Notebook: July 2023

News briefs from across the industry and beyond. This month’s articles include: State of the workplace health report; Canine PTSD study; Demand returns to pre-pandemic levels; new bill introduced to combat illicit Xylazine; Bipartisan bill aims to crack down on ‘tranq.’

Pulse Ingredients in Dog Food Not Linked to Heart Problems


Researchers from the Ontario, Canada University of Guelph report that ingredients such as lentils, beans, and field peas typically used in grain-free dog foods are safe for healthy dogs.

They say that these diets have been under scrutiny after “pulses”—the collective term used for peas, lentils, and beans—became associated with dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs. The research, which appears in The Journal of Nutrition, found that dogs fed diets containing up to 45% whole pulse ingredients and no grains over 20 weeks showed no indications of heart issues. Researchers also stated that the dogs’ body composition altered less than 0.1% from baseline no matter which diet they were on, suggesting they also maintained lean body mass.

“This study is the longest controlled feeding study to date to assess cardiometabolic health in healthy adult dogs fed pulse-inclusive diets,” said lead author Kate Shoveller, PhD, professor in the Department of Animal Biosciences in the Ontario Agricultural College and Champion Petfoods Chair in Canine and Feline Nutrition, Physiology, and Metabolism.

Photo credit: osoznaniejizni/iStock via Getty Images Plus

New Study Examines Health of PTSD Support Dogs

GettyImages-960330492.jpgA research team based at the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work is studying how service dogs are impacted over time when paired with people diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The study is funded by the Morris Animal Foundation.

Led by Kevin Morris, PhD, research professor and American Humane Endowed Chair in the Graduate School of Social Work and its Institute for Human-Animal Connection’s executive director, the team will examine active service dogs’ genetic makeup, physiology, and behaviors over time to learn if and how pairing them with veterans diagnosed with PTSD impacts the dogs’ health and wellbeing.

PTSD impacts nearly one-third of military veterans who have experienced combat. “There is growing evidence that pairing military veterans with trained psychiatric service dogs can reduce PTSD symptoms,” said Morris. “What we don’t know is how service dogs are impacted. We hope the findings of our study will result in recommendations that can improve the health and wellbeing of the dogs engaged in this important work.”

This research is part of a larger study that will follow veterans with PTSD before and after receiving a service dog.

Photo credit: Roxanne Williams/iStock via Getty Images Plus


“The race is to the driven, not the swift.”

—John Jakes, writer

USDA Tracking Bird Flu Spillover Events in Mammals

hpai-mammals-map.pngThe US Department of Agriculture published its data on cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza infections in mammals from 2022 to late March 2023.

The AVMA recently reported on the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) tracking of cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) infection in mammals. They relate that the United States is in the midst of the worst HPAI epizootic in the nation’s history. Infections in wild, commercial, and backyard birds have been identified in all but one US state, Hawaii, and roughly 60 million chickens and turkeys have died as a result.

No known human-to-human spread has occurred with the H5N1 virus that is currently circulating in birds in the United States and globally, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Sporadic human cases of H5N1 reported with H5N1 viruses circulating in birds since 2021 have occurred following exposure to infected poultry.

Earlier this year, the USDA first published its data on cases of HPAI infections in mammals from 2022 to late March 2023. The H5N1 virus subtype was detected in numerous species: bobcat, black and brown bears, bottlenose dolphin, harbor and grey seals, mountain lion, red fox, raccoon, striped skunk, and more.

Photo credit: Graphic courtesy of USDA

EPA, FDA Consider Oversight Change for Animal Parasite Products

Oversight of approximately 600 topical pesticides for animals may be transferred from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP) to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) under a joint proposal being considered by the agencies.

In a recently published white paper, the agencies examined ways to update oversight responsibilities for specific products “in an efficient and transparent manner and in alignment with each agency’s expertise. The white paper identifies two product types: products administered topically to animals for external parasite control, such as collars and spot-on products, and genetically engineered pest animals, such as mosquitoes genetically altered to control the mosquito population.

Air Pollution May be Changing the Gut Microbiome of British Bumblebees

GettyImages-1372518532.pngA research team from the UK’s University of Leicester is investigating air pollution’s effect on the gut of British bees. They report that human activity is contributing to pollution that is affecting our health. According to World Health Organization (WHO) estimates, atmospheric air pollution is estimated to cause 4.2 million premature deaths worldwide per year.

They state that their research has identified that air pollution affects the intricate web of microbes that are all around us. Populations of bees are also declining worldwide, so the Leicester team is investigating whether these two factors are connected. Researchers are looking into the effects of air pollution on the bee gut microbiome.

The team is researching how air pollution affects the beneficial gut bacteria and microbiome composition of bees and the subsequent impact on bee health. Hannah Sampson, first author on the study, explained, “We know that pollution is a massive issue globally and we know that bee decline seems to be increasing over the last few years. Maybe they’re linked, as bees are constantly exposed to these pollution particulates in the air.”

Sampson urged caution on concluding that air pollution directly contributes to bee population decline from this initial study and noted, “More research needs to take place as air pollution is having a much greater impact than we think. Air pollution affects microbial communities. Changes to these important communities could have detrimental effects on lots of different ecosystems that affect bees and also directly affect humans.”

Photo credit: Sander Meertins/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Practice Demand Returns to Prepandemic Levels

The AVMA reports that, according to a new economic report by Brakke Consulting, consumer discretionary spending is trending back to normal levels. The report also shows that, while practice revenue increased 5.2% year over year in 2022, visits dropped 3.1%. Brakke’s analysis is based on monthly surveys and industry sources, including data from the AVMA and the Veterinary Hospital Managers Association.

Brakke senior consultant John Volk explained that the discrepancy “can come from two things: a bigger basket of services or, more likely, increased prices.” Volk presented highlights from the report at the 2023 Veterinary Meeting & Expo in Orlando, Florida.

As he explained, pet care is paid for with discretionary income, and US households were awash in government subsidies from 2020–2021 during the height of the pandemic. “People were not taking vacations. They were not going to restaurants. They were not going to movies,” he said. “But people were taking their pet to the veterinarian, and veterinarians were not getting a lot of pushback on higher prices during the pandemic.” He reports that the money ran out eventually, and practices were seeing weaker revenue growth in 2022 compared with 2021.

Addressing labor supply, 53% of practices reported vacancies for one or more veterinarians, Volk said, adding that this position remained open for an average of 16 months for respondents. Sixty-three percent of practices had roughly three open positions for veterinary technicians, each of which took about nine months to fill.

The average number of work hours has increased substantially since 2019, about five hours per week for the average veterinarian in terms of median number of hours worked, Volk said. Consequently, starting salaries are rising, with companion animal practitioners earning the highest starting salary while equine practitioners earned the least.

New State of the Workplace Health Report

OneMedical’s 2023 State of Workplace Health report collected responses from 800 human resources and benefits leaders and 800 full-time employees.

Researchers stated that roughly 75% of employees felt their health worsened or stayed the same in 2022. In contrast, around 6 out of 10 HR leaders believe their workforce’s physical and mental health improved last year.

Although 84% of employees used their healthcare benefits last year, many aren’t making the most of them. Fifty-five percent of employees said they feel overwhelmed when they try to navigate the healthcare system and one-third struggled to schedule an appointment with a provider.

About 1 in 4 respondents to the survey said their mental health has improved over the last year, while almost half of respondents said their mental health stayed the same throughout 2022, and 32% said their mental health worsened. Researchers noted that most HR lead respondents expressed a belief that their staff’s mental wellbeing had improved in 2022. “This indicates that leaders may not appreciate the extent to which their team members may be struggling with their health,” they said. Visit to view the full report.

Levine Receives National Veterinary Research Award

Jon LevineJonathan Levine, DVM, recipient of the American Association of Veterinary Clinicians’ annual Faculty Achievement in Research Award.

Jonathan Levine, DVM, head of the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences at the Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (VMBS), was recently selected to receive the American Association of Veterinary Clinicians’ (AAVC) Annual Faculty Achievement in Research Award.

This award recognizes AAVC members who have achieved national recognition through their efforts on behalf of veterinary medicine. Recipients are selected based on practice recognition awards; research excellence and publications in peer-reviewed journals; leadership and participation in organized veterinary medicine; and participation in AAVC, specifically.

Levine, who also serves as a professor and the Helen McWhorter Chair in Small Animal Clinical Sciences, is a board-certified veterinary neurologist who specializes in spinal cord injuries and neuro-oncology. His recent research projects have focused on gliomas (tumors in the brain and spinal cord). By analyzing a large dataset of glioma samples, he determined that canine and human gliomas are molecularly similar, suggesting that they have a similar mutational, cancer-causing process that would enable similar treatment strategies.

Photo courtesy of Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences

Bipartisan Bill Addresses Illicit Xylazine

GettyImages-607462476.jpgBipartisan lawmakers in the House and Senate recently introduced legislation to crack down on the illegal use of a veterinary tranquilizer that is increasingly being found in fentanyl and other drugs. Xylazine is a veterinary drug approved for use in animals as a sedative and pain reliever. It is also being used by drug dealers as a low-cost cutting agent in illicit drugs.

The legislation would list xylazine as a Schedule III controlled substance on the five-tiered scale, meaning it has a “moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence.” The bill would also enable the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to track the manufacturing of xylazine to ensure it is not diverted to the illicit market.

If it becomes law, the legislation will make the manufacture, distribution, dispensing, or possession of illicit xylazine subject to Schedule III penalties under the federal Controlled Substances Act. Illicit use of xylazine includes any use, or intended use, in people and would address any diversion of xylazine from veterinary sources. Legitimate veterinary uses would remain under their current prescription status.

Photo credit: uschools/E+ via Getty Images

Study Unlocks Stem Cell Superpower in Flatworms

planaria_image.jpgResearchers at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine have uncovered the mechanism behind stem cell death due to radiation treatment, and how one gene can dictate the fate of these cells after exposure to DNA damage.

The Adler lab found that the injury forces the worms to start regenerating, a process that heavily relies on stem cells, and therefore, the stem cells repair the radiation damage and survive instead of being disposed of.

Researchers at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine report that they have uncovered the mechanism behind stem cell death due to radiation treatment and how one gene can dictate the fate of these cells after exposure to DNA damage.

Their research focused on planarian flatworms, which can regenerate new heads, tails, or entire bodies due to their vast amounts of pluripotent stem cells, which are cells that can essentially become any cell in the body. Researchers state that while humans have these cells too, they’re highly limited in number.

“Planarians are known to be an amazing organism because their bodies are 20% stem cells,” said Carolyn Adler, PhD, senior author and assistant professor in the Department of Molecular Medicine. “I was really fascinated and wanted to understand the underlying genetic and cellular mechanisms that control these stem cells.”

The lab explored how stem cells respond to mutations caused by extremely high levels of ionizing radiation. They found that the injury forces the worms to start regenerating, a process that heavily relies on stem cells, and therefore, the stem cells repair the radiation damage and survive instead of being disposed of.

Photo credit: Photos courtesy of Adler lab/EMBO reports



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