Notebook: January 2021

News briefs from across the industry and beyond. This month’s articles include: four schools receive HEED award; monitoring environmental exposures in dogs could be early warning system for human health; Tacoma hospital celebrates 100 years in practice; sex-based fear differences study; human medicine and animal poisoning; VMC applications soar; American Humane Award; shifting views on pet healthcare; schools partner to combat cancer; PPP loan forgiveness update.

NB_01.pngHuman Medications Top the List of ASPCA Animal Poison Concerns

The Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) has announced that, for the seventh year in a row, human medications top the list of toxins most commonly ingested by pets. The APCC handled more than 167,000 cases in 2014 involving pets exposed to possibly poisonous substances; nearly 16% of those cases (26,407) were pets who consumed medicines intended for human use. The top 10 calls into the APCC in 2014 were human prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, insecticides, household items, human foods, veterinary medications, chocolate, plants, rodenticides, and lawn and garden products. The APCC provides a mobile app that features a searchable database of more than 275 toxins. 


Monitoring Environmental Exposures in Dogs Could Be Early Warning System for Human Health

Researchers from North Carolina State University and Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment used silicone dog tags as passive environmental samplers to collect information about everyday chemical exposures, and found that dogs could be an important sentinel species for the long-term effects of environmental chemicals. Their research appears in Environmental Science and Technology.

Researchers placed wristbands and dog tags on volunteers, then analyzed the wristbands and tags for exposures to chemicals within three classes of environmental toxicants that are often found in human blood and urine: pesticides, flame retardants, and phthalates, which are found in plastic food packaging and personal-care products. They found high correlations between exposure levels for owners and their pets. Urinalysis also revealed the presence of organophosphate esters (found in some flame retardants) in both owners and dogs. They found similar patterns of exposure between people and their pets, while noting that the health effects do not follow similar timelines. It’s a fact that could aid researchers in teasing out relationships between chemical exposure and human health.

“Humans spend incredible amounts of time with their dogs—that’s especially true right now,” said Matthew Breen, Oscar J. Fletcher Distinguished Professor of Comparative Oncology Genetics at North Carolina State and corresponding author of the paper. “If we develop ways to correlate dog disease with their exposures over time, it may give human-health professionals the opportunity to mitigate these exposures for both species. Dogs are a powerful biological sentinel species for human disease.”

QUOTE OF THE MONTH

“Don’t knock the weather; nine-tenths of the people couldn’t start a conversation if it didn’t change once in a while.”

—Kin Hubbard


Veterinary Medical College Applicants Soars 19%

The Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) reports that the number of applicants seeking admission to veterinary medical college during the 2020–2021 admissions cycle rose 19% year over year. Preliminary data shows that a total of 10,273 applicants submitted applications this year, compared with 8,645 last year. Over the past several years, the number of applications has grown about 6–7% year over year.

The number of applicants seeking admission to veterinary college has been growing steadily in recent years. However, the AAVMC reports nearly tripling the annual year-over-year growth rate is remarkable. While the specific factors responsible for the increase remain unclear, the AAVMC reports that factors such as a longer application cycle and more communication and informational webinars presented by the Office of Admissions and Recruitment could have contributed to the increase.


Study Upends Understanding About Joint Injuries

A paper from the Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine investigated the role of a protein, known as lubricin, in anterior cruciate ligament (ACL)-type injuries in dogs. Researchers say it may also have larger implications for similar injuries in humans as well as the potential for treatments and therapeutics.

“Lubricin is crucial for normal joint function and the lubrication of cartilage,” said Heidi Reesink, the Harry M. Zweig Assistant Professor in Equine Health at the Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine and senior author on the paper. “We know that if a person or animal doesn’t make that protein, they will develop devastating joint disease affecting all the major weight-bearing joints.”

Lubricin is universal to mammals, including humans, though there is conflicting data regarding its role in joint injuries. The study found that, in dog patients who had suffered a ligament tear in the knee, lubricin increased within the joint. This data challenges conventional assumptions in medicine. “The dogma in this field has been that lubricin decreases in joint disease,” said Reesink.

“It’s worth looking at in canine patients, both for the benefit of the dogs and also for potentially drawing links between canine patients with this disease and similar injuries in humans like ACL tears,” Reesink said.


Tacoma’s Button Veterinary Celebrates 100 Years

Opened in 1920 by brothers Reuben and Otis Button, the Button Veterinary Hospital has been in operation in Tacoma, Washington’s Nalley Valley location for 100 years.

The Tacoma News Tribune reports that through the Button brothers and several subsequent owners, the practice has become a long-standing institution. It appears on an American Medical Veterinary Medical History Society list as one of the oldest active veterinary clinics in the country, and the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine still offers a scholarship in Reuben Button’s name.

Danielle Jensen purchased sole ownership of the hospital after working at the practice for 14 years. She relates that the connection Button has with its clients and their pets today is the practice’s most lasting legacy. “Through the years, we’ve gained the trust of our clients,” Jensen said. “I think it’s a very special place.”

When the day comes, Jensen hopes to sell the business to a new veterinarian intent on keeping it that way. She noted that every relationship a veterinarian forges with a pet and their owner is unique, and the emotional investment is significant.

“Unless you’re in the field, you don’t fully understand how much emotion goes into this profession,” Jensen said. “As a staff, we put our blood, sweat, and tears into veterinary care.

“This place is built on trust. We hope to be around another 100 years.”


American Humane Awards 2020 Hero Veterinarian and Hero Veterinary Nurse Awards

American Humane awarded its Hero Veterinarian and Hero Veterinary Nurse Awards, presented by Zoetis Petcare, to two veterinary professionals. Katherine Polak from Boston, Massachusetts, was named 2020’s American Hero Veterinarian, and Julie Nettifee from Raleigh, North Carolina, was declared 2020’s American Hero Veterinary Nurse. They received their awards in a ceremony during the Hero Dog Awards, which was broadcast nationally on the Hallmark Channel.

Katherine Polak (left) and Julie Nettifee (right) were named the winners of the 2020 American Humane Hero Veterinarian and Hero Veterinary Nurse Awards


PPP Loan Forgiveness Update

The federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, distributed more than $525 billion to more than five million small businesses. Under the PPP, small businesses could borrow up to $10 million from private lenders without collateral, personal guarantees, or fees.

One reason the PPP was so attractive to borrowers was the potential to turn these loans into grants. The Small Business Administration (SBA) began processing loan forgiveness applications in October 2020, and, as of press time, lenders have submitted about 96,000 forgiveness applications to the SBA.

The SBA recently acted on its own to give some relief to some borrowers. Recipients of PPP loans of $50,000 or less can apply for forgiveness using a simplified application that was released by the Treasury Department and the SBA on October 8, 2020. 


Study Shows Shifting Views on Pet Healthcare, Human-Animal Bond During Pandemic

A Banfield Pet Hospital study found that 84% of pet owners surveyed feel more attuned to their pet’s health during quarantine and 67% plan to make changes to how they care for their pet.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on how pet owners view pet healthcare and the human-animal bond, according to findings from a recent Banfield Pet Hospital survey. The online survey included 1,000 dog and cat owners in the United States. The range of questions addressed how pet owners have become more or less perceptive of their pet’s health, how they plan to address their pet’s health moving forward, and how their pet has affected their personal wellbeing during the pandemic.

Findings from the study include:

Pet Healthcare

  • 84% feel more attuned to their pet’s health
  • 67% plan to make changes to how they care for their pet
  • 20% are committed to taking their pets to the veterinarian for preventive care check-ups more often
  • 42% are exercising their pets more than before the pandemic
  • 37% are paying more attention to their pet’s personal care, such as dental health
  • 33% say their pet has gained weight during quarantine
  • 44% feel they are more responsible and attentive toward their dog or cat
  • 41% contacted their veterinarian during quarantine, whether in person or via telehealth 

Human-Animal Bond

  • 10% plan to adopt another pet to help keep their dog or cat company
  • 39% say their pet helped lower their anxiety and uncertainty caused by the pandemic
  • 45% say their household’s happiness has increased while spending more time with their pet during quarantine
  • 47% plan to spend more quality time with their pets when they are home
  • 21% plan to adjust their schedule to be at home with their pets more often
  • 33% feel more attuned to their dog or cat now than before the pandemic began
  • 65% have shown their pets increased affection
  • 20% prefer working alongside their pets over their coworkers

UK’s Veterinary Women’s Health Month Highlights Health Topics

The UK-based organization Veterinary Woman (veterinarywoman.co.uk) highlighted a variety of women’s health topics in October. The initiative featured a series of live interviews, articles, and surveys that explored the impact of breast cancer, menopause, infertility, and baby loss on all genders, and how the veterinary profession can better support these individuals in the workplace.

The October campaign included free-access articles and live online sessions with a variety of representatives in conjunction with Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Baby-Loss Awareness Week, World Menopause Day, and National Fertility Week.

Liz Barton, MA, VetMB, MRCVS, editor of the Veterinary Woman site, said, “I have been incredibly moved to see the deep empathy and encouragement amongst veterinary colleagues beginning to open up about the impact of health challenges, particularly at work. When I realized the campaigns in October were topics we need to talk about more as a profession, it seemed right to use this as a platform to tackle some of the hidden, emotive health challenges we bear throughout our life and work.“


Four Schools Receive 2020 Health Professions Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award

Four veterinary schools are among the recipients of the 2020 Health Professions Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award from INSIGHT into Diversity magazine, the oldest and largest diversity-focused publication in higher education. Presented annually, the award recognizes US and Canadian colleges and universities that demonstrate an outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion. As the award website states, “The award measures an institution’s level of achievement and intensity of commitment in regard to broadening diversity and inclusion on campus through initiatives, programs, and outreach; student recruitment, retention, and completion; and hiring practices for faculty and staff.”

The 2020 veterinary college recipients are as follows:

  • Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine
  • The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine
  • Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine
  • Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences

“The HEED Award process consists of a comprehensive and rigorous application that includes questions relating to the recruitment and retention of students and employees—and best practices for both—continued leadership support for diversity, and other aspects of campus diversity and inclusion,” said Lenore Pearlstein, publisher of INSIGHT into Diversity magazine. “We take a detailed approach to reviewing each application in deciding who will be named a HEED Award recipient. Our standards are high, and we look for institutions where diversity and inclusion are woven into the work being done every day across their campus.


Study Exploring Sex-Based Fear Differences Earns NIH Funding

A North Carolina State College of Veterinary Medicine research project exploring why women experience more fear-based mental disorders than men is receiving funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The five-year, $1.9 million project is overseen by Elizabeth Lucas, assistant professor of neurobiology in the college’s Department of Molecular Biomedical Sciences. Her research lab focuses on improving the lives of those with mental illness by studying the underlying cell mechanisms guiding susceptibility to psychiatric illness, as well as differences in brain and behavior between sexes.

“The research has the potential to uncover an entirely novel brain region driving fear-evoked behavior in females, transforming our understanding of how basic brain circuits for fear memory storage and expression differ between sexes,” said Lucas.

Women are twice as likely as men to experience fear-based psychiatric conditions, according to the National Institutes of Mental Health, and the neurological mechanisms behind the difference are poorly understood.

Photo credits: deliormanli/iStock via Getty Images Plus, Aleksandr Zotov/iStock via Getty Images Plus, Merrimon/iStock via Getty Images Plus, photo courtesy of americanhumane.org, Pekic/E+ via Getty Images

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