Weekly companion animal news: September 11, 2023

U.K. regulators launch probe of corporate veterinary consolidators as cost of pet care rises

The United Kingdom has launched a sweeping probe of its veterinary sector amid concerns the rapid rise of big corporations may be stifling competition and forcing pet owners to pay unreasonable prices during a cost-of-living crisis, the VIN News Service reports. News of the review, to be conducted by the country’s Competition and Markets Authority, sent share prices of British corporate consolidators tumbling, a sign of investor worry that the probe will hinder the companies’ growth ambitions. Independent veterinary practices accounted for 89% of the U.K. veterinary industry in 2013, according to the CMA. By 2021, the percentage had shrunk to 45%, the regulator said. “Figures suggest that the cost of vet services has risen faster than the rate of inflation, which is something that the CMA will be looking into as part of its review,” the agency said.

Mars programs aim to create opportunities for future veterinarians

Mars Veterinary Health is sponsoring the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine’s League of VetaHumanz, which teams up with community organizations to provide access and support for underrepresented children who aspire to veterinary careers. Through an alliance of veterinary experts in academia, practice, research, government and industry, the program engages under-resourced communities to educate and inspire children in kindergarten through fourth grade. In other news, Vet Set Go—a web-based community dedicated to helping young aspiring veterinarians—announced the winners of its 2023 Become a Veterinarian Camp Contest. VCA funded scholarships awarded to 45 aspiring veterinary professionals this year, enabling these middle schoolers to attend the Become a Veterinarian Camp. In addition, Banfield Pet Hospital launched its second annual NextVet internship program, aimed at strengthening and diversifying the veterinary pipeline by creating career pathways for students 16 years and older to explore a future in veterinary medicine.

More dog owners question vaccines like rabies after COVID: study

More than half of U.S. dog owners have expressed concerns about vaccinating their dogs, including against rabies, according to a new study published in the journal Vaccine. The study comes as anti-vaccine sentiments among humans have exploded in the wake of the pandemic, Bloomberg reports. “Canine vaccine hesitancy is pervasive,” said Matt Motta, one of the paper’s authors and a political scientist at Boston University’s School of Public Health who studies hesitancy. “Honestly, we were pretty surprised,” Motta said. This is not the first indication that insurgent anti-vaccine attitudes have extended to pets. A study published in the Canadian Veterinary Journal in 2021 found overlap between the movement against mandatory childhood vaccines and vaccine-resistant pet owners. Another found a link between people skeptical of vaccinating their dogs and those who believe vaccines cause autism in children—a false rumor that’s been long-debunked.

Connecticut laboratory identifies new case of Asian longhorned tick in the state

The Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory has identified its third instance of the invasive Asian longhorned tick in the state. The Asian longhorned tick is native to eastern Asia but has been found on humans, wildlife, livestock and pets in the United States. It was first identified in the United States in New Jersey in 2017 and has since been identified in 19 states including Connecticut. The potential health impact of the tick is significant. In some regions of New Zealand and Australia, where it’s an invasive species, it can reduce production in dairy cattle by an estimated 25%.

Deadly tick-borne disease on the rise in Mexico as interaction grows between humans and dogs

Rocky Mountain spotted fever has reemerged at epidemic levels in northern Mexico, where more than 2,000 cases, resulting in hundreds of deaths, have been reported in the past five years. The disease spreads from the bite of an infected tick that lives primarily on dogs. It is rare, but its incidence is rising and young children have been hit the hardest, The Washington Post reports. Public health authorities are especially alarmed by the deadly outbreaks in low-income communities that have large numbers of free-roaming dogs, as increased interaction between dogs and humans appears to be the underlying factor fueling the rise of the disease. The brown dog tick, one of the species that transmits Rocky Mountain spotted fever, becomes more aggressive toward humans in hotter, drier climates, such as that in northern Mexico and the southwestern United States, but health officials in the United States have had some success limiting transmission.

Texas judge rules against veterinarian, maintains in-person VCPR requirement

For the third time, a federal district court has upheld provisions of the Texas veterinary practice act requiring in-person establishment of a veterinarian-client-patient relationship. The most recent ruling came after repeated challenges from a Texas veterinarian, Dr. Roland S. Hines, claiming the requirement violates his First Amendment right to free speech. In his August 15 decision, U.S. District Court Judge Fernando Rodriguez, Jr. wrote that the statutory requirements at the heart of the suit “represent a content-neutral regulation” of speech and that the Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners could continue to enforce the law. The judgement marks the latest development in a decade-long court battle between Hines and the Texas veterinary board, which sanctioned him in 2013 for violating state law by practicing veterinary medicine without appropriately establishing a VCPR. The AVMA reports.

Program encourages older people to adopt senior cats

Cat Depot, a free-roaming rescue, adoption and education center, is teaming up with Seniors to Seniors as senior cats are paired with older people for adoption, WUSF reports. Caring for animals can have health benefits, especially for older pet owners, said Cat Depot Executive Director Susan Hanus. She pointed to research that connects animal ownership with better heart health, lower obesity levels and lower rates of depression and loneliness. In addition, senior cats are typically harder to find homes for, particularly when concerns about veterinary costs potentially lead pet owners to adopt younger animals. The program, operated in partnership with national organization Pets for the Elderly, which raises funds to subsidize the cost of adoptions, allows people 60 and older to adopt a cat that is 8 years or older for a reduced adoption fee of $25.

University of Arizona builds One Health research model

The University of Arizona will receive $3.6 million in state funding annually until 2025 to grow its One Health model, a holistic approach that stems from the understanding that human health and well-being is deeply interconnected with animal and environmental health and well-being. It requires data, communication and cooperation from many different business sectors, even outside the public health sciences. Defining One Health can be a challenge in itself. Just because a scientist studies a deadly disease that affects both humans and animals doesn’t necessarily mean One Health work is being performed. The effort is part of Arizona’s New Economy Initiative that will expand hiring opportunities and support new class development at the university. Inside Climate News reports.