Weekly companion animal news: January 30, 2023

U.K. regulators to allow veterinarians to prescribe medications via telemedicine without an in-person VCPR

The United Kingdom’s veterinary regulatory body has decided to allow practitioners to prescribe medicines over the internet without first needing to see a patient in-person. The change, approved by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, is significant because it’s based on a yearslong review of telemedicine rules that predates the pandemic, the VIN News Service reports. The British Veterinary Association opposes the change, which is scheduled to go into effect sometime between June 1 and December 31. It includes certain caveats, including stricter rules regarding antimicrobial prescriptions. It’s unclear what the decision means for the United States, AVMA leaders told the American Animal Hospital Association.

Veterinarians expand their offices, add new services as pet owner demand grows

Veterinarians are expanding their offices and adding services like boarding, daycare and grooming as client demand grows, The Washington Post reports. In the first nine months of 2022, small business loans to veterinary offices rose 23% at PNC Bank, a spokesperson said. At Huntington National Bank, veterinary credit requests have quadrupled in the past four years. Experts say the growth is due to a surge in pet adoptions. Pet owners are willing to invest in more expensive care options now than before—things like resort-style pet boarding facilities and daycare centers that look like kindergartens.

Amazon launches prescription drug discount program

Amazon is launching RxPass, a prescription drug discount program for customers with Prime memberships. Customers will pay $5 a month to fill as many prescriptions as they need from a list of about 50 generic medications. The company says Prime members who participate can get discounts of up to 80% off generic medications and 40% off brand-name drugs at more than 60,000 pharmacies around the United States. Most health insurance programs are accepted, the company said. The Associated Press reports.

FDA approves Bravecto to treat Asian longhorned tick infestations in dogs

The FDA has approved an expanded indication for Merck Animal Health’s Bravecto Chews for Dogs. The new indication treats and controls Asian longhorned ticks. According to Merck, Bravecto Chews for Dogs is the first and only U.S. product labeled for the treatment and control of Asian longhorned tick infestations. The tick species is found across more than a third of the United States, according to Merck.

Your web presence is crucial for your business: iVET360

Having a website is crucial to draw clients to your practice, and 7.7% of veterinary hospitals don’t have one, according to iVET360. The marketing and management consulting firm has released its 2022 Veterinary Marketing Benchmark Report, in which it analyzes the digital footprints of 22,127 veterinary hospitals across the country. Independent practices need to advertise digitally—especially on Google Ads—to get new clients and new hires, the report concludes. They don’t have to post constantly on social media to get engagement, but they should make sure their profiles are current.

What to watch for in the pet health industry in the next 5 years

Alex Douzet, CEO of the pet insurance provider Pumpkin, names his predictions for the pet health industry’s biggest trends in the coming years. Increasing demand for preventive care, accelerated practice sales and consolidation, increased spending on pets by women with discretionary income, more data allowing for shorter R&D timelines, and more individualized treatment are in store for the pet care industry, Douzet writes in Forbes.

Pedigree dog food brand launches adoption program using Metaverse

The Pedigree brand of dog food has launched a program allowing fostering of real-life rescue dogs in the “Metaverse.” The Fosterverse program allows Metaverse users to participate through Decentraland, a virtual 3D world where users own land. To participate, landowners upload 3D avatars to their Decentraland property based on real rescue dogs currently listed on Adopt a Pet. Users can interact with dogs they meet in Decentraland, and they can also choose to adopt a dog they meet or donate to Pedigree Foundation.

App uses pet photos to diagnose health problems

South Korea-based AI for Pet has created an artificial intelligence-powered app that uses pets’ photos to diagnose health issues. Pet owners upload an image that the app, called TTcare, then analyzes to flag potential ailments in the pet’s eyes, skin or joints. The company says its model has been trained on “over a million photos,” enabling it to diagnose health issues in dogs and cats with more than 90% accuracy. When the app detects a problem, it makes recommendations for preventive care or medical consultation. TTcare was named an Innovation Awards Honoree at CES 2023, DesignTAXI reports.