Notebook: February 2020

News briefs from across the industry this month include these headlines: study reveals how the canine gut microbiome interacts with GI diseases; strep throat? don’t blame your dog; study suggests risk factors for surgical site infections in dogs; top five business trends for 2020; a newly discovered virus linked to liver cancer in cats; technology news small businesses can use; yes! Cats do bond with people; and success story at UGA: Bacon.

A Newly Discovered Virus Linked to Liver Cancer in Cats

A virus discovered last year by researchers at the University of Sydney (Australia), Sydney School of Veterinary Science is now believed to be a significant factor in the development of liver cancer in cats. In a recent article published in the journal Viruses, Julia Beatty, BVetMed, PhD, FANZCVS (Feline Medicine), RCVS, professor of feline medicine, and her team reported finding the hepatitis B–like virus, domestic cat hepadnavirus (DCH), in certain types of hepatitis and liver cancer in cats. This suggests that DCH can cause liver diseases, including cancer. Further research into the virus could lead to novel anticancer therapies and even vaccines to prevent some kinds of cancers in cats.

DCH infection was detected in 6.5% and 10.8% of pet cats in Australia and Italy, respectively. “It is important to reassure pet owners of two things,” said Beatty. “First, being infected with the virus doesn’t mean that your cat will become sick, and second, there is no risk to humans—you can’t catch this virus from your pet.”

This is a breakthrough in feline medicine because liver cancer in cats can be very hard to treat. This new discovery means researchers can now work toward vaccines and treatments targeted at the virus, and even vaccines to prevent other cancers in pets.

“We are really excited because there is no specific treatment for liver cancer in cats at the moment,” Beatty said. “Pets are part of our families, so this is hugely beneficial for the development of vaccines and treatments with fewer side effects.”

Beatty said the findings might eventually benefit humans.

Yes, Cats Do Bond with People!

Kristyn Vitale, PhD, of Oregon State University, and other researchers recently reported in Current Biology that pet cats, like children and dogs, “display distinct attachment styles toward human caregivers.” This bonding ability of cats belies a common impression that cats are aloof and uncaring. Research by Vitale and her colleagues shows that attachment to humans isn’t just a canine trait.

The researchers tested cats’ responses to being reunited with human caregivers in a novel environment. This test is commonly used to study human attachment behavior in infants and is also used with dogs and primates. The results for cats were similar to results in tests of infants.

“Like dogs, cats display social flexibility in regard to their attachments with humans,” Vitale said. “The majority of cats are securely attached to their owner and use them as a source of security in a novel environment.”

Vitale described the implications of her research findings. “We’re currently looking at several aspects of cat attachment behavior, including whether socialization and fostering opportunities impact attachment security in shelter cats.”

Study Reveals How the Canine Gut Microbiome Interacts with Gastrointestinal Diseases

A study from the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences (CVM) offers new insight on how the gut bacteria of dogs interact with healthy and unhealthy gastrointestinal (GI) tracts. This finding could contribute to the development of new therapies for GI diseases in both dogs and humans.

In the study, published recently in PLOS ONE, Amanda Blake, a doctoral student with the CVM’s Gastrointestinal Laboratory, measured the levels of bacterial metabolic products—fecal lactate and secondary bile acids (BA)—in the fecal matter of dogs with different GI conditions.

Measuring levels of fecal lactate and secondary BA concentrations in fecal matter in a diseased host and those in a healthy host allowed researchers to compare how GI bacteria act in both diseased and healthy environments as well as to see how GI bacteria interact with different diseases. Blake found higher levels of lactate and lower levels of secondary BA in the feces of dogs with chronic enteropathy and dogs with exocrine pancreatic insufficiency. A noteworthy finding is that although these two diseases have different causes and symptoms, the bacterial output of their gut microbiota appear to be similar.

These findings can lead to a better understanding of the interactions between GI microbiota and disease, meaning that researchers may be able to develop more targeted treatment options. Currently, treatments for many GI afflictions are nonspecific, which can be of more harm than help for the animal.

“Sometimes the inconvenience of a symptom like diarrhea leads veterinarians to throw everything at the dog: the antibiotics, the steroids. Give it everything, and hopefully one of them will make it stop,” Blake said. “We’re finding more and more that giving dogs these medications unnecessarily can actually change their microbiota for the worse.”

Strep Throat? Don’t Blame Your Dog!

The Animal Health Diagnostic Center at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine reported recently that strep throat infections in humans and dogs are caused by different strains of Streptococcus.

In humans, strep throat is caused by Group A Streptococcus; in dogs, Group G Streptococcus. The center’s report stated that past scientific studies were based on culture methods that did not differentiate Group A and Group G. As a result, dogs were implicated in strep infections in humans. Now the Infectious Diseases Society of America has concluded that because “no credible scientific evidence” suggests dogs play a role in human strep infections, the center does not recommend canine throat cultures in situations in which humans are infected.


Top Five Business Trends for 2020

In an article on, guest writer Jennifer Spencer forecasts top business trends for 2020.

1. Digital Marketing

A digital marketing platform is essential for relating to your younger clients, says Spencer. YouTube is an increasingly popular platform that makes digital marketing more accessible. She quotes a recent VidMob survey: “59% of Gen Z respondents said they use their YouTube app a lot more than they did a year prior.”

2. Go Green and Explain Why

According to Spencer, going green isn’t enough in a marketplace where clients have lots of green choices. Consider taking the decision a step further and explaining why your practice is ecofriendly. Spencer quotes Small Business Trends’ advice to green-minded business owners: “[Supply] consumers with details—and authenticity.”

3. Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence Advances

Spencer sees artificial intelligence and machine learning benefiting businesses (large and small) and consumers, particularly in customer service. She quotes Omer Khan, founder and chief executive officer of VividTech: “As [virtual assistants] utilize machine learning to better respond to customer requests, these interactions become even more efficient.”

4. E-Commerce

Spencer cites a prediction reported by Statista: “In the coming four years, global e-commerce is expected to reach around $5 trillion.” She concludes, “There seems to be no limit to what can be sold online.” Pet-related businesses, take note. AAHA (supported by an educational grant from Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc.) has published a booklet, Veterinary E-Commerce Opportunities: Growth, Loyalty, Engagement. It contains this challenge from US Pet Market Outlook, 2019–2020 to anyone serious about pet business success: “[You need] to be represented robustly online, whether by third-party e-tailers, a direct selling website, or both.”

5. All-in-One Digital Platforms

All-in-one digital platforms come in many formats and address a variety of needs. The common thread in all of these platforms is customer satisfaction and security. Spencer describes several platforms and comments, “Customers want contactless credit options and the ability to pay with cryptocurrency or their phone. They also demand high security.”

Online Extra
Download or read Veterinary E-Commerce Opportunities.


Study Suggests Risk Factors for Surgical Site Infections in Dogs

In a recent study published in BMJ Vet Record, researchers reported on risk factors for canine surgical site infections (SSIs). They state the reason for their study: “These infections are responsible for an increase in morbidity, mortality, prolonged hospital stay, increased costs, and a negative impact on the emotional state of the owner.”

The researchers ruled out age, sex, and breed of dog as risk factors for canine SSIs. They did associate the following factors with increased risk of postsurgical infection:

Steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs: The authors speculated that because these drugs cause immune suppression, infection is more likely.

Hyperglycemia: The authors cited studies that show that hyperglycemia (higher-than-normal blood glucose levels) prevents white blood cells from reaching infections by limiting their ability to pass through the walls of capillaries.

An operation lasting longer than one hour: Longer operations are also a risk factor for human SSIs.

Having a urinary catheter: The authors stated, “Microorganisms responsible for the development of urinary tract infections could easily be involved in the colonization of surgical wounds.”

Not receiving a dog cone after surgery: Research revealed an increased risk of infection in dogs who were not required to wear a dog cone after surgery. Without a cone, dogs can transmit bacteria from their mouths to the surgical site, causing infection.

The authors concluded that “avoiding surgical infections is vital to preserve the patient’s overall health status and to avoid unnecessary expenses.” They recommended implementing “surveillance and control systems for SSIs . . . [to] reduce economic costs and improve the service offered to patient and owner.”

Success Story at the University of Georgia: Bacon

Jordan and Justin DePascale of Cornelia, Georgia, recently described the treatment their dog Bacon received for canine lymphoma at the University of Georgia (UGA) Veterinary Teaching Hospital. Bacon is featured as a “Success Story” on the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine’s website.

At five years old, Bacon’s ordeal began with a “baseball-sized lump near his shoulder.” The DePascales’ veterinarian ordered a biopsy that revealed canine lymphoma. “Everything I read online said that lymphoma was basically a death sentence for dogs. We were told that without treatment he would only have four to six weeks left to live,” said Jordan DePascale. “Bacon was otherwise young and healthy, so we felt like we owed it to him to try to fight this cancer the best we could.”

Bacon’s veterinarian referred him to the cancer treatment programs at UGA’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital, where he qualified for a clinical trial. The treatment involved use of a traditional chemo drug, doxorubicin, and a trial drug, Tanovea. DePascale reported that Bacon “remained perfectly normal throughout all six treatments—no weight loss, no constant nausea, and definitely no energy loss.”

After his fourth treatment, Bacon was in clinical remission. Subsequently, he completed chemo. DePascale said, “Looking at Bacon now, you would never know he just went through a major cancer battle.”

Although there is no cure for canine lymphoma, the DePascales expressed their gratitude to UGA and hope that “Bacon will remain happy, healthy, and in remission for as long as possible.”

NB_05.jpgTechnology News Small Businesses Can Use

These three news items were highlighted recently on by Gene Marks, a contributor who writes about small-business technology.

Customized Sexual Harassment Training

Anne Solmssen, a Harvard-trained computer scientist, and Roxanne Petraeus, also a Harvard graduate, have teamed up to create Ethena, sexual harassment training software designed to be more relevant, more interesting, and less “cringe-worthy” than traditional sexual harassment training materials. It will provide “customizable training delivered in bite-size segments.” A study of sexual harassment in the workplace conducted for the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission concluded, “Training is most effective when tailored to [a] specific workforce and workplace and different cohorts of employees.”

Ethena will be available beginning in the first quarter of 2020.

Adobe Marketing Software for Small Businesses

Adobe marketing software applications, once only available to large companies, are now available to small and midsize businesses. The applications include Magento Commerce, Marketo Engage, Adobe Analytics Foundation, Adobe Sign for Small Business, and more. Marks states, “The addition of each of these products will allow . . . small and medium-sized businesses to be more flexible, agile, and scale more efficiently while saving time and money.”

Shopify Email Reaches Out to Small Businesses

Marks points out, “Email continues to dominate as the primary communication tool for businesses, which is why companies like Shopify are investing more in building email tools for their customers to use.” Shopify Email helps its small-business customers get started in business marketing by helping them design, run, and track email marketing campaigns.

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