Notebook: August 2023

News briefs from across the industry and beyond. This month’s articles include: Health Care Cost Savings Associated with Pet Ownership; Tick Surveillance Key to Tracking Emerging Disease Babesiosis; FDA Conditionally Approves First Drug for Anemia in Cats with Chronic Kidney Disease; UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine Receives $6 Million Gift from PetSmart Charities.

Tick Surveillance Key to Tracking Emerging Disease Babesiosis


Babesiosis, an emerging tickborne disease transmitted through the bite of blacklegged ticks, Ixodes scapularis, is increasing rapidly in the northeastern United States and is found in the Southeast and Florida, according to the University of Florida’s Emerging Pathogens Institute. Scientists have identified more than 100 species of babesia parasites, carried by blacklegged ticks.

“There are human cases [of babesiosis] here in Florida and scattered across the Southeast, but there’s very little actual surveillance for babesia species in ticks,” says veterinary parasitologist Jeff Gruntmeir, PhD. As an associate of the University of Florida’s Emerging Pathogens Institute, Gruntmeir analyzes ticks for disease-causing agents, including babesia.

Babesia parasites infect the red blood cells of humans, which can lead to anemia, jaundice, and dark urine. It can be fatal, particularly among people with compromised immune systems or those with no spleen.

Gruntmeir advises protecting pets against fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes. “The more quickly a blood-feeding insect or arthropod is killed, the less likely it is to transmit infection. Those first 24 hours are really critical.”

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New Study Looks at Role of Sleep Disruption in Dogs with Dementia

GettyImages-1352753200.jpgDogs with dementia suffer the same sleep disruptions that humans with dementia do. In a recent study, researchers from North Carolina State University performed electroencephalography, or EEGs, on elderly dogs to determine whether brain-wave readings during sleep correlated with signs of cognitive decline.

Twenty-eight elderly dogs, 17 females and 11 males, took part in the study. Prior to the sleep study, the dogs had received complete physicals and undergone cognitive testing; their owners had also completed the Canine Dementia Scale (CADES) questionnaire.

The EEG measured four stages of sleep: wakefulness, drowsiness, NREM, and REM. NREM is a deep sleep state prior to REM. The dogs weren’t sedated, and the electrodes were affixed to the skull with gel.

The researchers correlated the percentage of time spent in each sleep state with the dogs’ scores on cognitive testing and the CADES questionnaire. The higher the dog’s dementia score, the less time they spent in NREM and REM sleep.

The work is an important part of establishing baselines for identifying cognitive decline in dogs. The researchers hope that the work can lead to early diagnosis and intervention for elderly dogs with signs of cognitive decline.

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“The most important thing in life is not what you know but how well you can use what you know.”

—Charles R. Drew, MD, 1904–1950,
Black surgeon and researcher who organized America’s first large-scale blood bank

Healthcare Cost Savings Associated with Pet Ownership

GettyImages-1225906493-[Converted].pngPet ownership saves $22.7 billion in annual healthcare costs, according to a report commissioned by the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) and funded by a grant from Banfield Pet Hospital.

The report identifies savings from pet owners’ better overall health in the form of fewer doctor visits per year. It also tracks specific savings for key public health issues affecting millions of Americans. These include reduced obesity and infections and better mental health for children, seniors, and veterans.

“This data suggests that there should be stronger societal support for keeping pets and people healthy together,” said Steven Feldman, president of HABRI.

The full report, “The Health Care Cost Savings of Pet Ownership,” is available for download at

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First Monoclonal Antibody for Dogs with Osteoarthritis Pain Approved by FDA

GettyImages-462975553.jpgThe US FDA has approved Librela (bedinvetmab injection), the first monoclonal antibody (mAb) for the control of pain associated with osteoarthritis (OA) in dogs. (In 2022, the FDA approved an mAb for the control of pain associated with OA in cats.)

OA, the most common form of arthritis in dogs, is a degenerative and painful condition of the joints in which the normal cartilage cushion in the joints breaks down. Eventually, the bones in the joint rub against each other, causing pain, decreased joint movement, and sometimes formation of bone spurs or other changes in and around the joint.

OA continues to get worse over time; however, Librela can help control the pain associated with the condition. It is given by subcutaneous injection once a month and is only available by prescription from a licensed veterinarian.

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How One Service Dog Helped Her Veteran

The US Veterans Administration (VA) recently described the importance of service dogs in allowing veterans a chance to reunite with their families, head back to school, find renewed enjoyment in life, and significantly reduce their medications. Service dogs can also reduce the number of veterans who die by suicide. By focusing on the relationship between one veteran and his service dog, provided by K9s For Warriors—the nation’s largest provider of trained service dogs for veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury, or military sexual trauma—the VA shows just how impactful service dogs can be.

Quinton, a US Marine Corps veteran, returned home from combat with PTSD that left him feeling anxious and unsafe when doing everyday activities. Desperate to get back to the life he knew, Quinton applied for a service dog from K9s For Warriors.

With a majority of the dogs rescued from high-kill shelters, K9s For Warriors gives a second chance at life not just to veterans, but dogs, too. Quinton’s service dog Moly was rescued after suffering animal cruelty. Despite her past trauma, with K9s For Warriors, Moly began the road to becoming a service dog, regaining her strength and trust in humans.

The day Moly met Quinton she ran into his arms and their bond has been unwavering ever since. Quinton can now go into crowded places without being anxious or nervous. He is excited for the future and says Moly has given him his life back.

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Can Human AEDs Work on Dogs?

GettyImages-1167902909.jpgResearchers at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University have concluded that human automated external defibrillators (AEDs) can successfully record electrical activity and detect and treat “shockable” rhythms in dogs.

Their study, “Evaluation of automated external defibrillators designed for people in dogs,” was published in the Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care.

The research studied 42 dogs arranged in three groups:
(1) healthy dogs with no known arrhythmia, (2) client-owned dogs with known arrhythmia, and (3) client-owned dogs experiencing naturally occurring cardiopulmonary arrest. The study found a readable ECG in all cases. One dog, who was in fibrillation, was successfully defibrillated and discharged home.

“These results concluded that an AED designed for humans can successfully interpret the cardiac rhythm in dogs, determine if a shockable rhythm is present, and provide appropriate shock advice for the vast majority of dogs,” said lead author of the study, Elizabeth Rozanski DVM, DACVIM, DACVECC, associate professor in Cummings School’s Department of Clinical Sciences.

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FDA Conditionally Approves First Drug for Anemia in Cats with Chronic Kidney Disease

GettyImages-1302855554.jpgThe US FDA has conditionally approved Varenzin-CA1 (molidustat oral suspension), the first drug for the control of nonregenerative anemia associated with chronic kidney disease (CKD) in cats.

CKD is a disease that requires day-to-day management in cats, and nonregenerative anemia is a complication that often contributes to death or euthanasia of affected cats due to poor quality of life. Cats with CKD develop nonregenerative anemia when their kidneys produce less of a hormone called erythropoietin, which helps the bone marrow produce red blood cells.

Varenzin-CA1 works by helping to increase production of erythropoietin in the kidney, which in turn stimulates the bone marrow to produce more red blood cells. The FDA granted conditional approval of Varenzin-CA1 to Elanco US Inc.

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The ElleVet Project’s Latest Veterinary Mobile Relief Tour

Ellevet.pngThe ElleVet Project has announced the return of its summer veterinary mobile relief tour, providing much-needed free veterinary care and supplies to the pets of the unhoused and low-income communities throughout the United States. Since the pandemic, pet ownership has grown and veterinary care has become increasingly difficult to find in vulnerable communities.

The ElleVet Project will treat thousands of pets with vaccines, flea and tick preventatives, deworming, general checkups, and emergency surgeries. It will also provide donated pet supplies to owners.

Collaborating with local city officials and municipalities, the project hosts a rotating team of compassionate and professional veterinarians to provide 100% free veterinary care. The ElleVet Project travels throughout the country treating thousands of pets in unhoused, low-income communities and areas stricken by natural disasters in a 32-foot RV dubbed the “ElleVan.” The complete schedule of summer dates and locations is available on the nonprofit’s website

NASC Announces Success in Tolerability Study of Cannabidiol Products in Healthy Dogs

The National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) has shared positive results from a recently completed study showing the tolerability of broad spectrum cannabidiol (CBD), broad spectrum CBD with cannabigerol (CBG), and broad-spectrum CBD with cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) products in healthy male and female dogs when given a daily dose for 90 consecutive days.

In the study, healthy dogs (16 males and 16 females) at least 6 months of age were randomly placed into 4 groups and given either the control or one of the broad-spectrum products previously listed. The amount given was 5 mg total cannabinoids/kg body weight/day for 90 consecutive days. Animals were observed daily with detailed clinical examinations conducted weekly. Body weights, food consumption, and clinical pathology evaluations were included in the study as well.

Results showed that cannabinoids were well tolerated when healthy male and female dogs were dosed for 90 consecutive days. No serious adverse events were reported during the study. Based on the data available, the authors concluded that these substances do not pose significant risk to dogs in long-term use. 

PetHub’s Veterinary Telehealth Services for Pet Owners Includes AI

PetHub Inc. recently launched its Wellness Tools powered by VetInsight. Subscribers can access a comprehensive AI symptom checker, 24/7 veterinary telehealth services, and a virtual food and treat finder.

The Symptom Checker is an on-demand, AI virtual veterinarian, available 24/7 to search a pet’s symptoms and recommend next steps based on the information provided by the pet owner. The response suggests an in-person trip to the veterinarian or a telehealth conversation based on the urgency of the issue.

Veterinary Telehealth offers unlimited 24/7 access to advice from trustworthy veterinarians via online chat, phone, or email about any new or ongoing concerns about pets.

The Food and Treat Finder Tool provides personalized results tailored to a pet’s physical and nutritional needs.

UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine Receives $6 Million Gift from PetSmart Charities

The gift establishing the PetSmart Charities Endowed Chair in Accessible Veterinary Care will enable University of California Davis to continue building innovative, compassionate care for all pets, ensure hands-on clinical training for veterinary students, and develop research models that can scale nationwide.

UC Davis’ School of Veterinary Medicine was chosen to receive the gift for its sustained priority of improving access to veterinary care and integrated approach to student training. Programs at UC Davis reach historically excluded rural and urban communities. UC Davis has delivered innovative, low-cost veterinary care models for years.

According to research commissioned by PetSmart Charities, in the United States, 50 million pets a year lack access to standard veterinary care. Demand for pet healthcare has never been higher, but a shortage in practitioners along with rising costs of veterinary care have created a crisis.

Texas A&M Veterinarians Heal Dog after Life-Threatening Tongue Injury

GettyImages-1414450075.pngUnited States Army soldier Francesca Salinas’s rescued German shepherd, Ranger, was rushed to a veterinary clinic for an injury to his tongue. Doctors suspected that Ranger’s tongue had been stuck inside a toy, leading to a serious amount of necrosis of the tongue’s tissue. The clinic doctors suggested Salinas bring Ranger to Texas A&M University.

“This case was unusual because he [Ranger] was otherwise healthy and just had a freak accident,” said Kelley Thieman, DVM, DACVS (Small Animal), an associate professor at the Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (VMBS). “This may have been the first tongue resection I’ve ever done for an injury caused by a toy.”

Thieman and another soft tissue surgeon performed the tongue resection in which Ranger lost about half his tongue. He returned home after spending a week recovering and learning how to eat and drink with a smaller tongue. “They were there with me every step of the way and they didn’t give up on him,” Salinas said. “From the way they treated him, I knew they cared as much as I cared.”

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