Weekly companion animal News: March 18, 2024

U.K. authorities intensify probe into veterinary competition and pricing

Authorities in the United Kingdom are considering imposing a cap on veterinary prescription fees and forcing large companies to sell veterinary practices. These actions could influence thinking among regulators in other countries such as Australia, France and the United States, which likewise are contending with the rising influence of private equity firms and other big players in the veterinary profession, the VIN News Service reports. The deepening probe in the United Kingdom comes after an initial six-month review by the Competition and Markets Authority that was spurred, in part, by a spike in the cost of veterinary care that has outpaced inflation. While the CMA could have ended its probe after the initial review, the agency said it identified “multiple concerns,” including that ownership concentration could be leading pet owners to overpay. The regulator found that most veterinary practices in the country don’t display prices on their website and that clients aren’t always informed of the cost of a procedure before agreeing to treatment. The CMA also believes pet owners aren’t always aware that they don’t have to buy medications from their veterinarian.

Pet care could help domestic violence survivors seek aid faster, study indicates

Innovative partnerships linking the private sector, veterinarians and community volunteers could benefit human and animal survivors of domestic violence, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. While multiple studies of domestic violence have demonstrated simultaneous animal abuse, most domestic violence shelters don’t allow pets in the facility with their owners, the study noted. The report, coauthored by Dr. Hillary Pearce at Hill’s Pet Nutrition, describes a Hill’s partnership with the YWCA Northeast Kansas’ Center for Safety and Empowerment that the authors say could serve as a model for similar collaborations.

Petco CEO Ron Coughlin steps down as company reports Q4 results

Petco CEO Ron Coughlin is stepping down from his role, with former Best Buy chief operating officer and president R. Michael Mohan to step in as interim CEO, CNBC reports. Mohan has been on the company’s board since March 2021. Coughlin’s departure comes as Petco’s market cap has eroded in the last year, despite the company reporting consistent sales growth and comparable sales gains.

American Association of Feline Practitioners launches ‘Chronic Pain Educational Toolkit’

The American Association of Feline Practitioners announced the availability of the “Chronic Pain Education Toolkit,” an online resource meant to give veterinary professionals the insight and tools necessary to effectively address the issue. According to the announcement, the toolkit offers in-depth understanding of chronic pain, enhanced assessment tools, science-based treatment strategies, and patient and caregiver support.

New program will train Manitobans in remote areas to vaccinate dogs and cats

The Manitoba Veterinary Medical Association’s limited access vaccinator program will soon send licensed veterinarians to remote and northern communities, as well as all First Nations in the province, training people to deworm and administer different vaccines to cats and dogs. This is the first program of its kind in Canada, the CBC reports. “We hope to see many more animals in these communities being vaccinated for rabies, but also distemper and parvovirus,” said Corey Wilson, executive director of the Manitoba Veterinary Medical Association. The program, created in partnership with the Winnipeg Humane Society and the Manitoba government, is set to launch in June. People trained in the program will learn how to administer non-prescription deworming medication and other over-the-counter medications, as well as microchips and a combination vaccine for cats.

Research shows genetic link to obesity in Labrador retrievers

A common mutation in Labrador retrievers predisposes them to obesity, according to new research findings. The mutation causes Labrador retrievers to experience greater hunger than usual while also reducing their metabolic rate, both of which put the dogs at greater risk of obesity, scientists found. In 2016, University of Cambridge scientist Eleanor Raffan and her team published a study finding a clear link between obesity in these breeds and a mutation in a gene responsible for the protein pro-opiomelanocortin, or POMC. This alteration seems to delete some of the POMC gene in affected dogs. They also found that a quarter of Labrador retrievers and two-thirds of flat-coated retrievers appear to have this mutation. In their newest research, published in the journal Science Advances, the team says they’ve figured out how these POMC mutations physically help cause obese retrievers. Gizmodo reports.

University of Illinois researchers tackle canine cancer side effects

A clinical trial at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital has shed light on a common chemotherapy side effect in canine cancer patients, WCIA reports. Unlike in human cancer treatment, where side effects are prevalent, only about one-third of dogs treated with chemotherapy exhibit adverse reactions. However, for the subset of canine patients that experience chemotherapy-induced diarrhea, managing this side effect is crucial for their well-being. The U of I trial challenges the conventional approach to treating diarrhea and investigates its efficacy in improving patients’ conditions. Canine cancer patients undergoing traditional chemotherapy at the hospital participate in this trial. Upon experiencing diarrhea, pet owners receive a packet containing either the historical treatment or placebo capsules. Daily surveys track the progress of diarrhea resolution, while stool samples provide insights into the gastrointestinal microbiome’s composition and diversity.

World Veterinary Day will celebrate veterinarians April 27

World Veterinary Day will be held April 27, sponsored by the World Veterinary Association with the theme “Veterinarians are essential workers.” The event aims to recognize the contributions of veterinarians to the health of animals, people and the environment. The WVA created World Veterinary Day in 2000 as an annual celebration of the veterinary profession.