Weekly companion animal news: November 16, 2020

Dogs test positive for new tick-borne bacteria

Researchers have identified a new species of Rickettsia bacteria that they say may cause significant disease in dogs and humans. The new, unnamed species, initially identified in three dogs, is part of the bacteria group that includes Rickettsia rickettsii, the bacterium that cause Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. In 2018 and 2019, three dogs from different states (Tennessee, Illinois and Oklahoma) with exposure to ticks and RMSF-associated symptoms had blood samples taken to test them for R. rickettsii. While the sample reacted positively to antibody tests for R. rickettsii, researchers found with further testing that the DNA was only 95% similar. “We’re going to continue looking for this Rickettsia species, determine its geographical range and try to better characterize it,” said Barbara Qurollo, a North Carolina State University researcher. Four more dogs were found to have the new bacteria species this year.

How weight bias may affect veterinary care

University of Pennsylvania researcher Rebecca L. Pearl writes in Scientific American about a study her team conducted that examined how bias against people with obesity extends to pets. They found that veterinarians reported subtle differences in their feelings toward dogs with obesity compared with lean dogs, independent of their owners’ weight. Additionally, owners with obesity were viewed as causing their pet’s obesity while leaner owners weren’t. “Weight-based teasing, bullying and discrimination take a serious toll on the mental and physical health of those targeted,” Pearl writes. “In health care settings, negative judgment, blame and disrespect toward patients with obesity can impair the quality of care provided and prevent patients from seeking out health services, undermining their overall well-being as a result.” Research before now hadn’t investigated how veterinarians perceive dogs with obesity or their owners, nor how those veterinarians’ treatment plans might change based on the animal’s or human’s body weight, Pearl says.

Chewy launches compounded medications for pets

Chewy announced it will now offer compounded medications that are customized to the specific needs of pets. This announcement comes soon after the company launched a new telehealth service. According to Chewy, customers through the new service can order customized, pharmaceutical grade prescription medications that can’t be fulfilled by commercially available alternatives. In the future, Chewy plans to make the service available to veterinarians so they can offer it to their in-clinic clients.

Walmart adds new pet care services

Walmart announced the launch of Walmart Pet Care. The program adds pet insurance, dog walking and pet sitting services to the company’s existing pet services, which include veterinary clinics and pet pharmacies. Walmart Pet Care will provide pet sitting and dog walking services through the app Rover. The program will also include Walmart PetRx, an in-store and online pharmacy service introduced by the company in 2019.

Wagmo pet insurance now available in 13 states

Wagmo pet health insurance is now available in Texas. This means the company’s injury and illness insurance coverage is now sold to dog and cat owners in 13 states. Wagmo, which expanded into California and New York in August, launched its insurance plans in 2020. Its other product, Wagmo Wellness preventive care coverage, was introduced in 2018 and is available nationwide. In addition to the expansion to Texas, Wagmo announced a strategic partnership with Boost Insurance, which offers an infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) digital insurance platform.

Elias Animal Health expands cancer immunotherapy trial

Elias Animal Health announced that 10 investigation sites across the country are now participating in the trial of its cancer immunotherapy. This is an expansion from May, when the study began. Elias is pursuing licensure of the treatment combined with surgery as an alternative to chemotherapy for dogs diagnosed with osteosarcoma. The geographical areas served by the clinical trial investigation sites include Southern California, the Intermountain Region, the Desert Southwest, the Chicago metropolitan area, North Texas, the Carolinas and the Mid-Atlantic region.

Zoetis receives European Commission marketing authorization for Librela OA treatment

The European Commission has granted marketing authorization for Zoetis’ Librela (bedinvetmab). According to Zoetis, it’s the first injectable monoclonal antibody therapy approved in the European Union for monthly alleviation of osteoarthritis pain in dogs. Bedinvetmab is a monoclonal antibody that binds to Nerve Growth Factor, “a key player in OA pain and in doing so reduces pain,” the company said. “It functions like naturally occurring antibodies, with minimal involvement of the liver or kidneys in its metabolism and elimination from the body; bedinvetmab also produces minimal gastrointestinal impact. After one injection of Librela, dogs with osteoarthritis exhibited increased mobility and decreased pain.”

Pandemic not expected to affect holiday pet spending: APPA

Even despite the ongoing pandemic, COVID-19 shouldn’t affect holiday spending on pets, according to a new study by the American Pet Products Association. The study results are from the third volume of APPA’s “COVID-19 Pulse Study of Pet Ownership During the Pandemic.” “With 74% of owners reporting that pets are helping to reduce stress and increase our sense of well-being, it comes as no surprise that study respondents overwhelmingly said they don’t plan on making changes to their approach to routine pet care,” said APPA president and CEO Steve King. Forty-six percent of pet owners surveyed plan to purchase a holiday gift for their pet this year, regardless of the pandemic or economic state, compared to 47% of pet owners who bought gifts for pets in 2019.