Notebook: April 2022

News briefs from across the industry and beyond. This month’s articles include:

  • Havanese Survives Leptospirosis
  • Costs of Caring for a Pet
  • VHMA’s 2021 Compensation and Benefits Survey Report

and more!

Havanese Survives Leptospirosis

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Facts about Leptospirosis

Leptospirosis is a disease caused by a bacterium (genus Leptospira) that can adversely affect dogs and be transmitted to humans. 
Dogs can become infected by coming in contact with the urine from wildlife or contaminated water or soil. The disease can rapidly become life-threatening to dogs, targeting kidneys, liver, blood vessels, and lungs and heart. The leptospirosis vaccination can prevent disease and will protect dogs from severe illness.

When Frank, a 10-year-old Havanese, tested positive for leptospirosis, a potentially fatal bacterial disease, his owner Beth Visser leapt into action. Concerned about Frank’s elevated kidney values, Vissers did some research, and she and her husband brought Frank to Foster Hospital for Small Animals at Tufts University in Massachusetts.

Colleen Bourque, MVB, resident at Foster Hospital, treated Frank with antibiotics, IV fluids, and antinausea medications, eventually adding in antacids, blood pressure medications, and appetite stimulants.

“With early and aggressive treatment, prognosis can be excellent,” said Bourque. “Many dogs can return to either normal kidney function or have some residual lingering kidney disease that we need to manage going forward.”

Frank spent six days at Foster Hospital before being released. Bourque contacted his owners daily with updates.

“Dr. Bourque was wonderful,” said Vissers. “She always had her eye on his whole system, not just the kidneys.”

After two days at home, Vissers brought Frank back to Foster Hospital, worried he was not thriving. “We knew we had him in a place where they would do whatever they needed within reason,” said Vissers. “[W]e didn’t want him to go through a lot of discomfort, but he quickly began to recover.”

After three more days in the hospital, he was well enough to return home.

Frank’s symptoms continued to subside; his kidneys are currently at near normal levels. Dr. Bourque continues to monitor Frank as his kidneys recover, but his prognosis is “very good.”


Synchrony’s First-Ever Lifetime of Care Study Reveals Costs of Caring for a Pet

A new Synchrony study, Lifetime of Care, based on input from 1,200 pet owners and 100 veterinarians, provides consumer insights into the lifetime of care cost of dog or cat ownership.

Seven out of ten pet owners consider their pets members of the family, yet nearly half underestimated the lifetime cost of care, which ranges from $20K–$55K for dogs and $15K–$45K for cats.

GettyImages-1130981128.jpgApproximately half of all pet owners were unprepared for unexpected pet expenses and would consider a financial solution dedicated to financing care for their pet.

“Millions of Americans choose to share life with a pet, yet the true cost of ownership has historically been incredibly vague,” said Jonathan Wainberg, a senior vice president and general manager at Synchrony. “Our Lifetime of Care study serves as a helpful tool to prepare prospective pet parents.”

To maximize efforts, Synchrony is working directly with veterinarians and experts on the frontlines of veterinary care to arm pet parents with the information and financial solutions they need to care for their pets.

Peter Weinstein, owner of PAW Consulting and veterinary industry leader said, “This new study provides us a comprehensive look at the true costs of pet care so we can arm our clients with the information and financial solutions they need to care for their pets for a month, year, and entire lifetime.”

QUOTE OF THE MONTH

“Animals don’t lie. Animals don’t criticize. If animals  have moody days, they  handle them better than humans do.”

­—Betty White


The Dog Aging Project Receives $2.5 Million Pledge from Tech Entrepreneurs

GettyImages-488657289.jpgThe Dog Aging Project, a scientific initiative to help companion dogs and people live longer, healthier lives together, has received a $2.5 million pledge from a consortium of tech entrepreneurs. The Dog Aging Project brings dogs, owners, veterinarians, researchers, and volunteers together to carry out the largest canine health study in the world. The donation will expand this research into longevity science.

The Dog Aging Project, based at the University of Washington and Texas A&M University, with research team members at many top institutions, focuses on two fundamental goals:

  • to understand how genes, lifestyle, and environment influence aging
  • to increase healthspan, the period of life free from disease

Discoveries made by the Dog Aging Project could be translatable to people. “Targeting biological aging is twenty-first-century medicine, with the potential to greatly enhance healthy longevity for both people and our pets,” said Matt Kaeberlein, PhD, codirector of the Dog Aging Project.

More than 32,000 companion dogs and their owners are already part of the Dog Aging Project. The dogs continue to live and play at home with their families. Each dog owner completes extensive surveys about the health and life experience of their dog. This information is paired with environmental, genetic, and biochemical data to yield insights about aging.

Dog owners in the United States can enroll their dogs in the Dog Aging Project observational study at www.dogagingproject.org. Participating dogs can be young or old, mixed breed or purebred, those in good health and those with chronic health conditions.

When It Comes to Health Benefits: What Do Your Employees Want?

“It’s no surprise that physical health benefits are rated as the top benefits among nearly all employees across a wide swath of demographics,” Kathryn Taylor states in a recent article for SHRM.org. Her advice to employers in 2022 is to offer more than basic health needs.

Debra Thompson, chief people officer at Chegg Inc., agrees. “Medical, dental and vision [benefits] are no longer nice-to-haves that keep employees happy,” she says, “they’re table stakes.”

The importance of mental health benefits seems to be an area employers and employees agree on. As SHRM researcher Derrick Scheetz told Taylor, “So many of us felt and continue to feel the toll the pandemic has taken on our mental health.”

“One in four workers say they’re highly or extremely stressed, and workers under 35 ranked mental health as their top concern,” Taylor reports, citing Mercer’s 2021 Inside Employees’ Minds study of 2,000 U.S.-based employees.

The SHRM 2020 Employee Benefits survey report indicates that some employers have gotten the message. During the pandemic, 25% responded with increased mental health benefits.

But, Taylor points out, “There still appears to be a gap between benefits and employee needs… Seventy-one percent of employers with frontline employees report supporting mental health well, but only 27% of frontline employees agree.”

At the beginning of her article, Taylor states bluntly, “Many employers are out of touch with which benefits employees value most.”

Thompson suggests a solution. “Ask your employees what is important to them. You may be surprised.”

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Saving Miso: Kitten’s Emergency Exploratory Surgery

When a rescuer brought three abandoned kittens, one only a month old, to the UC Davis veterinary hospital’s emergency room, critical care specialists diagnosed them with upper respiratory tract infections. The following day, custody of the kittens was transferred to the Yolo County SPCA. Megan Mangini, DVM, a resident in anesthesia service, took over their care and fostered them a few days later.

A few weeks later, Miso, the youngest of the kittens, had increased trouble breathing and was brought back to the emergency room. X-rays showed a potential hernia of his diaphragm. He was transferred to the soft tissue surgery service for exploratory surgery. Mangini handled the anesthesia during Miso’s surgery. Surgeons found no hernia, but his spleen, swollen with abnormal growths, was removed and tissue samples sent to the anatomic pathology service.

The surgeons extended Miso’s surgery into his chest cavity and discovered a buildup of thick fluid around the left lung (pyothorax) along with a severe buildup of fibrin over his lung lobes. Fibrin causes blood to clot, impeding its flow. Miso’s lungs were not inflating properly because of the abnormal material in his chest. Samples from Miso’s thoracic cavity were sent to pathology. Surgeons then placed a chest tube and a gastric feeding tube in Miso for postoperative care.

Miso recovered without complication and was maintained on IV pain medications and supportive care. He was eating on his own the night after his surgery.

Pathology results showed the Streptococcus canis bacteria, which can be fatal if not treated.

After four days of hospitalization to treat the bacterial infection, Miso was discharged. Six weeks later, Miso was ready to be neutered, and Mangini adopted him and his two siblings.


VCA Animal Hospitals and Vet Set Go Team Up to Prepare the Next Generation of Veterinary Professionals

GettyImages-1205349169.jpgBy 13 years of age, according to Vet Set Go data, many veterinary professionals have already decided to pursue a career in animal health. That fact plus a once-ina-generation staffing shortage in the veterinary industry has led VCA and Vet Set Go to work together on reaching out to aspiring veterinary professionals in elementary, middle, and high schools.

For over 10 years, Vet Set Go has worked to encourage future veterinarians to explore their dream. Vet Set Go’s partnership with VCA will offer young people expanded opportunities for acquiring hands-on experience, shadowing, and accessing educational resources.

“Together with Vet Set Go we’re breaking down barriers—finding new ways to bring more caring, talented people into this field,” said Todd Lavender, DVM, president of VCA Animal Hospitals. Some of the hands-on learning experiences and education-based resources to be launched in 2022 include:

  • National Shadowing Program: Select VCA Animal Hospitals will invite aspiring veterinarians into their clinics for a day. 
  • Vet Set Go Academy Content: The Academy will provide its online shadowing courses to VCA to help prepare shadowing students for the big day and ensure they have a safe and educational experience.
  • Scholarships for Aspiring Veterinarians: Separately, VCA and Vet Set Go will provide three aspiring veterinarians scholarships to Auburn College of Veterinary Medicine’s Junior Vet Camp.
  • Volunteer Opportunities App: VCA will help support Vet Set Go in developing the first-ever app to help aspiring veterinarians find shadowing mentors and volunteer opportunities near their homes.

“Together [VCA and Vet Set Go] are providing aspiring veterinarians with resources and opportunities that otherwise are not easily available to young people interested in veterinary medicine,” said Chris Carpenter, DVM, founder and president of Vet Set Go.

Thirteen-Year-Old Siberian Husky Thrives After Treatment for Soft-Tissue Sarcoma

GettyImages-1282640940.jpgWhen thirteen-year-old Bailey, a Siberian husky, had a lump on the inside of his back knee diagnosed as a soft-tissue sarcoma, his owners, Dennis and Carol Noonan, brought him to the Cornell University Hospital for Animals for further evaluation.

At thirteen, Bailey’s overall health was excellent, so when tests in the oncology department showed no evidence of cancer spread beyond his knee, he was deemed a good candidate for surgery in the hospital’s soft-tissue surgery service.

“These types of tumors don’t usually metastasize to other locations, but they’re very locally aggressive, which makes surgical removal of them sometimes very difficult,” said Nicole Buote, DVM, DACVS, associate professor of small animal surgery.

Bailey’s tumor was localized and only the tumor and a small portion of healthy tissue was removed in the operation. He then received 17 radiation treatments over the course of a few weeks to kill any remaining microscopic cancer cells.

Brittany Zumbo, DVM, a medical oncology resident who attended to Bailey, appreciates how well the various services—medical oncology, small animal surgery, and radiation oncology—worked together to streamline his treatment. “We were a real team in taking care of him,” said Zumbo.

Bailey has thrived since finishing radiation. “He gets his two walks a day, which usually consist of more than a mile each time,” Dennis Noonan said. “We’ve noticed that he’s been running more and seems a bit more agile as time goes by. Need I say anything about his appetite?”

FDA Approves Monoclonal Antibody Drug to Treat Cats with Osteoarthritis

GettyImages-1141008461.jpgThe US Food and Drug Administration has approved Solensia, the first treatment for the control of pain associated with osteoarthritis in cats and the first monoclonal antibody drug for use in any animal species. The FDA granted approval of Solensia to Zoetis. Solensia is available only by prescription from a licensed veterinarian.

Frunevetmab, the active ingredient in Solensia, is a cat-specific monoclonal antibody designed to recognize and attach to a protein called nerve growth factor (NGF) that is involved in the regulation of pain. When bound to NGF, frunevetmab prevents the pain signal from reaching the brain.

“Advancements in modern veterinary medicine have been instrumental in extending the lives of many animals, including cats. But with longer lives come chronic diseases, such as osteoarthritis,” Steven M. Solomon, MPH, DVM, director of the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, commented. “Today’s approval marks the first treatment option to help provide relief to cats that are suffering from this condition and may significantly improve their quality of life.”

The effectiveness of Solensia was evaluated in two masked, randomized, controlled field studies involving client-owned cats with clinical signs of osteoarthritis. The cats’ veterinarians assessed the cats based on orthopedic examinations before and after treatment. The owners provided baseline scores of their cats’ levels of impairment before and after developing osteoarthritis. They then assessed their cats’ response after receiving treatment. Overall, the cats in the treatment group had better assessment scores than those in the control group.


VHMA’s 2021 Compensation and Benefits Survey Report

The Veterinary Hospital Managers Association’s (VHMA) 2021 Compensation and Benefits Survey Report includes information on levels of compensation and benefits provided to veterinary managers, as well as trends in areas that influence compensation. Members of the VHMA and the Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Society are surveyed for the report, which is published every two years.

An important takeaway from the report is that most managers agreed or strongly agreed that they were satisfied with their job and where they work.

Trends in Compensation

Since 2019, office managers experienced the largest increase in salaries—14% for the last two years. Practice managers enjoyed a 9% increase in annual salary over the same period, but factoring in hours worked reduces that to 7%. Hospital administrators experienced the lowest salary increase at 4%, which, when combined with a slight increase in hours worked, is reduced to 3%.

Hospital administrators in emergency and specialty hospitals earned $120,000 median annual salary, the highest across all practice types. Practice managers working in mixed animal practices earned the lowest salaries overall, $55,000 median annual salary.

Other trends affecting compensation include the types and numbers of hospitals managed, years of experience, credentials, and geographical location.

Tasks and Benefits

The survey contains valuable data about the tasks and job duties performed by job description. Participants responded to a comprehensive list of tasks to reveal the tasks performed by position and the amount of time devoted to the task. Regarding benefits, respondents provided information for a detailed picture of employer-provided benefits.

New and Improved Human-Animal Bond Veterinary Certification from HABRI  and NAVC

The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) and the North American Veterinary Community (NAVC) have launched the new and improved Human-Animal Bond Certified 2.0 course for veterinarians, veterinary nurses, and veterinary practice managers. Since 2018, human-animal bond certification has become essential for animal health professionals looking to engage with their clients through the communication and the science of the human-animal bond.

“The pandemic has not only accelerated the importance of pets in people’s lives, but it has also created more attentive pet owners who want the best care for their pets and who expect to hear from their veterinarians about the human-animal bond,” says Steven Feldman, president of HABRI. “Human-Animal Bond Certified 2.0 equips veterinarians and their teams with the resources they need to support and acknowledge the human-animal bond.”

Significant changes have been made to the course, including new modules on hot topics such as aftercare and access to care. Human-animal bond certification will now be offered as a tiered system, with three 8-hour modules to make the course more manageable to complete. Practice certification is also now available.

Gene O’Neill, CEO of NAVC, commented, “In helping educate veterinarians and staff about the science of the human-animal bond, Human-Animal Bond Certified 2.0 is the new gold standard for veterinarians looking to reconnect with their purpose and engage with their clients in a meaningful and effective way.”

Photo credits: Gilnature/iStock via Getty Images; iStock via Getty Images; shutter2photos/iStock via Getty Images, cmannphoto/iStock via Getty Images; Chepko/iStock via Getty Images; PixelsEffect/E+ via Getty Images; SVPhilon/iStock via Getty Images; talip/iStock via Getty Images; iStock via Getty Images

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