Weekly companion animal news: October 30, 2023

Amazon considers offering veterinary telehealth as it looks to compete with Walmart

Amazon is considering an expansion into veterinary telehealth in its latest effort to compete with Walmart, which began offering the service to Walmart+ subscribers earlier this year, people familiar with the matter told CNBC. Amazon has already expanded into human health with its acquisition of One Medical. But while it’s a dominant player in pet food and supplies, it hasn’t so far meaningfully invested in pet health. Walmart earlier this year signed a deal with veterinary telehealth provider Pawp to offer Walmart+ subscribers free access to the startup’s membership for a year. Amazon could also turn to Pawp for a pet telehealth offering in time for the holiday season. Or it could partner with another pet telehealth startup or build its own practice, like Chewy did during the pandemic.

AAVMC releases 2023 ‘Power of Diversity’ report

The American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges has released its 2023 “Power of Diversity” report. The report offers an overview of the association’s work over the past year advancing diversity in the profession, including advocacy, scholarships and other initiatives. “AAVMC will continue to work with its member institutions to promote admissions policies and practices that balance our collective desire to increase diversity in veterinary medicine,” Dr. Ruby Perry, president of the AAVMC board of directors, wrote in the report. “However, there is still much work ahead to yield a significant impact in strengthening the profession.”

Mars innovation executive says new venture fund has the potential to advance AI in pet care

Mars Petcare earlier this month launched its $300 million venture fund Companion Fund II, jumping off the success of its first fund, the $100 million Companion Fund. The company is teaming up with Digitalis Ventures again to manage the fund. Mars will invest in founders mainly in the United States and Europe who are working on breakthrough science technologies, products and services, all designed to advance the health and well-being of pets, said Audrey Yoo, vice president of innovation, science and diagnostics. Yoo said one area she’s excited to look at is artificial intelligence. She sees the technology as a way to augment some work and remove some labor for veterinarians. Possibilities include voice detection, recordkeeping, smart symptom checking with chat assistance, and automating and routing solutions for veterinary mobile care support, she told Axios.

Study will test drug that could extend dogs’ lifespan

Dogs could have their lifespan extended as part of a trial in which 1,000 elderly canines will be given a tablet disguised as a sweet treat that scientists claim may expand lifespan with less disease risk. Biotechnology company Loyal, a Silicon Valley-based startup, is currently recruiting aging animals via a network of veterinary practices across the United States and is set to launch a four-year study before the end of 2023. Participating dogs must be over 10 years old to be eligible, and the study will be a randomized, double-blind placebo trial. The goal is that those on the drug will live for a year longer, on average, than those taking the placebo. However, the length of life gained is only one aspect of the study, according to Dr. Brennen McKenzie, director of veterinary medicine at Loyal. Increasing health is the number one goal, McKenzie said at the recent Veterinary Innovation Summit. The Telegraph reports.

RVC collaborates with Dechra on veterinary endocrinology app for dogs

The Royal Veterinary College’s VetCompass team has developed artificial intelligence technology to support Dechra in creating an endocrinology app designed to help veterinarians better diagnose and treat endocrine disorders in dogs. The app—designed to aid diagnosis in an area of veterinary medicine that has typically been based on thorough history, physical examination and lab testing—will provide veterinarians with a prediction of how likely a dog is to have Cushing’s syndrome based on its clinical signs, as well as provide additional information on the treatment and monitoring of diseases such as Cushing’s and Addison’s. It will be available throughout the United Kingdom and European Union countries through Apple and Android devices, Vet Times reports.

FTC chair addresses AVMA forum, signaling regulators are wary of veterinary industry consolidation

U.S. Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan delivered the keynote address at a virtual economics forum organized by the AVMA, signaling regulators are wary of the fast rise of big corporations and big money in the profession, the VIN News Service reports. The FTC under Khan’s leadership has targeted big tech companies including Meta, the owner of Facebook, as well as Microsoft and Amazon. Since 2017, the agency has intervened four times in acquisition deals in the veterinary profession. “We shouldn’t have markets where larger businesses are muscling out smaller businesses, or independent businesses are feeling coerced to sell to a private equity firm even if they don’t want to,” Khan said in her AVMA address. “If you see that … please be sure to report them to us.”

Illinois animal hospital turns to relief veterinarians after regular vets depart under new ownership

The veterinarians of Bramer Animal Hospital had been fixtures for pet families in Evanston, Illinois, for many years. Under the direction of longtime owner Dr. Jim Hagedorn, the veterinarians and other care and support staff often saw clients through the entire life of a pet. However, it appears consistency has been upended. An investigation by local news outlet RoundTable found that since Hagedorn retired in December 2021, all five other veterinarians have left Bramer to work at other Chicagoland animal hospitals, and Bramer, owned by National Veterinary Associates, appears to have not hired any new permanent doctors to take their places. Although a message to clients indicates the practice is now employing relief doctors, Bramer has had at least five sporadic, single-day closures since July. At the same time, clients have started leaving more negative reviews and complaints on websites, according to RoundTable.

SoundByte: TruFel Ultra FeLV

Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) is a core vaccine recommended for cats up to 1 year. TruFel Ultra FeLV vaccines provide the recommended protection with a more comfortable vaccination experience thanks to their low volume, according to manufacturer Elanco. Find out more in the SoundByte from Veterinary Advantage.