Notebook: February 2023

News briefs from across the industry and beyond. This month’s articles include: What Dog Owners Should Know About Collars and Harnesses; Vetster Launches Mobile App for Veterinarians Practicing Virtually; What FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) Does & Does Not Do; and more!

Foster Hospital for Small Animals Reaches Milestone


Serena, a six-year-old German shepherd suffering from immune-mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA), was referred to Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University for therapeutic plasma exchange.

“With IMHA, the immune system destroys its own red blood cells,” said Colleen Bourque, MVB, a third-year resident in small animal medicine at Cummings School’s Foster Hospital. “After not eating, losing some weight, and being lethargic, Serena visited her vet [in Maine] who… found her red blood cell level was quite low, 17%.”

After a day of medications, Serena’s level dropped to 13%, so she had a blood transfusion and a full workup of tests at Maine Veterinary Medical Center. “She was very icteric and hyperbilirubinemic,” Bourque said, “[and was] quickly referred to us for a therapeutic plasma exchange.”

Cummings School’s Foster Hospital for Small Animals is one of only two dozen locations in the United States with a veterinary dialysis center. In addition to dialysis, Foster Hospital offers an extracorporeal therapy service, which administers treatments for immune-mediated diseases and toxicities, among others.

Carrie Palmer, Serena’s owner, says that on arrival, “[Foster Hospital staff] explained what was happening to Serena’s body and how the treatment would be administered to help her recover. They started her on the first plasma exchange session that night.”

Serena was the 400th patient to receive a dialysis/extracorporeal therapy treatment at Cummings School’s Foster Hospital since 2000. A second session was administered the following day. “Serena’s red blood cell levels stabilized [after the second session], and her bilirubin levels dropped,” says Bourque.

Photo credit: pyotr021/E+ via Getty Images

What Dog Owners Should Know About Collars and Harnesses


Share with your clients this information, recently compiled by Stephanie Borns-Weil, DVM, DACVB, a board-certified animal behaviorist at Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine.

  • Harnesses (well-fitted) are preferable to collars for leash walking or for playing off-leash.
  • Harnesses provide control while reducing the risk of distress or injury caused by pressure on the dog’s neck and throat.
  • Collars are good for holding tags.
  • Collars used with a leash for walking can cause a dog physical harm.
  • If the dog pulls on the leash, there is a risk to sensitive neck tissue.
  • Pressure on a brachycephalic dog’s throat and neck may dangerously impair breathing.
  • Pressure on a small dog’s throat and neck can aggravate collapsing trachea.
  • Playing off-leash: Leave a dog’s harness (or collar) on if play is closely supervised. Collars should be removed for unsupervised play.

Photo credit: Skyhobo/iStock via Getty Images Plus


“A good man will take care of his horses and dogs, not only while they are young, but when old and past service.”


University of Florida Veterinary Emergency Treatment Service (VETS) Deploys in Aftermath of Hurricane Ian


In the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ agricultural response team requested the University of Florida’s Veterinary Emergency Treatment Service (VETS) deploy to Fort Myers. Over 10 days the UF VETS team treated more than 400 animals in need of care.

The team of five veterinarians, seven veterinary technicians, three veterinary students, and six support personnel was the UF VETS team’s largest deployment since the group’s inception in 2004.

Based at a sports complex, the team primarily performed health assessments and triaged animals in need of care. The bunk trailer that housed team members was provided to the UF College of Veterinary Medicine in 2019 through a grant from PetSmart Charities and the Banfield Foundation. Four additional trucks were brought in to provide supplies and food.

Most of the animals seen were dogs and cats, but the team also cared for a rabbit, a couple of bearded dragons, and several goats. One goat, Archie, received a successful blood transfusion when the team was able to locate a donor match.

Many of the animals had gastrointestinal or dermatological issues or stress associated with the storm and its aftereffects. Some trauma patients were seen as well, including a dog treated for alligator bite wounds. Several kittens found after the storm were brought in by area residents who hoped to adopt or find homes for them.

The Florida Veterinary Medical Association (FVMA) and the Florida Veterinary Technicians Association (FVTA) provided an additional 16 volunteer veterinarians and 20 volunteer veterinary technicians to help the VETS team.

“Though it can be hard to find bright spots in such difficult times, we are honored our longstanding partnership with the University of Florida allowed us to provide support to Floridians and their animals in a time of need,” said FVMA’s executive director, Jim Naugle.

Photo credit: Francisco Diaz/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Aflac and Trupanion Announce Joint Venture—Aflac Pet Insurance in Japanaflac-trupanion.jpg

Aflac Incorporated, a Fortune 500 company that helps protect more than 50 million people in Japan and the United States, and Trupanion, Inc., a leader in medical insurance for cats and dogs, are announcing a joint venture between Aflac Life Insurance Japan and Trupanion to provide high-value pet insurance in Japan. Beginning in the second half of 2023, pending necessary regulatory approvals, Aflac Pet Insurance will offer high-value pet medical insurance designed to help pet owners in Japan budget for unexpected care for their pets.

“This joint venture will combine Aflac’s brand recognition, broad distribution network, and industry leadership in Japan with Trupanion’s brand, strong reputation, and expertise within the pet insurance industry,” said Frederick J. Crawford, president and Chief Operating Officer of Aflac Incorporated.

“We believe this offering [Aflac Pet Insurance] will provide individuals and families with protection that is of higher value than any pet insurance currently available in the market,” said Masatoshi Koide, president of Aflac Japan.

“We are excited to enter Japan through our alliance with Aflac,” said Margi Tooth, President of Trupanion. “We look forward to partnering with Aflac to build trust among veterinarians and their staff[s] at Japan’s more than 10,000 veterinary hospitals. Together, we will ensure Aflac-insured pets are able to receive the best veterinary care, regardless of treatment cost.”

Photo credit: Trupanion, Inc., Aflac Incorporated

Vetster Launches Mobile App for Veterinarians Practicing VirtuallyGettyImages-1367408207.jpg

Vetster, an online veterinary telehealth marketplace, connects veterinary professionals with pet owners via video, text, or audio chat. Vetster’s mobile app for Android and iOS complements the company’s top-rated web app, Vetster for Veterinarians, and gives veterinary professionals another tool to connect with pet owners as part of their virtual practice. The mobile app is now available for veterinarians practicing on Vetster.

A surge in pet adoptions combined with a veterinary workforce shortage has left many veterinarians seeking alternative ways to meet demand while improving their work/life balance. Vetster veterinarians use the platform to provide tele-triage, address nonurgent cases, provide follow-up appointments, as well as proactive and preventive health care plans for pet owners.

“Vetster is helping to address both the barrier to access and the overwhelming demand for veterinary care,” said Vetster’s Jo Myers, DVM. “For veterinarians looking to practice virtually, the Vetster platform provides a seamless user experience, with a user-friendly interface, high-quality video, and the ability to capture medical records in-app.”

Veterinarians using Vetster have access to

  • video calls
  • appointment management
  • direct messaging
  • electronic medical records—captured and stored in-app
  • VetsterRx—US veterinarians can use VetsterRx powered by PetMeds to prescribe prescription and nonprescription medication that can be delivered directly to the client.

For more information, visit Veterinarians registered and approved to practice on the Vetster platform can download and use the Vetster for Veterinarians mobile app.

Photo credit: Fly View Productions/E+ via Getty Images

FDA Conditionally Approves First Drug to Manage Acute Onset of Pancreatitis in Dogs

In November 2022, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conditionally approved Panoquell-CA1 (fuzapladib sodium for injection) for the management of clinical signs associated with acute onset of pancreatitis in dogs. Panoquell-CA1 is an injectable drug intended for use while the dog is hospitalized for treatment of the disease.

Pancreatitis, a painful inflammatory disease of the pancreas, can be life-threatening. Dogs are usually hospitalized for treatment. In most cases, it occurs spontaneously. Common factors that increase the chance of developing pancreatitis include eating something outside of the dog’s normal diet (particularly fatty foods), treatment with certain medications, and diseases like diabetes mellitus. It is more common in certain breeds of dogs and, in some dogs, may become a recurring or chronic condition.

“This is the first drug to address a serious and life-threatening disease that previously could only be managed through supportive care,” said Steven M. Solomon, DVM, MPH, director of the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine. “The conditional approval pathway allows medications like Panoquell-CA1 to reach the marketplace more quickly, and in this case gives dogs suffering from acute onset of pancreatitis earlier access to a drug to manage this disease.”

Conditional approval also means that, when used according to the label, the drug is safe and has a reasonable expectation of effectiveness. The initial conditional approval is valid for one year with the potential for four annual renewals. If the sponsor does not meet the requirements for substantial evidence of effectiveness at the conclusion of five years, the product can no longer be marketed.

Possible side effects to advise owners about include loss of appetite, digestive tract disorders, respiratory tract disorders, liver disease, and jaundice.

What FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) Does & Does Not Do


CVM’s mission is “Protecting Human and Animal Health.” The lists below clarify what CVM does and doesn’t do to carry out its mission.

What CVM Does:

  • Ensures animal drugs are safe and effective, properly made, and adequately labeled and packaged.
  • Ensures that when food-producing animals are treated with an animal drug, food made from those animals is safe for people to eat.
  • Educates pet owners, animal producers, veterinarians, and the animal health industry about the products it regulates.
  • Monitors the safety of all types of animal food for all types of animals.
  • Monitors side effects and product-quality problems that are reported for animal food, drugs, and devices (like thermometers and pacemakers) once they are sold on the market.
  • Carries out research to support CVM’s policies and regulatory decisions about animal food, drugs, and devices.
  • Works to make more animal drugs legally available for minor species and for minor (infrequent and limited) uses in major species.
  • Leads, coordinates, and manages CVM’s international activities in collaboration with relevant FDA Centers and Offices as well as FDA’s international regulatory counterparts.

What CVM Does Not Do:

  • CVM does not provide veterinary advice.
  • CVM does not regulate the practice of veterinary medicine.
  • In most cases, CVM does not regulate vaccines for infectious animal diseases, like rabies and distemper. (The US Department of Agriculture regulates these vaccines.)
  • CVM does not regulate all flea and tick products; it regulates some of these products as animal drugs, while the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates others as pesticides. An EPA-regulated product lists an EPA Registration Number on its label. A CVM-regulated product will have a six-digit New Animal Drug Application number or an Abbreviated New Animal Drug Application number and a statement that the drug is FDA-approved. (Note: Starting 9/30/2023, this information will be mandatory on animal drug labels.)

Photo credits: Shidlovski, Ildar Imashev, PeopleImages/iStock via Getty Images Plus, alvarez/E+ via Getty Images, ©AAHA/Robin Taylor, Mikhail Dmitriev/iStock via Getty Images Plus

“Click” Chemistry May Help Treat Dogs’ Bone Cancer, MU study findsclick-chemistry.png

In September 2022, researchers from California and Denmark were awarded a Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their development of “click” chemistry, a process in which molecules snap together like LEGOs, making them a potentially more efficient in delivering pharmaceuticals to cancer tumors.

Now, a researcher at the University of Missouri has shown for the first time how click chemistry can be used to deliver drugs to treat tumors in large dogs with bone cancer. Previously this process had been successful only in small mice.

“If you want to attack a tumor using the immune system, an antibody is an extremely specific way to deliver a drug or radioactive payload to the tumor, but the problem with antibodies is they are huge molecules that circulate in the bloodstream for days or even weeks,” said Jeffrey Bryan, DVM, PhD, a professor in the MU College of Veterinary Medicine and author on the study.

The goal is for click chemistry to maximize the delivery of therapeutic drugs to the tumor while minimizing the circulation of those drugs throughout the bloodstream, risking dangerous side effects.

For years, many chemists assumed that click chemistry would not work to deliver treatment to large dogs or people because their size might prevent the therapy-delivering molecules from finding each other and clicking together. In collaboration with Brian Zeglis, PhD, an associate professor at Hunter College in New York, Bryan conducted the first-ever successful proof-of-concept study at the MU College of Veterinary Medicine. Using click chemistry, doses of radiopharmaceuticals were delivered specifically to the bone cancer tumors in five dogs that weighed more than 100 pounds each.

“It is a huge step forward for the field to show that this worked in a human-sized body,” Bryan said. “Going forward, this may pave the way for click chemistry to be used to help humans with cancer in the future.”

Photo credit: ©AAHA/Alison Silverman

Two Nonsurgical Cat Sterilization Studies Funded by Morris Animal Foundation

Two studies recently approved by Morris Animal Foundation focus on using nonsurgical methods to control the reproductive capacity of free-roaming, community cats in the United States. The first project will be conducted at the University of Georgia and the second at Tufts University.

“The importance of finding viable, safe, humane, and cost-effective techniques for nonsurgical sterilization in community cats cannot be overstated,” said Kathy Tietje, PhD, MBA, vice president of scientific operations at Morris Animal Foundation. “We’re excited about these innovative projects and their impact on population control of this specific group of cats.”

Beginning in 2023, the first project, conducted at the University of Georgia, will focus on developing an oral vaccine to decrease male cat fertility by reducing reproductive hormone levels. The second project, at Tufts University, focuses on an injectable medication to decrease hormone levels in female cats. The projects are expected to last 12–24 months.

Reducing the number of cats entering the shelter system and improving overall feline health outcomes are the primary drivers behind these new studies. An additional benefit will be reducing the environmental impact of feral cats through humane population control.



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