Weekly companion animal news: September 25, 2023

Shoppers resort to cheaper pet food under inflation pressure

Pet items, particularly food, are typically among the last areas shoppers cut back on spending. But under pressure from inflation, pet owners—who have already been cutting spending on discretionary products such as toys—are rethinking their pet food, The Wall Street Journal reports. With the cost of pet food up nearly 11% from a year ago, according to the July consumer price index, animal owners are trading down from more expensive gourmet brands or shifting to smaller pack sizes, finance chiefs and analysts said. “In times of recession or economic stress, first you trade down on your own food, then your kid’s food and then your dog’s food. That’s what history would suggest,” said Max Gumport, a U.S. packaged foods analyst at BNP Paribas. “This time is appearing to be different.”

New Jersey pet insurance companies plan to triple rates

Pet insurance costs are far exceeding the cost of veterinary care as insurers seek double-digit increases, according to New Jersey state filings. Figures from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that as of August, national veterinarian costs increased 8.5%. But three pet insurance companies are asking the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance to approve much higher rate increases, NorthJersey.com reports. Pet insurance company Trupanion is asking for a 33% increase, Healthy Paws Pets is asking for a 44% increase and Metropolitan General Insurance Company, typically called MetGen, is seeking a 56% increase. U.S. Representative Josh Gottheimer said he was formally asking the state to deny the requests. According to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association, the average annual premium was $640.04 for dogs and $387.01 for cats in 2022. For comparison, in 2018, premiums were $560.06 for dogs and $359.56 for cats, or a 16% and 7.6% increase respectively.

Veterinary network eliminates noncompete clauses

Destination Pet LLC, a provider of veterinary care and pet services, has announced that effective October 2, it is removing the noncompete clause from employment contracts for veterinarians. Along with new hires, this policy change also carries over to existing team members, who will be released from any existing non-competition agreements they may have with Destination Pet or its subsidiaries. The policy update comes as the company engages in active recruitment efforts to grow its teams dispersed across a network of over 170 locations. Though the non-competition clause is being eliminated, Destination Pet’s non-solicitation provisions will remain intact. Additionally, noncompete provisions will still apply as part of the sale of a business for previous practice owners, dvm360 reports.

PetSmart Charities announces first annual Pet Hunger Awareness Day

PetSmart Charities is raising awareness of the pervasiveness of pet hunger by announcing the first Pet Hunger Awareness Day on Tuesday, September 26. Moving forward, Pet Hunger Awareness Day will be recognized annually on the last Tuesday of September. According to PetSmart Charities research, 30 million U.S. pets face hunger every year. Last year, the organization committed $9.5 million in grant support to Feeding America and Meals on Wheels America for this purpose. This year on Pet Hunger Awareness Day, PetSmart Charities is partnering with Feeding America to distribute pet food alongside human food to families in need. Feeding America affiliates and volunteers at Feeding Tampa Bay in Tampa Bay, Florida; St. Mary’s Food Bank in Phoenix, Arizona; and at other sites will participate in these pet food distribution events.

FDA releases animal and veterinary innovation agenda

The FDA has released its new animal and veterinary innovation agenda, a step agency officials hope will further modernize the agency’s approach to evaluating and supporting the development of innovative animal and veterinary products, as well as increase regulatory flexibility, predictability and efficiency. The plan has four objectives, including supporting technologies and products that address high-priority needs; aligning regulatory pathways to the modern landscape; and addressing gaps to new technologies and emerging health threats. In addition, the plan aims to enhance the One Health program, which focuses on the interconnections between humans, animals, plants and their shared environment. The new agenda focuses on products like novel food ingredients that enhance animals’ nutritional efficiency and production. It also addresses biotechnology innovations like animal cell-and-tissue based products, intentional genomic alterations in animals and cell-cultured animal food ingredients. Feedstuffs has more.

Glucose monitors track blood sugar in pets with diabetes

Medical sensors known as continuous glucose monitors, or CGMs, were first developed to track the blood sugar levels of people with diabetes. Today, veterinarians are repurposing the devices to monitor their patients and help regulate diabetes with medication. Diabetes is fairly common in dogs and cats, occurring in about 1 in 300 patients. But the biggest problem isn’t the scale of the disease so much as the burden of care. Animals with diabetes require daily medication such as insulin, which needs regular monitoring to get doses right. Traditionally, veterinarians measured pets’ blood sugar levels using glucose curves, a technique in which they’d periodically take blood samples over roughly 12 hours. However, the tool offered an inaccurate picture of typical glucose levels. Because CGMs measure glucose levels every few minutes, they can give veterinarians a better sense of fluctuations and daily averages. Popular Science reports.

Pennsylvania mobile care unit aims to keep pets and people together

The new mobile unit from Humane Animal Rescue of Pittsburgh made its first outing recently as part of a new program offered in partnership with Allegheny Health Network, CBS reports. The Humane Health Coalition seeks to keep healthy pets and people together. The mobile clinic is staffed by caregivers to provide low-to-no-cost veterinary care services, as well as health care and support services for pet owners. The Humane Animal Rescue of Pittsburgh said the clinics are primarily intended for underserved people who face financial hardships and other challenges like housing instability and limited access to care, which makes it hard to have a pet. The mobile unit is called M.O.V.E.S, which stands for Medical – Outreach – Veterinary – Essential – Support. It’s outfitted with an anesthesia and surgical unit, an exam table, wet sink, diagnostic equipment and built-in animal cages.

SoundByte: Zenalpha

Zenalpha contains a combination of medetomidine and vatinoxan to help minimize unwanted cardiovascular side effects while preserving reliable sedation and analgesia in dogs, according to manufacturer Dechra. It improves the sedation monitoring experience by keeping the patient’s heart rate and blood pressure closer to normal, the company says. Find out more in the SoundByte from Veterinary Advantage.