Weekly companion animal news: November 13, 2023

Drop in veterinary services usage due in part to affordability challenges: Packaged Facts

Affordability issues help explain a current drop in veterinary services usage, according to a new report from Packaged Facts. As of 2023, overall usage rates for veterinary services among dog- or cat-owning households are at 71%. This is down not only from a high of 85% during the core pandemic years but from a pre-pandemic rate of 77% in early 2019. Bureau of Labor Statistics data show veterinary services cost 7.5% more in September 2023 than in September 2022, only a slight easing from 8.8% in 2022. Given dogs receive veterinary care at significantly higher rates than cats, recent declines in national dog ownership rates help account for a drop in the veterinary customer base. But declines in dog ownership rates also tie into affordability issues, including housing affordability and high interest rates for consumer borrowing, since dogs are the most expensive of common household pets to maintain, according to Packaged Facts.

Colorado veterinary professionals in survey outline access, workforce challenges and potential solutions

Colorado State University’s Animal-Human Policy Center surveyed Colorado veterinary professionals to understand their perceptions of access to care, workforce challenges and potential solutions. More than 700 veterinary professionals responded to the survey, and the majority said they believed lack of access to care is a problem. They identified as challenges the need for more veterinary technicians, cost barriers to care and mental health impacts from not being able to provide care to all patients. Sixty-nine percent of the respondents said they were interested in participating in a grant program to expand access to care. About half the respondents believed a veterinary professional associate would positively benefit the profession and their practice and increase access to veterinary care, according to the university’s announcement.

Pet owners prefer veterinarian-led care for pets: AVMA survey

Most pet owners believe an in-person examination by a veterinarian leads to the best care for their pet, according to the results of a new survey released by the AVMA. The study indicates 88% of pet owners believe that having a veterinarian physically examine their pet and talk to them in-person is what leads to the best care. Seventy-nine percent of pet owners prefer that a veterinarian oversee their pet’s care. Seventy-six percent put their pet’s health and safety above all else as a top priority for veterinary care. Seventy-two percent prefer to meet a veterinarian in-person before allowing them to care for their pet. And 80% agree it would be dangerous for anyone other than a licensed veterinarian to make recommendations about life-or-death decisions for their pet, according to the AVMA.

AAHA publishes allergic skin disease guidelines for dogs and cats

The American Animal Hospital Association announced the publication of the 2023 AAHA Management of Allergic Skin Diseases in Dogs and Cats Guidelines, intended to provide a systematic approach to identifying and treating allergic skin diseases in these animals. The guidelines describe detailed diagnostic and treatment plans for flea allergy, food allergy and atopy in dogs and for flea allergy, food allergy and feline atopic skin syndrome in cats. Designed to simplify the path to diagnosis and management, the guidelines emphasize a multimodal approach for patients with allergic skin disease. Acute and chronic conditions are separated accordingly. To optimize patient outcomes, the guidelines offer charts and algorithms to walk providers and clients through treatment options and realistic ways to help their pets. The AVMA reports.

Veterinary starting salaries rise in 2023, educational debt holds steady: AVMA

Veterinary starting salaries continue to rise and educational debt levels are holding steady, leading to a debt-to-income ratio not seen since 2004, AVMA data shows. Further, this year’s graduates have received offers at near record-high levels. The mean debt-to-income ratio for new veterinarians fell a third straight year to 1.3-to-1, indicating a debt that is 1.3 times the amount of the graduating veterinarian’s income. The change was also helped by tuition freezes during the pandemic and higher rates of family assistance in covering tuition, said Dr. Chris Doherty, the AVMA’s assistant director for strategic business research and outreach. According to the 2023 AVMA Graduating Senior Survey, mean educational debt in 2023 was $154,451 for all 31 U.S. and two Caribbean veterinary college graduates. Among only veterinary graduates with debt in 2023, that figure was $185,486.

AAVMC and Chewy partner to launch veterinary scholarship for underserved students

The American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges announced that Chewy will provide $300,000 in scholarships to underserved veterinary students. The Chewy Veterinary Leaders Program will reward 15 third-year students with a $20,000 scholarship paid directly to their educational institution via the AAVMC. The program looks to help increase representation within the veterinary profession by working with individuals from underserved groups and communities who might otherwise have limited access to these types of resources. Recipients of Chewy Health’s $20,000 scholarship will be invited to take advantage of monthly cohort conversations facilitated by Chewy partner MentorVet, which will support them as they navigate the second half of their veterinary education. During the program, students will be invited to gather at a local Chewy hub for leadership training, networking and more.

Nationwide shares health advice for pet owners during Pet Cancer Awareness Month

Nationwide announced that during Pet Cancer Awareness Month in November, it’s sharing common warning signs, offering pet owners personalized insights into their dog’s risk of developing the disease, and providing funds to support research for a cure. Statistics indicate that one in four dogs in the United States will develop cancer in their lifetimes, making it the No. 1 disease-related cause of death for canines. Signs of cancer may include changes in appetite, sores that won’t heal, limping or exercise intolerance, aversion to touch, new anxiety or aggression, accidents, blood in stool or urine, and coughing or difficulty breathing. Nationwide’s recently launched digital platform, the Pet HealthZone, aims to help pet owners better understand their dog’s risk for cancer, as well as other conditions for which it may be predisposed.

Education is key to curbing antimicrobial resistance in cats, studies find

Better education for cat owners, more communication from veterinarians, increased drug choices and cheaper, rapid diagnostic tools can help improve antimicrobial use in cats, which has important implications for rising antimicrobial resistance in animals and humans, according to two new papers by Cornell researchers. Antimicrobial resistance threatens up to 10 million human lives a year, with resistant pathogens moving easily between humans and animals, according to the papers’ authors. In one paper, the researchers conducted surveys to tease apart how cat owners’ and veterinarians’ views may each be contributing to overuse of the only long-acting, injectable antimicrobial for use in cats, called cefovecin. While cefovecin is broad-spectrum and more convenient to administer, oral antimicrobials can be cheaper, more narrow-spectrum and provide a shorter length of treatment. That’s important because long-term exposure to antibiotics gives pathogens more opportunities to gain resistance. The Cornell Chronicle reports.