Notebook: November 2021

Pet Care Findings from NutriSense

In its recent poll, “Healthcare: A detailed look into you and your pet,” NutriSense ( conducted a survey of pet owners to see, as they stated it, “where that balance lies between pet care and self-care.”

They looked at how much respondents would pay out of pocket to aid the recovery of their feline, canine, or other companions. They found that cat owners were willing to spend slightly more ($3,000+) on their veterinary bills than dog owners ($2,700+), although the lowest group by far was the “other pets” category ($1,500+).

Other findings include the fact that 3 out of 10 Americans are willing to commit a crime to afford healthcare for their pet, and that people under the age of 35 take their pets to the vet more than they go to the doctor. Pet owners reported that regular checkups are the most important thing to a pet’s health, followed by eating healthy, exercise, taking vitamins, and testing blood sugar.

On average, Northeastern pet owners spend more annually on vet visits than those in the South or the West. Maine and Vermont pet owners spend $2,000 or more on vet visits per year. Meanwhile, pet owners in Oregon, Louisiana, and Mississippi spend less than $200 per year.

Wyoming came in with the lowest annual average, with pet owners spending just $10.

Raw Dog Food May Pose Dangers

NB2.jpgNew research, presented over the summer at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases and published in the International Journal of Food Microbiology, warns that “the trend for feeding dogs raw food may be fueling the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.”

Researchers from the University of Porto in Portugal tested 55 samples of dog food, 14 of them frozen raw, for the bacteria enterococcus, which can cause urinary tract infections, blood infections, and meningitis, among other conditions. The study revealed that enterococci was present in more than half of the samples, including two raw brands.

The samples were taken from various types of dog food—frozen raw, wet, dry, semi-wet, and treats—and encompassed 25 brands, which the researchers did not name. Twenty-one of the brands are sold in multiple countries, including both raw brands. The researchers expressed alarm over the findings; The concern comes from the fact that this type of bacteria is often intrinsically resistant to antibiotics, meaning some species of enterococci can lead to outbreaks. “This study shows that dog food from international brands is a vehicle of clinically relevant enterococci carrying resistance to last-resort antibiotics and relevant virulence genes, thus positioning pet food as an important source of antibiotic resistance spread,” say the authors.


“Business opportunities are like buses, there’s always another one coming.”

—Richard Branson, entrepreneur

Dog with a Giant Tongue Saved by a Veterinary Surgeon

CS5.jpgThis 3D reconstruction of Bentley’s CT scan shows Bentley’s front lower teeth growing straight out to the front due to the weight of his tongue (pictured in yellow).

The research of Raymond Kudej, DVM, PhD, DACVS, into brachycephalic breeds prepared him to perform what might be the first tongue-eduction surgery of its kind on a dog. Kudej is a professor and small animal surgeon at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine who often works with brachycephalic dog breeds, such as bulldogs, pugs, and Boston terriers. After reading a study that reported that the proportion of air to soft tissue in brachycephalic dogs was decreased by approximately 60% compared with dogs with a medium-sized skull, he launched his own research into surgically reducing the size of the tongue to make breathing easier.

He received a call from Maureen Salzillo, director of Operation Pawsibility Project, about a rescued one-year-old pitbull named Bentley whose tongue was so big that it hung out of his mouth all the time. Because of the size of his tongue, it took Bentley more than 30 minutes to eat just one bowl of food.

“Dogs are stoic,” she said. “He figured it out. To eat or drink, he had to plunge his whole face into the bowl, and it made such a mess. He couldn’t swallow the right way. And he drooled in such copious amounts, it took multiple towels to mop it up.”

Kudej found that Bentley’s tongue was so heavy that the sheer weight of it pushing down on his teeth constantly caused them to grow sideways at a 90-degree angle. And his mandible, which is normally the shape of a small bowl that holds the tongue, was completely flat. The shelter was able to raise the money needed for the operation, and Kudej performed a midline glossectomy, which reduces the size of the tongue by taking out tissue from the middle of the muscle as opposed to the sides, to avoid the arteries. Bentley has made a full recovery,
and Kudej will present his research into tongue-reduction surgeries on brachycephalic dogs, including Bentley’s clinical case, at the 2021 American College of Veterinary Surgeons conference.

“Bentley’s case is one that I’ve never seen before, and I’ll probably never see again. I don’t believe in fate, but sometimes the stars just line up,” said Kudej.

Parasitologists Warn of Drug-Resistant Hookworms Spreading in Dogs

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) reports that veterinary parasitologists warn that multidrug-resistant hookworms are spreading in the US, and that veterinarians should watch for persistent infections. Antoinette Marsh, PhD, is an associate professor at the Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, president-elect of the American Association of Veterinary Parasitologists (AAVP), and chair of the AAVP task force.

She says that the task force was formed, in part, to teach veterinarians that hookworms in the US can be resistant to common treatments and they should follow up on patients to verify the dewormers they prescribe are effective. She said that, until recently, veterinarians who encountered infections that persisted after courses of benzimidazole or pyrantel pamoate could usually rely on a combination course containing moxidectin to treat persistent hookworm shedding in dogs.

Marsh cited study results that indicate dogs with suspected or confirmed drug-resistant hookworms are becoming widespread in the Southeast, and they have been documented in the Northeast and California. Marsh stated that not all of the isolates are multidrug  resistant. She said that drug resistance in hookworms likely developed through misuse of anthelmintics approved for administration to livestock. Some of those products contain the same active ingredients as prescription anthelmintics intended for dogs, but in different formulations and sometimes different routes of administration.

Marsh related that “when veterinarians use a dewormer, particularly in a dog with documented infection, it’s important to retest that dog 10 to 14 days later to ensure the dog is no longer shedding eggs or it has significant reduction in fecal egg counts following deworming.”  She stated that it is recommended to monitor as long as shedding persists.

FDA Issues Warning Letter to Pet Food Producer

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning letter to Midwestern Pet Foods, Inc., after inspections of its manufacturing sites revealed apparent violations of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act that were shared across the sites. The FDA reports that these conditions likely contributed to the illness or death of hundreds of dogs.

The initial inspection of Midwestern’s plant in Chickasha, Oklahoma, was triggered by reports of illness or death in dogs who had eaten SPORTMiX brand dry dog food manufactured by Midwestern. Samples of SPORTMiX were later found to contain levels of aflatoxin as high as 558 parts per billion (ppb). The FDA considers pet food to be adulterated if it contains more than 20 ppb of aflatoxin. In January, the company voluntarily recalled these products, and in March, Midwestern recalled several brands of pet food manufactured at its plant in Monmouth, Illinois, after samples tested positive for salmonella.

As of August 9, the FDA is aware of more than 130 pet deaths and more than 220 pet illnesses that may be linked to eating brands of pet food manufactured by Midwestern. Not all of these cases have been confirmed, and this count is approximate. The FDA has requested a written response from the company stating the specific steps they have taken to correct any violations.

Is My Dog Right- or Left-Pawed?

At the 2021 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show,  scientists and veterinarians from Embark conducted field tests to determine if  the diversity of dogs at Westminster is also present in their paw preferences. They state that just like humans, dogs can have limb dominance or paw preference when doing simple tasks like walking or reaching for something.

Embark’s preliminary data showed that 62% of dogs are right-pawed, which is in keeping with the 58.3% of dogs in the recent research they cited that showed a right paw preference. Recent human research found that 90% of people are right-handed. The Embark researchers report  that while there currently is no genetic test, they devised a series of tests to help indicate paw preference in dogs.

These include the step test, that observed which paw a dog uses first when beginning to walk from a still position (sitting or standing); the crate
test, that determined which direction a dog turns to face forward after entering a crate of the appropriate size; and the tape test, that took note
of which paw a dog uses to wipe a lightly adhesive piece of tape off their nose.

When the dogs were sorted into herding, terrier, and retriever categories, Embark’s data showed that 36% of both herders and terriers were left-pawed, while 72% of retrievers were
left-pawed. They cautioned that more data would be needed to verify this, as the retrievers was the smallest data pool.

US Pet Market Outlook Shows Positive Trends

GettyImages-1220622579.jpgVetwatch reported on results from the Packaged Facts US Pet Market Outlook 2021–2022. They stated that usage rates for nonmedical pet care services show positive trends notwithstanding COVID-19 setbacks. Among dog owners overall, usage rates for these nonmedical services edged up from 44% in 2012/2013 to 50% in 2018/19, before dipping slightly because of the pandemic.

Overall, the report states that dog grooming remains the marquee nonmedical pet care service, with usage rates rising from 25% in 2012/13 to 41% in 2018/19, dipping only slightly in the wake of COVID-19. The standout in usage rate growth over the 2012/13 to 2020/21 period was pet insurance. The percentage of dog owners with pet insurance increased from 8% to nearly 13%, reflecting ongoing pet owner concerns about pet healthcare costs but also continuing determination to provide pet dogs with veterinary care.


Cats Prefer to Get Free Meals Rather Than Work for Them

CS5.jpgWhen cats were offered the choice of  readily available food in a tray or working  for it using a simple puzzle, cats most often chose the free food.

A new study from researchers at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine showed that when given the choice between a free meal and performing a task for a meal, cats would prefer the meal that doesn’t require much effort. The results are surprising for cat behaviorists, researchers report, because most animals prefer to work for their food—a behavior called contrafreeloading. The results were published in Animal Cognition.

“There is an entire body of research that shows that most species including birds, rodents, wolves, primates—even giraffes—prefer to work for their food,” said lead author Mikel Delgado, PhD, a cat behaviorist and research affiliate at UC Davis. “What’s surprising is out of all these species, cats seem to be the only ones that showed no strong tendency to contrafreeload.”

Cats who were part of the study wore activity monitors. The study found that even cats who were more active still chose the freely available food. Why cats prefer to freeload remains unclear to researchers. Delgado said the food puzzles used in the study may not have stimulated their natural hunting behavior, which usually involves  ambushing their prey.

NIH Grant Supports Collaborative Research into COVID-19 Treatment

CS5.jpgKyeong-OK “KC” Chang, virologist with Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, recently received a $3.7 million grant to further development of COVID-19 therapeutic treatment.

Kansas State University has received a five-year, $3.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to research a new treatment method for the COVID-19 virus. Kyeong-Ok “KC” Chang, DVM, PhD, a virologist at the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine, is the principal investigator for the project, “Small Molecule Inhibitors Against 3C-Like Protease of SARS-CoV-2.” The project’s goal is to complete development of a drug for preclinical studies, ultimately leading to a COVID-19-specific antiviral therapeutic treatment.

“There is currently an urgent and unmet need for the discovery and development of antiviral therapeutics for the treatment of SARS-CoV-2, the causative agent of COVID-19,” Chang said. Yunjeong Kim, DVM, PhD, a virologist from Kansas State University, serves as co–principal investigator along with William C. Groutas, a medicinal chemist at Wichita  State  University; Stanley Perlman, a professor of microbiology and immunology from the University of Iowa; and Scott Lovell, a structural biologist at the University of Kansas.

Chang’s group has been working on antiviral drug development against both human and animal coronaviruses for over a decade, with a focus on protease inhibitors.

Photo credits: Firn/iStock via Getty Images, Photo courtesy of Maureen Salzillo, photo courtesy of Michael Karlin/Cummings School, Dr_Microbe/iStock via Getty Images, Sviatlana Barchan/iStock via Getty Images, Ilona Shorokhova/iStock via Getty Images. Photo courtesy of Mikel Delgado/UC Davis, Photo courtesy of Kansas State University Photo Services.



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