Notebook: December 2021


iVET360 Releases Survey of Veterinary Practice Managers

iVET360 has released the veterinary industry’s first ever Practice Manager Report and made it available to download for free. This survey includes responses of 683  practice managers in 49 states, providing, as the company states, data that reveals the state of the veterinary industry beyond just revenue numbers. They report that the survey responses show some expected pain points, such as recruiting and hiring, but also includes surprising information about how practice employees are  managing—or not managing—the massive changes in the industry brought on by the pandemic.

Even so, the point of the survey wasn’t to underline how difficult things have become, according to Heather Romano, iVET360 managing director, human resources and training.

“We wanted to use this survey to help practice managers understand that they are not alone in their challenges,” Romano explains. “We also felt a need to accurately identify the issues and their causes so we could then assist the industry in finding solutions.” The iVET360 human resources and training team analyzed the data, and, as part of the report, they offer insight and advice about how the industry got to this point and what practice managers and owners can do to alleviate some of the pressure on themselves and their employees. iVET360 states that they hope to publish the Practice Manager Report annually. To download the report, go to ivet360.com.


VA to Train Dogs to Work with Vets with PTSD

Crenshaw.jpgVeteran David Crenshaw and his service dog, Doc, at a Capitol Hill news conference to promote House bill HR 1022, the  Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers Act, or PAWS Act, on March 3, 2021.

President Joe Biden recently signed a bill into law that will allow some veterans with mental health conditions to receive service dogs. The  new law orders the Department of Veterans Affairs secretary to develop and launch a five-year pilot program that provides service dog  training to benefit veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers for Veterans Therapy Act, or PAWS Act, requires the Veterans Administration (VA) to start the pilot program in early 2022, and it must be carried out by at least five VA medical  centers. The facilities will partner with accredited service dog organizations to perform the training.

Congress directed the VA to conduct a study on the issue of training service dogs to help veterans with PTSD in 2010, with the initial  results published in March. The study found veterans paired with service dogs experienced a reduction in the severity of their PTSD symptoms, and they exhibited fewer suicidal behaviors and ideations.

“The research is clear on the range of benefits a service dog can provide for veterans experiencing those kinds of symptoms, which is why we’re thrilled to see this pilot program become law,” Christine Myran, executive director of the nonprofit Blue Star Service Dogs, said in a statement. “Providing support to our veterans is essential for helping with their transition back to civilian life, and this law will make a real difference for those making that journey.”

QUOTE OF THE MONTH

“If you don’t build your dream, someone else will hire you to help them build theirs.”

—Dhirubhai Ambani, entrepreneur


Cats Less Stressed After Adoption by Families of Children with Autism

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A new study at the University of Missouri shows that adding a shelter cat to the family can help lower stress and anxiety for children with autism, and it may also benefit the cat.

“It’s not only important to examine how families of children with autism may benefit from these wonderful companion animals, but also if the relationship is stressful or burdensome for the shelter cats being adopted into a new, perhaps unpredictable environment,” said Gretchen Carlisle, a research scientist at the MU Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction (ReCHAI) in the MU College of Veterinary Medicine. “In our study, we found the cats acclimated well to their new families and became significantly less stressed over time.”

Researchers report that the findings, published in Frontiers in Veterinary Science, highlight the mutual benefits of human-animal interaction and build off previous MU research that found pets may help reduce stress and anxiety for both children with autism and their parents. Carlisle explained that children with autism may have sensitivity or sensory issues and occasional problem behaviors accompanied by loud, sudden outbursts. Because of those concerns, shelter cats that have been screened for a calm, easygoing temperament may increase the likelihood of a better long-term match for both the children and the cat.


AAVMC Provides Veterinary School Pipeline Update

The American Association of Veterinary Medicine College (AAVMC) recently published a paper that provides an analysis of the current veterinary school enrollment status. In it, they state that enrollment  in undergraduate institutions is in the midst of major change. The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a smaller cohort of undergraduate enrollees, they say, with significant enrollment loss for students from historically underrepresented backgrounds.

They report that the veterinary medical school pipeline will also be shaped in the late 2020s by fewer undergraduate students thanks to smaller birth cohorts starting in 2008. Following are some highlights from the data; to see the entire paper, visit aavmc.org.

  • Undergraduate institutions saw a 4.9% decline in overall enrollment during the pandemic as of spring semester. This is the largest decline in a decade.
  • Enrollment of college-aged students declined by 5%.
  • Men experienced the largest gender drop in enrollment: 5.5%. Women decreased by 2%.
  • White and Asian students, students from affluent backgrounds, and students with higher grades were most likely to sit out of enrollment during the pandemic.
  • Enrollment of low-income students dropped by 29% during the pandemic.
  • 42% of students who withdrew from classes in Fall 2020 did so because of changes in income due to the pandemic.

New Study Examines Whether Dogs Understand Intent

CS5.jpgDogs went around the partition to retrieve treats faster when they thought they were withheld by accident.

CS5.jpgDogs were fed several tasty treats through the gap before the experimenter started to withhold the reward in a way that looked either intentional or unintentional.

In a new study, researchers in Germany conducted a series of experiments to see whether dogs seem to understand whether humans do things on purpose. The study is published in the journal Scientific Reports

For the study, researchers attempted to pass a treat to a dog through a hole in a screen, and then either “accidentally” dropped it, tried to pass it but the hole was blocked, or intentionally withdrew the treat and said “ha ha!” In the last instance, the canines waited longer to walk around the screen to get the treat and were more likely to stop wagging their
tail. Researchers report that the finding indicates dogs can  figure out whether we’re doing something on purpose or by accident—and thus have some insight into what we’re thinking.

The researchers, including Juliane Bräuer, head of the dog studies lab at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany, acknowledge that more research is needed and there could be other factors that contributed to the dogs’ responses.


GettyImages-1144109810.jpgResearchers Explore Promising Treatment for MRSA “Superbug”

A new Cornell study has found the antimicrobial properties of certain stem cell proteins could offer a potential treatment to reduce infection in skin wounds.

Treating wounds with the secretion of a type of stem cell effectively reduced the viability of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus  aureus— better known as MRSA—according to a new study from researchers at the Baker Institute for Animal Health, part of the College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM). Moreover, the researchers found that the secretion stimulated the surrounding skin cells to build up a defense against the bacterial invader. The study appeared in Stem Cells Translational Medicine.

“The results showed that secreted factors from equine mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs), a type of stem cell, significantly decreased the viability of MRSA in our novel skin model,” said first author Charlotte Marx, a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of corresponding author Gerlinde R. Van de Walle, associate professor of microbiology and immunology at the CVM.

“Moreover,” Marx said, “we demonstrated that equine MSC secretions increase the antimicrobial activity of the skin cells by stimulating immune responses of the surrounding resident skin cells.”

Researchers say that the study may point to a possible new approach for treating MRSA. While many people carry MRSA without serious consequences, for those whose health is compromised, this “superbug” can be fatal.


Researchers Discover Treatment That May Be Viable for Human Brain Cancer

CS5.jpgDog with glioblastoma, showing the large bulky tumor (top left panel) and diffuse infiltration (bottom left panel) treated with the STING agonists and 12 weeks later,  showing the disappearance of the bulky tumor (top right panel) and associated infiltration (bottom right panel).

A team of researchers at Texas A&M University, Northwestern University, and ImmunoGenesis has discovered a treatment for  glioblastoma that they report has promising implications for the human version of the aggressive cancer that grows in the brain. 

The results were published in Clinical Cancer Research, the journal of the American Association for Cancer Research. The researchers tested a STING (stimulator of interferon genes) drug injected directly into the glioblastoma of five dogs that had previously been diagnosed with the cancer, which is the second-most common type of brain cancer in dogs. STING agonists can induce immunological responses that allow the immune system to fight otherwise immunologically resistant cancer cells.

Magnetic resonance imaging scans taken of the patients over the course of the 10-month trial revealed that some of the dogs, even with a single dose, responded to the treatment with apparent reductions in their tumor volume, including one response in which the tumor appeared to completely disappear. Based on these results, the team concluded that this therapy can trigger an antitumor  immune response and may be highly effective on recalcitrant tumors such as glioblastoma.

“With this therapy, we were trying to take tumors that do not, on their own, generate a lot of immune response and turn them into tumors that do by injecting them with this immunotherapy agent,” researcher and Texas A&M assistant professor of neurology Beth Boudreau, DVM, PhD, said.

Because of the simple delivery of the STING agonist and the marked volume reduction of the tumor, the researchers also believe this strategy may provide a viable adjunct therapeutic approach for human glioma. In the next phase of the project, researchers plan to explore using a similar approach in clinical trials of human glioma patients who have undergone a surgical debulking.


 

Second Case of Upside-Down Paws Treated at Oklahoma State’s Veterinary College

Siggi_1.jpg Siggi_2.jpg siggi_puppy_banner.jpg
Oklahoma State University CVM surgeons work on Siggi, a rat terrier puppy born with front paws upside down.

In early 2019, Oklahoma State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine treated Milo, a foxhound puppy born with the rare condition of front paws facing upward instead of downward. Erik Clary, an OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital small animal surgeon and an associate professor of small animal surgery and bioethics, performed successful corrective surgery on Milo. Earlier this year, a Dallas animal rescue group came into possession of Siggi, a 13-weekold rat terrier puppy also  with her front paws upside down. They brought the animal to OSU for examination.

“As with Milo, Siggi’s problem looked like it was in the paws, but it was actually in her elbows,” Clary said. “For reasons not fully understood, these patients’ elbows come out of joint early in life and the result is severe rotation of the lower front limbs and an inability to walk. At most, they might muster a crawl that seems most uncomfortable and is poorly suited for a dog’s life.”

Four-pound Siggi received a 64-slice computed tomography (CT) exam that gave Clary and his team information on the shape and alignment of her limb bones. They found that unlike Milo, Siggi had significant deformity of the bones in the lower part of her elbow, complicating the joint issue. “The CT helped us plan a more complex procedure that would require an intentional break high up in her ulna bone to de-rotate the limb,” Clary said.

Clary and his team performed the surgery, protecting Siggi’s elbows with splints and an orthopedic fixator device while her ulna bones healed. At her subsequent checkup, Clary confirmed the bone healing with X-ray exam and removed  Siggi’s splint. “At that stage, the task then became one of teaching her how to walk and she proved a fairly quick learner. Lorraine, her medical foster with Dallas Dog RRR, did a fabulous job implementing an incremental rehabilitation regimen that now has Siggi doing many things that puppies like to do, including chasing a ball in the yard. Truly, I could not be more pleased with Siggi’s progress,” Clary says.

Photo credits:Photo courtesy Stars and Stripes—Joe Gromelski; SurkovDimitri/iStock via Getty Images; Photos courtesy of Josepha Erlacher. Photo courtesy of Dr_Microbe; Photo courtesy of Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. Photo courtesy of American Association for Cancer Research; Photos courtesy Oklahoma State University CVM.

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