Weekly companion animal news: August 28, 2023

VetStrategy lays off some veterinarians and support staff in Canada

IVC Evidensia has laid off a small number of veterinarians at its VetStrategy business in Canada, citing changes in demand, and is cutting hundreds of support-staff roles in Canada and the United Kingdom combined, the VIN News Service reports. The layoffs are temporary, according to VetStrategy, meaning the affected staff may be invited to return to their roles at a later date. The layoffs indicate that rising cost-of-living pressures may be tempering demand for veterinary care or are at least changing the calculus for corporate consolidators that paid top dollar for veterinary practices during a pandemic pet boom. IVC Evidensia, based in Bristol, England, owns around 2,600 practices worldwide, many located in the United Kingdom and mainland Europe. In 2021, it acquired Canada’s VetStrategy, marking a move into North America that added more than 270 practices across nine Canadian provinces.

Purina and Zigzag partner on puppy training app

Purina and U.K.-based Zigzag are teaming up to launch an app designed to bring tailored puppy training lessons to dog owners across the United States. Zigzag’s app is dedicated to puppy training and development. The company launched in the United Kingdom in 2021 and offers bite-sized lessons meant to empower pet owners to incorporate training and enrichment activities into their daily lives during the critical puppy stage of life. From preparing for the puppy’s arrival, to learning potty training, sound habituation, lead walking and recall, Zigzag also aims to help teach puppies important lessons in socialization and how to respond confidently to the world around them. Zigzag puppy training programs are customized for owners based on each dog’s age, breed and environment.

Dogs can age healthier by socializing with humans and pets, study finds

Social interaction may be good for dogs, according to a new study. Researchers surveyed owners of more than 21,000 dogs and found that social companionship—both with people and other animals—had the largest influence on healthier aging among dogs. The effect was five times greater than anything else they looked at, such as family finances, household children or the pet owner’s age. The study was part of the Dog Aging Project, a community science research effort started in 2018 and funded by the National Institute on Aging in addition to private donations. Its goal is to learn how genes, lifestyle and the environment influence aging and disease among dogs. Researchers also hope the insights can help human health. The Washington Post reports.

Pet industry inflation slows again, but still up 8.7% from 2022

Year-over-year increases in the monthly consumer price index are slowing, with July prices up 0.2% from June and the CPI up 3.2% from 2022. Grocery pricing continues to slow: After 12 straight months of double-digit year-over-year monthly percentage increases, grocery inflation is down to 3.6%, now with five consecutive months below 10%. Even minor price changes can affect consumer pet spending, especially in the discretionary pet segments. While national inflation has slowed since July 2022, pet industry inflation has generally increased, now up 8.7% in July, 2.7 times the national rate of 3.2%. Find out more from the Pet Business Professor.

Veterinary team members share insights to help reverse employee attrition trends

Veterinary Visionaries has launched a video compiling responses from veterinary professionals answering the question: How do we get people who have fallen out of love with the profession to fall back in love and stay? More than 200 responses were received after Veterinary Visionaries launched its second “solving event” in February. While compensation was an overarching pain point among respondents, particularly for non-veterinarians, employees also called for improved practice culture, childcare and national standards to clarify and define technicians’ titles to more aptly convey their education and garner respect.

Akston Biosciences turns focus to companion animal health

Therapeutics developer Akston Biosciences Corporation has announced it will now focus on inventing, developing and manufacturing breakthrough protein therapeutics for companion animal health. The corporation will use its cGMP biologics manufacturing facility in Beverly, Massachusetts, as well as Akston’s Ambifect Fc-fusion platform, which supports species-specific drug development, to bring these veterinary therapies to market. Akston’s most advanced animal health candidates—AKS-321d for canine diabetes and AKS-425c for feline diabetes—are once-a-week insulin therapies. Both treatments are licensed to, and are being developed in partnership with, Dechra Pharmaceuticals.

Price leads veterinarians to switch to generics: survey

Price was the biggest factor influencing veterinarians to switch to prescribing generic drugs from the original, according to a survey by TriRx Pharmaceutical Services. Seventy-seven percent of the 192 veterinarians, technicians and practice managers surveyed by TriRx at this year’s VMX said price was the most influential factor in their decision to prescribe generics rather than the original. Safety was most important for 17.3% of respondents. The survey was designed to help understand current veterinary considerations for practices prescribing generics. More findings are available from TriRx.

Study shows prevalence of mental health symptoms and potential risk factors among Austrian veterinary students

A new study published in Nature aimed to provide first data on a broad range of mental health indicators in Austrian veterinary students. Studies conducted in Germany, the United States and the United Kingdom have indicated veterinary students experience enormous strain on mental health with notably higher levels of psychological problems compared to the general population, as well as students in other professional programs. In the new study, a higher proportion of veterinary students exceeded cutoffs for clinically relevant mental health symptoms compared to the general Austrian population. A total of 55.3% of participating veterinary students exceeded the cutoff for moderate depressive symptoms, 52.6% for moderate anxiety symptoms, 20.9% for clinically relevant insomnia symptoms, 79.3% for high-stress symptoms, 22.8% for symptoms of alcohol abuse and 38.6% for symptoms of disordered eating.