Weekly companion animal news: September 18, 2023

After approval by lawmakers, California bill allowing virtual VCPR heads to governor

California lawmakers passed a bill September 11 allowing the formation of a veterinarian-client-patient relationship through remote methods, the VIN News Service reports. If Assembly Bill 1399 is signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom, California will be the sixth state in the nation to eliminate the requirement that a VCPR only be established after a veterinarian conducts an in-person exam. The other states are Arizona, Idaho, New Jersey, Vermont and Virginia. “What’s happened now is the landscape has changed,” Mark Cushing, a lobbyist and co-founder of the Veterinary Virtual Care Association, told the VIN News Service. “You’ve got essentially two states together with pretty close to 50 million people, a pretty meaningful chunk of the U.S., adopting a model for veterinary telemedicine that isn’t scary or reckless, which will make it easier to spread.” He added, without naming a specific state, that he expects “there’s going to be one more area of activity this year that I think will go the same direction.”

Natural disasters and housing shortages lead to influx of pets in shelters

Animal shelters this year have seen more people surrendering their pets due to housing instability, NPR reports. “While there’s no centralized database tracking the reason for pet surrenders, I spoke to more than 30 animal shelters nationwide for this story, and every one of them reported a record number of surrenders this year due to housing, ranging anywhere from a 50% to 300% increase over last year,” said reporter Grace Benninghoff. “On top of the existing housing crisis, this summer has brought natural disasters. [For instance], Montpelier, Vermont’s capital, was at the center of a flood earlier this summer that left the entire town underwater.” In some cases, resources such as food and water can help pet owners hold on to their pets longer, but often short-term help isn’t enough.

Kentucky university to study possibility of opening the state’s first veterinary school

Murray State University in Kentucky announced its board of regents will create a task force and begin a feasibility study to work toward the creation of a school of veterinary medicine. The task force will examine the statewide shortage of veterinary professionals within the state. According to the organization’s release, since there is currently no school of veterinary medicine in Kentucky, students from the state are accepted to out-of-state veterinary schools. By creating a veterinary school within the state, the hope is that future veterinarians will attend school there and then stay in Kentucky to help care for animals. Murray State’s Hudson School of Agriculture has the largest estimated pre-veterinary medicine and veterinary technology enrollment of all the universities in Kentucky, as well as being one of three programs in the state that is fully accredited by the AVMA.

Fears of veterinarian shortages are ill-founded, AVMA president says

Predictions of crisis-level shortages of companion animal veterinarians are overstated and have led to “dramatic, knee-jerk proposals to change how the profession is regulated,” writes AVMA President Dr. Rena Carlson. What has been less broadly shared is that there is soon to be an influx of veterinarians that should ensure an ample supply well into the future, she says. Carlson believes calls for the introduction of a midlevel position are premature, as there is no agreed-upon standard curriculum, no programmatic accreditation and no national test to deliver and assess knowledge and skills. Developing such infrastructure would take decades and is required to ensure that animals and the public are protected, she writes in fellow NAVC publication Today’s Veterinary Business.

Researchers pursue cancer vaccine for dogs

Calviri, a Phoenix-based biotechnology research company, is investigating an experimental vaccine that could protect dogs from major cancers. Calviri scientists looked at tumor RNA and found 20 elements across eight major canine cancers. The experimental vaccine pre-arms the immune system so that an affected animal’s immune system will kill a tumor displaying any of the elements. The study, which started in May 2019, screened 800 pet dogs to ensure they were cancer-free. The dogs were then randomly assigned to a vaccine group or control group. The dogs were vaccinated and boostered every year and evaluated for tumors every six months. The study’s primary objective is to reduce the incidence of malignant tumors by at least 30% in vaccinated dogs versus the control group, according to Calviri. Today’s Veterinary Business reports.

Elanco launches Varenzin-CA1, an oral treatment for anemia in cats with chronic kidney disease

Elanco Animal Health announced that the first shipments of Varenzin-CA1 (molidustat oral suspension), conditionally approved by the FDA as the first and only treatment to control non-regenerative anemia in cats with chronic kidney disease, are shipping to veterinary clinics around the country. In a series of studies, Varenzin-CA1 has been shown to have a reasonable expectation of efficacy in managing anemia in cats with CKD. Anemia from CKD can dramatically affect cats, making them lethargic, reducing their appetite and, in severe cases, leading to a rapid heart rate and difficulty breathing. CKD-related anemia is a complication that often contributes to death or euthanasia of affected cats due to poor quality of life, according to the FDA. The challenges of current therapies to address this condition often include extra-label use of a human drug.

Vermont’s unregulated pet rescues raise concern

There are no state laws governing the operation of shelters and rescue operations in Vermont, raising concerns that some animals are not getting the care they need, WCAX reports. Pet owners who have adopted dogs have voiced complaints ranging from discovering their pet has heartworm to undisclosed behavioral problems. Some shelters are vastly overcrowded; at others, conditions are so poor they have rat problems. Erica Holm, co-executive director of the Central Vermont Humane Society, says rescues and shelters once had oversight from the Agency of Agriculture, but funding for that program was cut. “We need a whole new division of animal welfare within the state so there is somebody that is responsible for the domestic companion animal field,” she said, adding that it should include some kind of licensing process, facility inspections, care standards and records surrounding the importation of animals from out-of-state.

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