that have been suggested—such as increasing the number of veterinarians or adding new roles to the veterinary team—won’t necessarily improve well-being in the profession.

Shelters urge more pet fosters amid potential eviction spike

As eviction moratoriums end, many pet shelters report they’re worried about an influx of pet surrenders even though they’re already at capacity. If there is an influx and shelters are still full, they’ll have to euthanize healthy animals, advocates say. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said an increase in owner surrenders is not “evident as a national trend,” but shelters across the country are urging people to adopt or foster pets, similar to calls they issued when the pandemic first broke out. Human Animal Support Services, a project of no-kill advocacy group American Pets Alive, created a Pet Eviction Calculator to determine the number of pets that could be affected by eviction in each county. The Washington Post reports.

New canine cancer treatment from Virbac is now available in veterinary offices across the United States

Virbac announced that its recently approved canine cancer drug Stelfonta is now available at veterinary offices nationwide. The drug was approved by the FDA last November to treat dogs with non-metastatic, skin-based mast cell tumors. The FDA also approved Stelfonta to treat non-metastatic mast cell tumors located under the dog’s skin in particular areas of the leg, Dallas Innovates reports. Virbac said that since the November FDA approval, about 88% of veterinarians who have used the injectable drug have reported “satisfactory” experiences. In addition to the United States, it’s been approved by regulators in Australia, Europe and the United Kingdom.

National Veterinary Associates buys Ethos Veterinary Health

National Veterinary Associates, backed by JAB Investors, is moving further into the specialty veterinary care sector with the acquisition of Ethos Veterinary Health, PE Hub reports, citing sources familiar with the matter. Sources said the deal valued Ethos at $1.65 billion. They previously placed Ethos’ marketed adjusted EBITDA at around $60 million, though sources added that estimated 2022 EBITDA is in the mid-$70 million range. Upon completion of the transaction, shareholders in Ethos will roll a portion of stock into NVA, sources said. This comes soon after NVA bought SAGE Veterinary Care.

DVMPro partners with MTMC Animal Health on new equipment offering

DVMPro is partnering with outsourced sales organization MTMC Animal Health to offer DVMPro’s monitoring and diagnostic equipment to veterinary customers. The DVMPro offering includes multi-parameter monitoring; ventilators and anesthesia; ultrasound; ECG; infusion pumps; pulse oximetry; and blood analysis.

Venture capital flocks to the pet industry in 2021

Venture capital-backed pet companies have raised more than $1.1 billion this year, surpassing a record set in 2019, PitchBook reports. “This is a trend that has been building for years,” said Meagan Loyst, an investor at Lerer Hippeau, an early backer of the subscription service BarkBox. “Investors are opening their eyes largely because of COVID-19.” According to Kevin Colleran, managing director at Slow Ventures, “many pet owners have become more comfortable with the idea of spending much more of their discretionary spending on pet-related expenses than what I ever saw back when I was growing up.” The rise in consumer spending makes pet-focused companies more appealing for investors. Notable deals in 2021 include investments in Bought by Many, Embark and Modern Animal.

Norway considers banning short-muzzled dog breeding

Norway is considering banning the breeding of short-muzzled dogs. It would be the second country to do so, the VIN News Service reports. The Netherlands was the first. The Norwegian Society for the Protection of Animals is suing three kennel clubs in the country, claiming they’re breaching existing animal welfare rules by facilitating the breeding of dogs with serious health issues, including those caused by a flattened face, or brachycephaly. The case is due to be heard by the Oslo District Court beginning November 10. Efforts like this to introduce breeding restrictions are pitting animal welfare advocates against kennel clubs, breeders and dog owners who say these bans are overreach, partly because not all brachycephalic animals show severe clinical signs of the conditions associated with the trait.