The Scoop, January 2024

AAHA board member Gregory Carastro, LVT, CVBL, discusses the power of the team in the first View from the Board of 2024. This month’s Scoop news articles include: First dog-fox hybrid ; 11 technologies veterinary practices can adopt today; FTC chair discusses veterinary trends at AVMA economic meeting;  Amazon considers offering veterinary telehealth as it looks to compete with Walmart; and more!

Gregory Carastro, LVT, CVBLView from the Board

Harness the Power of the Team

As many of us know firsthand, this post-pandemic climate has immeasurably changed the landscape of veterinary medicine and the way in which we practice and manage our facilities. Perhaps one of the most vital lessons we can take from the changes thrust upon our industry is our need to overcome complacency. Whether you own or operate a single practitioner clinic or a large multispecialty and emergency facility, there are commonalities that can help drive our resolve and continued growth despite the challenges our industry is facing.

Now more than ever, our ability to adapt to new technologies and uphold the needs of our valued team is critical to our ability to weather these challenges. Practice management is a broad topic that encompasses many critical facets of our infrastructure. It is an essential area that needs nurturing coupled with the ability to adapt to this ever-changing terrain.

We are fortunate to have many resources to help guide us through these unprecedented times. AAHA remains at the forefront of providing accessible and vital resources to its members and the veterinary community as a whole. These valuable tools include many new releases, such as the 2023 AAHA Technician Utilization Guidelines and the collaborative digital AAHA Benchmarking tool. These are both designed to help drive staff retention, enhance profits, and reduce inventory misappropriation. Additionally, AAHA provides many staple publications like the AAHA Financial Management of the Veterinary Practice and Lead to Thrive: The Science of Crafting a Positive Veterinary Culture. These are all amazing resources geared to help in a variety of practice management dilemmas.

Utilizing the strengths of our team in the process is perhaps one of our greatest resources available when developing solutions. Enduring the challenge with them and being accessible and receptive to their concerns will prove invaluable. When you and your team are vested in the solution, they will undoubtedly be more likely to see it through to fruition. When staff are supported with optimism and positivity balanced with acknowledgment of the reality of the situation, more successful outcomes are achieved.

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Gregory Carastro, LVT, CVBL, is a director on the AAHA board. He is hospital administrator and director of human resources at the Veterinary Medical Center of Long Island. He has more than 20 years of experience as a licensed veterinary technician and hospital administrator in the Long Island veterinary community.


Study: People Favor Dogs Over Cats

A team of researchers conducted a study in Denmark, Austria, and the United Kingdom and found that people generally are more invested emotionally and financially in their dogs than their cats. Their findings were published in Frontiers in Veterinary Science. The team used four different measures: Lexington attachment to pets scale (LAPS), possession of pet health insurance, willingness to pay for life-saving treatment, and expectation of veterinary diagnostic and treatment options.

The journal stated that “The scientists found that people . . . had higher attachment scores for their dogs, insured their dogs more often, generally expected more treatment options to be available for dogs, and would pay more for those treatments.”

Researchers said that people care more about their dogs than their cats in all countries, but with a clear cross-country variation and a very modest difference in the United Kingdom. Therefore, they said, it does not seem to be a universal phenomenon that people care much less about their cats than their dogs. This finding has practical implications for future efforts to expand the level of veterinary services provided for cat owners.


FDA Approves First Treatment for Giardia Duodenalis in Dogs

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The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved Ayradia (metronidazole oral suspension) for the treatment of Giardia duodenalis infection in dogs. Ayradia is the first FDA-approved animal drug for treating Giardia duodenalis infections.

In a release, the FDA stated that Giardia duodenalis is a common protozoal parasite that can infect the intestinal tract in dogs. Although Giardia can be present in healthy dogs, it can also lead to gastrointestinal infections that most commonly cause diarrhea, which can sometimes be severe. Giardia can be spread to other animals and is also a protozoal parasite with zoonotic potential, meaning it can spread to people.

The FDA also stated that metronidazole has both antibacterial and antiprotozoal activities. Although veterinarians have historically prescribed a metronidazole product intended for humans when treating their animal patients for Giardia duodenalis, this approval means there is an approved product for dogs that has known safety and effectiveness for this species and is manufactured to quality standards.

Ayradia is only available by prescription from a licensed veterinarian because professional expertise is required to properly diagnose Giardia duodenalis infection in dogs and to monitor the safe use of the product, including treatment of any adverse reactions.

Photo credit: Dr_Microbe/iStock via Getty Images Plus


QUOTE OF THE MONTH

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act; the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do.”

—Amelia Earhart

First Dog-Fox Hybrid Points to Growing Risk of Domestic Species to Wild Animals

dog-fox hybrid
Researchers say they believe this is the first time fox-dog hybridization has occurred.

dog-fox hybrid getting medical care
The dogxim was taken to an animal shelter after being hit by a car in Brazil.

Researchers in Brazil recently used genetic testing to confirm the first known dog-fox hybrid. Identified as a “dogxim” (a cross between dog and graxaim-do-campo, the Portuguese name for pampas fox), the research team stated that this discovery raises concerns about the impact that pet dogs might have on wild animal populations and their survival.

While caring for the animal after she had been hit by a car, animal shelter staff in Vacaria, Brazil, noticed that she had a unique mix of physical and behavioral characteristics. Her pricked ears and preference for eating small mammals seemed foxlike, but her barking was more reminiscent of a dog.

Two years after her initial discovery, scientists from the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil genetically confirmed that the animal was a hybrid between a female pampas fox (Lycalopex gymnocercus) and a male domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris). This is the first documented case of a dog-fox hybrid.

Genetic analysis revealed she had a total of 76 chromosomes, compared with the 78 chromosomes of the domestic dog and 74 of the pampas fox. The results were published in the journal Animals.

“Using genetic and cytogenetic markers, our findings suggest that this individual represents a first-generation hybrid,” researchers stated. “This discovery implies that, although these species diverged about 6.7 million years ago and belong to different genera, they might still produce viable hybrids.”

Researchers stated that further work is needed to understand the frequency of this hybridization and how this transfer of genetic information from one species to another could impact native pampas fox populations in South America.

Photo credit: Flavia Ferrari


Long Live the Golden Retriever

GettyImages-1253506289.jpgA new study has identified a gene in golden retrievers that is associated with a longer lifespan in the breed. Goldens are extremely susceptible to cancer; the average golden retriever has a 65% chance of dying from cancer. But University of California-Davis researchers found a gene called HER4, variants of which appeared to be responsible for a nearly two-year lifespan extension.

The researchers studied more than 300 golden retrievers and compared DNA from dogs that were alive at age 14 with those that had died before age 12. Dogs with particular variants of the HER4 gene had longer lives, living to 13.5 years compared with 11.6 years, on average.

“Almost two years is a significant difference in a dog’s life,” said co-corresponding author Danika Bannasch, DVM, PhD, Maxine Adler Endowed Chair in genetics with the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. “Wouldn’t we all want our beloved pets to live another two years? Two years in goldens is about a 15-20% increase in lifespan, the equivalent of 12-14 years in humans.”

The study was published in the journal GeroScience.

Photo credit: Nevena1987/E+ via Getty Images


AAHA Community

How do you go about mentoring early career vets?

Does anyone have tips or protocols surrounding mentorship for early career vets who have recently joined a practice? I would love to find more ways to offer tailored support.

A:

We try to ask new vets what they hope to achieve throughout their career so we can be forward-thinking when identifying what we can do to best support them in the long run.

A:

We like to create an informal “career roadmap” with our new hires to ensure we are helping to strengthen opportunities that align with their interests
early on.

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AAHA members, add your mentorship tips to the conversation at community.aaha.org.

For help, email community@aaha.org.


New Resource for Hospice Patients

Pet Peace of Mind is a nonprofit based in Salem, Oregon, that teaches hospices how to provide pet care assistance for their patients with pets. The company has released a free resource for people whose life situations could put a pet’s health, safety, and overall wellbeing at risk.

The organization states that My Pet Placement Plan, available at bit.ly/3Fv5gpG, was designed to ensure that beloved pets will not be placed in an animal shelter and minimizes an owner’s apprehension about what will happen to their pets while dealing with life’s difficulties.

The document includes information such as an identified pet guardian, elements of the pet’s daily routine, details specific to the pet’s health, power of attorney, and next steps.


Physicist Was Essential to Cat Gallbladder Discovery

Ben Callahan
Ben Callahan is an associate professor of microbiomes and complex microbial communities, which is one of the 20 interdisciplinary clusters at NC State University.

Jody Gookin
Jody Gookin is a professor of small animal internal medicine at the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine.

Tanner Slead
Tanner Slead, left, completed a three-year residency program in small animal internal medicine at NC State and is now an internist in Texas.

Two veterinary internists at the North Carolina State College of Veterinary Medicine have determined that a cat’s gallbladder doesn’t have its own microbiome, which they state is an important discovery for the treatment of feline cholangitis, the most commonly acquired inflammatory liver disease in domestic cats.

The veterinary team of Jody Gookin, DVM, PhD, DACVIM (Small Animal Internal Medicine), and Tanner Slead, DVM, relate that the expertise of Ben Callahan, who has a PhD in physics, helped them design a study that showed conclusively that any infection-causing bacteria found in the bile of suffering cats came from somewhere else. Callahan, a world-renowned expert in microbiomes, joined the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine’s Department of Population Health and Pathobiology in 2017 as part of a “cluster hire.”

“Ben was hired as part of the Chancellor’s Faculty Excellence Program, and one of the key goals was to place someone like Ben in an environment where he could collaborate with clinicians,” says Gookin, a professor of small animal internal medicine.

When starting their gallbladder study, Gookin and Slead first needed to know whether the healthy gallbladder had bacteria living in it or whether it was a sterile environment. If the gallbladder had its own microbiome, some infections could be caused by an overgrowth of what’s normally healthy bacteria.

Callahan, winner of the 2023 American Society of Microbiologists’ Microbiome Data Prize, is also the person who wrote the software that scientists use to design microbiome tests that filter out contaminants. Gookin says that because of his expertise, Callahan was able to teach her and Slead how to complete the study.

For cats, Slead says, the study results mean that clinicians can more accurately diagnose and understand the role of bacteria in liver diseases and that they can consider bile culture an adequate diagnostic tool when looking for the most common infections, such as E. coli. The study was recently published online in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine.

Photos courtesy of NC State University


FTC Chair Discusses Veterinary Trends at AVMA Economic Meeting

GettyImages-1299149656.pngFederal Trade Commission (FTC) Chair Lina Khan gave the opening talk at the recent 2023 AVMA Veterinary Business and Economic Forum. She stated that federal regulators are keeping a close eye on competition among veterinary service providers with the FTC’s focus on noncompete agreements, mergers, and private equity acquisitions.

“Time after time, we’ve been hearing from veterinarians about how various trends in the industry, including consolidation and financialization and the proliferation of noncompetes, may be undermining the business of veterinary services and making it more difficult to provide quality service,” Khan said. “And, so, we’ve been hearing from you all and wanted to make sure we were getting a chance to engage directly.”

As part of the FTC’s enforcement agenda, Khan highlighted the FTC’s work on mergers and acquisitions and, in particular, roll-up strategies. This is where companies acquire many similar companies to gradually amass market share.

Khan noted that “instances in which a private equity firm, or others, may be serially making acquisitions, each one of which may be relatively small, and may not raise competition issues, but how in the aggregate these serial acquisitions can still roll up a market in ways that we believe can be quite harmful to competition.”

Khan ended the address with a clear message of caution regarding mergers and acquisitions in veterinary services.

“To the extent that there continues to be potential shifts towards roll-up activities, being aware of the FTC’s concerns in this area—be it serial acquisitions, roll ups, these stealth consolidation schemes—this is an area where enforcers have been somewhat hands-off in recent decades. But we’re really doubling down again because we think there has been harm to people at the level of higher prices, but also worse quality,” she said.

Visit avma.org for more information.

Photo credit: filo/DigitalVision Vectors via Getty Images


VHMA Announces 2023 President’s Award Recipient

Karen E. Felsted, CPA, MS, DVM, CVPM, CVA
Karen E. Felsted, CPA, MS, DVM, CVPM, CVA, recipient of the VHMA 2023 President’s Award.

The Veterinary Hospital Managers Association (VHMA) shared that Karen E. Felsted, CPA, MS, DVM, CVPM, CVA, is its 2023 President’s Award winner. The award is given to a VHMA member in celebration of their contributions to positive change and enhancing the standing of the association.

“It’s nice to be recognized for what you do and particularly by an organization that I value so much,” said Felsted, founder and president of PantheraT Veterinary Management Consulting, in a release. “I think VHMA is a truly tremendous group. It has amazing leadership, a dedicated membership, and has spent so much time and effort on really interesting projects that impact the profession a great deal.”

According to the release, Felsted joined VHMA more than 20 years ago and contributes to its column “Insiders’ Insight” each month, where she discusses industry trends and data impacting the veterinary industry as well as being involved in pricing projects for veterinary medicine.

Photo courtesy of VHMA


Purina and RedRover Announce 2023 Purple Leash Project Grants

GettyImages-1405898895.jpgPurina and the nonprofit RedRover named the recipients of seven new Purple Leash Project grants to help domestic violence shelters make pet-friendly renovations. This is part of an ongoing effort to provide resources for survivors of domestic abuse with pets, who often will delay leaving an abuser if they can’t take their pet with them, Purina officials stated. The company stated that fewer than 20% of domestic violence shelters in the United States accept pets.

The Purple Leash Project has provided more than $1.2 million to domestic violence shelters and service providers since it was founded in 2019.

The most recent recipients of Purple Leash Project grants are:

  • The Women’s Safe House in St. Louis County, Missouri, will receive $60,000 to fund a new program called The Pet Safe House.
  • Safelight in Henderson County, North Carolina, will receive $60,000 to build the organization’s first-ever onsite kennel.
  • F.A.I.T.H. in Rabun County, Georgia, will receive $60,000 to build onsite dog and cat kennels.
  • Schuylkill Hope Center in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, will receive $60,000 to complete a pet shelter.
  • Peace at Home Family Shelter in Washington County, Arkansas, will receive $60,000 to build an onsite pet sanctuary.
  • Verde Valley Sanctuary in Yavapai County, Arizona, will receive $60,000 to add six indoor/outdoor dog kennels to its emergency shelter and veterinary care for survivors.
  • 180 Turning Lives Around in Monmouth County, New Jersey, will receive $6,000 to support its onsite pet housing program.

Photo credit: ktaylorg/E+ via Getty Images

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