Weekly companion animal news: November 15, 2021

Researchers find possible ‘COVID-induced myocarditis’ in pets

A U.K.-based veterinary referral center reported a significant rise in myocarditis cases among cats and dogs whose owners recently had COVID-19, NBC News reports. Before the pandemic, about 1.5% of pets referred to the Ralph Institute in Buckinghamshire, England, were diagnosed with myocarditis. But between December 2020 and March 2021 that increased to 12.5%, said Dr. Luca Ferasin, a veterinary cardiologist at the center. “These were dogs and cats that were depressed, lethargic, they lost appetite,” said Ferasin, adding that they had difficulty breathing, accumulation of fluid in the lungs, and abnormal heart rhythms. Researchers have released a report on what appears to be COVID-induced myocarditis in pets seen at the Ralph Institute; in this case, specifically the Alpha variant of the coronavirus. It’s unknown whether veterinarians in general practices have seen an increase in myocarditis cases caused by the coronavirus, said veterinary virologist Margaret Hosie, who added that this could be due to those veterinarians being unaware it’s a possibility.

Industry leaders disagree on whether there’s a shortage of U.S. veterinarians

Some veterinary industry leaders are adamant there’s a shortage of U.S. veterinarians, while others say there’s only a perception of one amid scheduling difficulties during the pandemic, VOA reports. “I strongly believe there is a shortage of veterinarians in the U.S.,” said Rustin Moore, dean of Ohio State University’s veterinary college. “I’ve heard many veterinarians say they are having a difficult time trying to hire the veterinarians they need for their practices.” But AVMA President Jose Arce said he thinks there’s a “perception of a shortage because pet owners can’t see their veterinarian as quickly as they would like to right now.” The Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates veterinary positions to increase 16% by 2029. Moore said veterinary school applications have spiked, and there don’t seem to be enough schools to take in all the qualified applicants.

New certificate program helps veterinary receptionists perfect their skills

A new Veterinary Receptionist Certificate of Excellence program aims to help customer service representatives make a smooth transition into the veterinary industry. The program is offered by Ignite Veterinary Solutions, a provider of industry training programs. The Veterinary Receptionist Certificate of Excellence program offers 32 courses completed over two semesters, during which students complete workbooks meant to customize the learning to their home hospital. Observation checklists require students to demonstrate their new skills for their supervisor after each learning session. A final proctored examination is provided for students who have met the requirements. According to Ignite’s founder, Dr. Jill Clark, the program aims to improve the front desk team’s skills in client experience, revenue capture and communication.

Study will look at treatment for preclinical DCM in dogs

Researchers at Texas A&M are launching a study to determine if the drug rapamycin can effectively treat dogs with preclinical dilated cardiomyopathy. In this early stage of the disease, the dog appears healthy to its owner, but its heart is enlarging and weakening. Rapamycin, which will be distributed by the Ireland-based company TriviumVet, has been shown to improve heart function and reverse age-related changes in rodents with heart disease. “The primary objective of our study is to determine if rapamycin is safe for use in dogs with preclinical DCM, as well as to evaluate the effects of this medication on heart size and function in these dogs,” said Dr. Elizabeth Malcolm, a cardiology resident at Texas A&M. For the study, the university is looking to enroll 12 dogs that are at least 3 years old and have preclinical DCM.

10 animal health and ag-tech startups complete Topeka’s ‘Plug and Play’ accelerator program

GO Topeka, the economic development group in Topeka, Kansas, announced 10 startups have graduated from Plug and Play Topeka, an animal health and ag-tech incubator. The early- and mid-stage startups were selected after a pitch competition in September and have successfully completed the accelerator program. The full list of participating companies is available from GO Topeka.

American Heartworm Society board gets a veterinary technician for the first time in its nearly 50-year history

The American Heartworm Society has added a veterinary technician to its board of directors, recognizing the critical role these professionals play in heartworm disease management, the organization announced. Paola Dominiguez-Lopez, a University of Florida technician, has joined the AHS board, marking the first time in its nearly 50-year history that the organization has included a leadership role for a veterinary nurse or technician on the board. The decision to change the all-volunteer board’s makeup was made at the spring 2021 board meeting following a unanimous vote in favor of the move.

Pet-friendly traveling is on the rise, industry experts say

Industry experts expect a lot more traveling with pets this holiday season, as newly vaccinated travelers take their new pets on trips. Rental service Vrbo said demand for pet-friendly vacation homes rose 40% from last year. Pet travel site BringFido said its hotel bookings during spring this year far outpaced pre-pandemic times, and it saw vacation rental bookings increase more than 100%. “All of the indicators suggest that with the pandemic puppies and whatnot, that the phenomenon is real and that people are traveling with their dogs even more than before the pandemic,” said Jason Halliburton, BringFido’s CEO. A “pet-friendly” option on Hilton’s booking website has been its third-most-selected filter, according to a company official, and Hilton is responding to the increased demand. But pet owners should make sure to read the fine print before they hit the road, according to The Washington Post.

Petco used dogs’ sense of smell to lure them to Reddy

When Petco in October opened its new premium-brand Reddy store in New York’s SoHo neighborhood, it used a unique method to lure new customers: scented paw print decals meant to attract dogs. The mile-long stretch of paw prints was placed by advertising agency Droga5, leading from Washington Square Park to Reddy’s storefront. The markers were scented with duck, quail and pheasant. Fifty-five dogs and their owners followed the trail, according to Muse.