Weekly companion animal news: February 27, 2023

A California bill would pay up to $150,000 in student debt relief to veterinarians who work in shelters

A bill recently introduced in the California Assembly would offer up to $150,000 in student debt relief to licensed California veterinarians who agree to work for an animal shelter in the state or in underserved communities for at least five years, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. The bill is co-sponsored by the San Diego Humane Society and the San Francisco SPCA. According to the San Diego Humane Society, open job positions are open on average 50 days, which makes it difficult to perform medical procedures essential for making animals in their care adoptable.

Survey shows challenges of paying for pet care

A new survey shows the steep costs owners face for pet care. Eighty-three percent of pet owners have had to borrow money at some point to pay for pet care, according to the survey by Credit Summit of 1,200 people in the United States. Almost 32% said they had to decline treatment for their pet because they couldn’t afford it. Twenty-one percent of respondents said they’ve used a payday loan to pay for pet care, and 10% reported using a title loan.

Animal shelters give free pet food and financial aid to prevent surrenders

As overcrowded animal shelters worry about owners surrendering pets because of financial challenges, they’re lowering adoption fees and offering other resources to try to help. They’re giving things like free pet food and financial assistance for veterinary care and grooming. Pet services, including veterinary costs, have increased more than 9% in the last year, according to the Labor Department. “There’s no question that pet ownership is getting more and more expensive and some folks on the lower end of the income spectrum are just going to get priced out,” Matt Schulz, chief credit analyst at LendingTree, told PBS NewsHour.

Idexx report offers guidance to improve practice productivity

A report released last week by Idexx offers guidance to help practices improve productivity. The report introduces the Practice Productivity Index, a framework and collection of guides for transforming productivity in the categories of workflow, technology and culture. In a survey of 786 U.S. practices, 82% said they’re trying to hire at least one staff member and are having trouble doing so. The study describes how practices can increase efficiency by taking steps like adopting a new staffing model, empowering technicians to support more complex tasks and improving staff and patient flow in the physical layout of the clinic.

Arkansas Senate approves bill giving midlevel practitioners more authority in practices

The Arkansas Senate has approved a bill that would grant more authority to veterinary technician specialists, a midlevel practitioner position that’s been compared to nurse practitioners. Arkansas doesn’t have any veterinary technician specialists yet, but two are studying at a program at Arkansas State University, one of the bill’s co-sponsors said. The bill would allow these specialists to enter a “collaborative practice agreement” with a veterinarian to help treat animals. The bill’s sponsor said it would allow veterinary technician specialists to establish a patient relationship, relieving pressure on veterinarians. Now that it’s been approved by the Senate, it goes to the House.

Nationwide white paper highlights health risks in brachycephalic dogs

Nationwide has released the second in a two-part series of white papers on brachycephalic dogs and health risks associated with the breeds. The insurer’s analysts studied data from more than 50,000 brachycephalic dogs in their database of pets covered by Nationwide’s pet insurance. The analysis highlights insights into diseases representing increased risks for brachycephalic dogs and “extreme” brachycephalic dogs (French bulldogs, English bulldogs and pugs) and recommends clinical action to improve care for these pets.

Rhode Island lawmakers reintroduce bill to allow medical marijuana prescriptions for pets

Rhode Island lawmakers have reintroduced a bill that would legalize medical marijuana for pets when prescribed by a licensed veterinarian. This is the second time the bill has been introduced in the state legislature. “We need to get this dialogue going to see if it will be beneficial,” said Representative Charline Lima, a co-sponsor of the bill. “It might not be; studies have shown THC can be very deadly for animals.” Veterinarians and animal rights advocates have raised concerns about the bill. California is the only state that currently allows veterinarians to prescribe medical marijuana for pets or discuss it with clients, WJAR reports.

Vaccines should be developed for all strains of animal influenza, says incoming WHO chief scientist

Governments should invest in vaccines for all strains of influenza virus that exist in the animal kingdom in case of an outbreak in humans, the incoming chief scientist at the World Health Organization said. Jeremy Farrar, the incoming WHO chief scientist, said he would like to see the pharmaceutical industry at least conduct some clinical trials for all influenza strains so the world wouldn’t have to start from scratch to initiate global manufacturing should the need arise. Reuters reports.