Notebook, November 2023

News briefs from across the veterinary industry and beyond. This month’s articles include: AVMA updates clinical trial database; Canine Tumor Genome Atlas maps DNA in pets to help people with cancer; Arkansas’ first veterinary school could welcome students by 2026; Hill’s partners with Harvard on pet microbiome project; and more!

FDA Advisory Against Feeding Certain Lots of Darwin’s Natural Pet Products Due to Salmonella

Salmonella bacteriaThe US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is cautioning pet owners not to feed their pets certain lots of Darwin’s Natural Pet Products raw cat and dog food, made by Arrow Reliance Inc., after FDA samples from the lots listed below tested positive for Salmonella.

  • Darwin’s Natural Pet Products Natural Selections Chicken Recipe with Organic Vegetables for Dogs, Lot 9774, manufactured on June 13, 2023.
  • Darwin’s Natural Pet Products Natural Selections Chicken Recipe for Cats, Lot 9795, manufactured on June 28, 2023.
  • Darwin’s Natural Pet Products Natural Selections Chicken Recipe for Cats, Lot 9830, manufactured on July 19, 2023.

According to the FDA, the products are in white and clear plastic packages. The dog food has blue labeling, and the cat food has blue and green labeling. Each package weighs two pounds and consists of four separate units. The lot codes are printed on the front of the lower left unit of the package.

Photo credit: urfinguss/iStock via Getty Images Plus


Study: Consumers Still Have a “Strong Appetite” to Spend on Pets

Dog eating cake at his birthday partyVericast’s annual 2023 Retail TrendWatch survey of more than 700 pet owners indicates that these consumers plan to increase their spending on food, treats, supplements, and hygiene products, in addition to birthday and holiday gifts.

Among consumer trends in spending on pets, Vericast found:

  • 76% view their pets as their children, with 82% of Millennials reporting this information, followed by 75% of Gen X, 70% of Gen Z, and 67% of Baby Boomers.
  • More than 62% of respondents consider quality time with pets equally (47%) as important or even more important (15%) than time with a partner.
  • 32% of pet owners report they have a dedicated social media account for their pets.
  • More than a third (37%) seek discounts for pet spending this year, and 28% are using loyalty programs.
  • 60% shop for pet gifts and holiday treats, which is an 8% increase compared to 2022.
  • More than three-quarters (78%) are willing to spend more on pet food and treats in 2023 than in 2022, indicating an interest in higher-quality products.
  • 38% are willing to spend more on health products such as vitamins and supplements this year, and 38% will spend more on pet hygiene products.
  • Roughly one-third (32%) shop for their pets at big brand specialty stores, while 30% make purchases at other big box shops.

Photo credit: Capuski/E+ via Getty Images


QUOTE OF THE MONTH

“Work takes on new meaning when you feel you are pointed in the right direction.”

—Tim Cook, Apple CEO


Dog Brains Are Tuned to Dog-Directed Speech Spoken by Women

Small dog fixated on woman's face

A new study in Communications Biology reports that dogs show greater brain sensitivity to the speech directed at them than to adult-directed speech, especially if spoken by women. The study shows that dog auditory brain regions responded more to dog- and infant-directed than to adult-directed speech, which they say is the first neural evidence that dog brains are tuned to the speech directed specifically at them.

Hungarian researchers at the Department of Ethology, Eötvös Loránd University, the Research Centre for Natural Sciences, and the Eötvös Loránd Research Network conducted an fMRI study on trained dogs and revealed similarities between infant and dog brains during the processing of speech with exaggerated prosody (stress and intonation in a language).

“Studying how dog brains process dog-directed speech is exciting because it can help us understand how exaggerated prosody contributes to efficient speech processing in a nonhuman species skilled at relying on different speech cues (e.g., follow verbal commands),” Anna Gergely, PhD, co–first author of the study explained.

Researchers found that dog- and infant-directed speech sensitivity of dog brains was more pronounced when the speakers were women and was affected by voice pitch and its variation. These results suggest that the way we speak to our dogs does matter and that their brain is specifically sensitive to the exaggerated prosody typical to the female voice.

“What makes this result particularly interesting is that in dogs, as opposed to infants, this sensitivity cannot be explained by either ancient responsiveness to conspecific signals or by intrauterine exposure to women’s voices. Remarkably, the voice tone patterns characterizing women’s dog-directed speech are not typically used in dog–dog communication—our results may thus serve evidence for a neural preference that dogs developed during their domestication,” Gergely said.

Photo credit: damircudic/E+ via Getty Images


Scarlett Magda Named Recipient of 2023 AVMA Global Veterinary Service Award

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recently named Scarlett Magda, DVM, as the winner of the 2023 AVMA Global Veterinary Service Award.

The Global Veterinary Service Award was established by the 1934 International Veterinary Congress (former name of the World Veterinary Association), recognizing outstanding service by an AVMA member who has contributed to international understanding of veterinary medicine. It was renamed in 2019 in honor of the international leadership exemplified by René Carlson, DVM, and Leon Russell, DVM, PhD, both past presidents of the AVMA and World Veterinary Association.

“Dr. Magda’s pioneering efforts and contributions to global veterinary service have left a remarkable impact worldwide,” said Lori Teller, DVM, DAVBP (Canine/Feline), immediate past-president of the AVMA. “Her extraordinary work in promoting the ideals of One Health—focusing on human, animal, and environmental health—and her instrumental role in establishing Veterinarians International and Vet Angels show her to be a true leader in the field.”


Canine Tumor Genome Atlas Maps DNA in Pets to Help People with Cancer

Genome sequence mapThe University of California-Davis recently launched a Canine Tumor Genome Atlas. They report it is the first genomic data bank of its kind outside of one developed by the National Cancer Institute and that it may eventually store hundreds of gene samples from companion dogs diagnosed with osteosarcomas, oral melanomas, and gliomas.

In a release, researchers stated that these three cancers are remarkably similar to the same cancers found in humans, and that these cancers can be uniformly fatal in both species. The UC Davis researchers relate that through comparative oncology, scientists seek to find cures that work in dogs in the hope that similar therapies may work in people. Canine clinical trials are underway at UC Davis to test an immunotherapy agent to fight cancer.

As part of its joint cancer research with the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center is building a genome catalog in order to map why certain canines are genetically predisposed to cancer. Researchers state that they hope that by helping find cures for pets with cancer, the atlas may also unlock similar breakthroughs for people with cancer. They state that the Canine Tumor Genome Atlas will be shared nationally with other cancer researchers.

Photo credit: natrot/iStock via Getty Images Plus


New Listings Added to AVMA Animal Health Studies Database

Below are some of the new listings of veterinary clinical studies in the AVMA Animal Health Studies Database (AAHSD). Information about participation in the studies is available at the database site, at ebusiness.avma.org/aahsd/study_search.aspx.

  • AAHSD005636: “The effect of novel treatment with an oral medication on canine longevity,” Red Bank Veterinary Hospital, Hillsborough Township, New Jersey.
  • AAHSD005638: “Probiotime trial—Addition of probiotic Escherichia coli Nissle 1917 to a vinblastine/piroxicam protocol for the treatment for urothelial carcinoma in dogs,” University of Missouri.
  • AAHSD005639: “Evaluation of vinorelbine for the treatment of canine insulinoma,” University of Missouri.
  • AAHSD005640: “EARLIpaws–05CT,” University of Missouri.
  • AAHSD005641: “Measuring iodide symporter as a surrogate of uptake of radioactive iodine in canine thyroid cancer,” University of Missouri.
  • AAHSD005650: “Clinical trial for canine intranasal adenocarcinoma,” University of Florida; University of Illinois; Kansas State University; The Ohio State University; Iowa State University; and Southwest Veterinary Oncology, Tucson, Arizona.
  • AAHSD005652: “Palliative radiation therapy with or without bisphosphonates or carboplatin for dogs with osteosarcoma,” Colorado State University.
  • AAHSD005667: “Treatment of large skin melanoma or squamous cell carcinoma tumors in horses using H-FIRE,” North Carolina State University.
  • AAHSD005719: “Comprehensive omics comparison of feline idiopathic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and low-grade intestinal T-cell lymphoma (LGITL): An exploratory study for biomarker discovery,” Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Cancer Care and Research Center, Roanoke, Virginia.

Man Bitten by Stray Cat Contracts Infection Unknown to Science

Man's hand after a bite from a stray catThe UK man’s infected hand and forearm. A) his left little finger, B) his right forearm, C) his right middle finger, and D) his right hand.

In a recent case study published in Emerging Infectious Diseases, a 48-year-old United Kingdom resident who was bitten by a stray feline ended up contracting a species of bacterium that scientists have never seen before.

Eight hours after receiving the bites, he presented at the emergency department with severely swollen hands. His puncture wounds were cleaned and dressed, and he was given a tetanus shot and antibiotics. The next day, his hands and forearms were red and swollen, and doctors surgically removed the damaged tissue around his wounds. He was also given three different antibiotics intravenously and was sent home with oral antibiotics. He went on to make a full recovery.

Doctors analyzed the microorganisms present in samples from his wounds and found an unrecognizable Streptococcus-like organism. When researchers sequenced part of this bacterium’s genome, it did not match any strains on record. This was a new germ that scientists had never formally documented. As it turns out, the bacterium belongs to another genus of gram-positive bacteria, Globicatella.

Full genome sequencing of the bacterium suggests that it differs from other related strains, like G. sulfidifaciens, by around 20%, indicating, as they stated, a “distinct and previously undescribed species.”

“This report highlights the role of cats as reservoirs of as yet undiscovered bacterial species that have human pathogenic potential,” the authors of the case study wrote.

Photo credit: Jones et al., Emerging Infectious Diseases, 2023, via CDC.gov


Hill’s Partners with Harvard Researchers on Pet Microbiome Project

Microbiome inside of healthy intestinesHill’s Pet Nutrition and the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health are collaborating on the creation of the One Health Microbiome Resource (OHMR), a comprehensive reference database of human and companion animal microbiomes that will increase understanding of this segment of health and wellness in both pets and pet parents. In a release, the two organizations report that researcher Curtis Huttenhower, PhD, will lead the project, which, they say, will afford greater understanding of the health of both pets and pet owners.

“The OHMR provides a new way to improve both human and animal health through nutrition, better environmental exposures, and interindividual resource sharing on a day-to-day basis. We believe improving a pet’s microbiome positively impacts a pet parent’s well-being and vice versa,” said Huttenhower, who is the professor of computational biology and bioinformatics at Harvard Chan School and co-director of the Harvard Chan Microbiome in Public Health Center.

Hill’s Pet Nutrition has supported the project through providing DNA sequencing resources that will enable new types of companion-animal microbiome analyses. The release states that OHMR resources and data will be available to the entire scientific community for the advancement of microbiome research in humans, pets, and beyond.

Photo credit: Oleksandra Troian/iStock via Getty Images Plus


AKC Forms AKC Purebred Preservation Bank

An Irish SetterThe American Kennel Club (AKC) has formed the AKC Purebred Preservation Bank (AKCPPB), a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit canine genetic material repository with a primary focus on frozen semen to ensure the viability of purebred dogs, particularly in low-population breeds. There is no cost to owners, donors, or AKC Parent Clubs to donate genetic material.

In a release, the AKC stated that planning for the project began in 2021 at the recommendation of AKC president and CEO Dennis B. Sprung, who wished to explore the potential for the program to increase gene pools, ensure quality producers, and facilitate the process for each AKC Parent Club’s breed. In addition to its preservation work, the AKCPPB will educate breeders, clubs, and the public regarding the importance of frozen semen preservation and protecting purebred dog breeds.

“The preservation of purebred dogs is at the core of the AKC’s mission,” said Charles Garvin, chairman of the AKCPPB. “Preserving the genetic materials of our dogs, via frozen semen, will undoubtedly prove valuable for breed preservation, reducing the risk of extinction in breeds with lower popularity and allow us to do the important work of improving our breeds.”

Photo credit: Edgar G. Biehle/iStock via Getty Images Plus


Arkansas’ First Veterinary School Could Welcome Students by 2026

Arkansas State University (ASU) took another step toward bringing the first public veterinary school to the state, as the Arkansas Higher Education Coordinating Board approved its plan to establish the College of Veterinary Medicine and to offer a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree. There remain steps that need to be completed, such as approval from national regulatory organizations, but launching in the fall of 2026 remains a possibility, said Todd Shields, ASU chancellor. The program’s enrollment is projected to be 120 students in each cohort, split evenly between Arkansans and non-Arkansans.


G20 Pandemic Fund Approves One Health Grants

The World Bank reports that the G20 Pandemic Fund’s governing board approved its first round of grants in 37 countries across 6 regions. They state that the selected projects will receive funding to strengthen disease surveillance and early warning, laboratory systems, and the health care workforce.

Many of the projects involve cross-border and regional collaboration, considerations for gender equity, and One Health initiatives. For example, India received $25 million for its proposal, “Enhancing Animal Health Security for Pandemic Preparedness and Response.”

Established in September 2022, the Pandemic Fund is the first multilateral financing mechanism dedicated to providing multiyear grants to help low- and middle-income countries become better prepared for future pandemics. The Fund, which is hosted by the World Bank, has already raised $2 billion in seed capital from 25 sovereign and philanthropic contributors.

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