Notebook: June 2021

News briefs from across the industry and beyond. This month’s articles include: Feline hypertension toolkit; pet industry reaches milestone by exceeding $100B in annual sales; JVME’s new editor-in-chief makes history; researchers study dogs for clues about cancer treatment side effects; cats are just as disloyal as you suspected, new study suggests; Kentucky boy working to get rescue animals recognized as state pet; researchers discover three deep-sea sharks glow in the dark; AVMA Spanish-language resources available; backyard chickens risk pathogen spread; new data on the prevalence of anal sac disorders in dogs.

AVMA Spanish Language Resources

The AVMA has items available for veterinarians to view, print, and download for free in English and Spanish. The AVMA reports that veterinarians can communicate with Spanish-speaking clients about properly selecting a pet, protecting their pet from common diseases, keeping their pet healthy, pet loss and euthanasia, careers in veterinary medicine, and preparing their family for a disaster. Visit avma.org to view all products available from the AVMA.


Researchers Discover Three Deep-Sea Shark Species That Glow in the Dark

Scientists studying sharks off the New Zealand coast have discovered that three deep-sea species glow in the dark, including one that is now the largest-known luminous vertebrate. The sharks were collected during a fish survey of the Chatham Rise off the east coast of New Zealand. The kitefin, which can grow to nearly six feet in length, is now the largest-known luminous vertebrate—what researchers referred to as a “giant luminous shark.” The researchers, from the Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium and the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research in New Zealand, said the findings have repercussions for our understanding of life in the deep sea, one of the least-studied ecosystems on the planet.

The sharks have thousands of photophores, or light-producing cells, in their skin

The sharks all live in what is known as the mesopelagic or “twilight” zone of the ocean, between 600 and 3,200 feet deep, beyond which sunlight does not penetrate. Seen from below, the sharks appear backlit against the bright surface of the water, leaving them exposed to potential predators without any place to hide. Researchers suggest these three species’ glowing underbellies may help camouflage them from any threats that might strike from beneath. The researchers published their findings in Frontiers in Marine Science.

“Considering the vastness of the deep sea and the occurrence of luminous organisms in this zone, it is now more and more obvious that producing light at depth must play an important role structuring the biggest ecosystem on our planet,” the researchers wrote.

QUOTE OF THE MONTH

“Life is a beautiful, magnificent thing, even to a jellyfish.”

—­Charlie Chaplin, actor, filmmaker


New Study on Cats’ Loyalty

Researchers in Japan replicated their 2015 dog behavioral experiment, this time using cats to study how the animals would respond to people who had recently treated their owners poorly. Their findings are published in the journal Animal Behavior and Cognition. In the 2015 study, researchers had dogs see a situation in which a third party would either help the owner move junk after being asked to or turn their back on them. Then they had the third parties offer the dogs a treat. The dogs were as likely to take food from people when they helped or didn’t interact with the owner, but when the third party spurned the owner’s plea for help, the dogs tended to avoid taking the treat from them. The findings, the researchers wrote, indicated that dogs can socially eavesdrop, just as people and even other primates can.

The recent study involved 36 cats who saw the same basic setup as before, with a third party either choosing to help their owner open something or not. The cats weren’t any less likely to turn down free food when it came from the hands of their owner’s nemesis than when it came from their ally. The researchers acknowledged that there are explanations for their findings that have nothing to do with a cat’s capacity for loyalty. If the findings are valid, they say it’s probably yet another sign of the different evolutionary journeys that cats and dogs have taken alongside humankind.

“We consider that cats might not possess the same social evaluation abilities as dogs, at least in this situation, because unlike the latter, they have not been selected to cooperate with humans,” the study authors wrote.


Researchers Study Dogs for Clues About Cancer Treatment Side Effects

Researchers at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University are studying dogs to learn more about the impact of cancer treatments on the heart and blood vessels.

Vicky Yang, DVM, PhD, SB, DACVIM, veterinary cardiologist at the school, reports that some traditional chemotherapy drugs are known to cause long-term heart damage in canine patients. “This is something we’re starting to recognize more in our veterinary patients because we’re getting better at treating cancer, too,” she says. “The problem with our current way of monitoring toxicity is that we don’t know that it’s happening until it’s happened.”

The same thing happens in humans, and the impact is significant. There are 17 million cancer survivors in the United States, and that number is expected to grow to more than 26 million by the year 2040.

“These cancer survivors have more cardiovascular disease, and we can do something to prevent that,” says Iris Jaffe, MD, PhD, executive director of the Molecular Cardiology Research Institute at Tufts Medical Center. Jaffe relates that the problem has led to the creation of a growing field in both medicine and research: Cardio-oncology. It turns out that dogs have a high rate of developing cancer, so Jaffe is partnering with Yang and others to study how cancer therapies impact humans and dogs.


Backyard Chickens Risk Pathogen Spread

While the hobby of keeping backyard chickens has been on the rise, a University of Georgia researcher cautions that the practice has risks not just for chickens but for wildlife and people as well.

“As a researcher who studies pathogen movement along different groups, I see backyard chickens as a potential interface where pathogens can spill over into wild birds, or vice versa, and even into people,” said Sonia Hernandez, PhD, DVM, DACZM, professor of wildlife disease at the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources and the College of Veterinary Medicine. “Owners need to seek information and medical care for their animals to minimize those risks.” Hernandez and first author Andrea Ayala published their review of pathogen transmission at the backyard chicken–wild bird interface in Frontiers in Veterinary Science.

Ayala identified practices that backyard chicken owners can implement to reduce the risk of pathogen emergence:

  • Keeping backyard chicken feeders where only chickens can reach them
  • Getting rid of wild bird feeders
  • Using mesh small enough to prevent wild birds from interacting with chickens
  • Removing contaminated water sources, insects, and rodents and maintaining good hygiene—changing footwear, for example—when visiting different flocks
  • Limiting the number of visitors

Chickens roam a backyard in Athens, Georgia


Pet Industry Reaches Milestone by Exceeding $100B in Annual Sales

The American Pet Products Association (APPA) announced that the industry has reached more than $100 billion in annual sales, the highest level in industry history. The milestone was released in APPA’s 2020 State of the Industry Report during the organization’s recent Global Pet Expo Digital Access.

Highlights from the report included:

  • $22.1 billion was spent on supplies, live animals, and over-the-counter meds, a 15.1% increase from 2019
  • $42 billion was spent on pet food and treats, a 9.7% increase
  • $31.4 billion was spent on veterinary care and product sales, a 7.2% increase
  • While $8.1 billion was spent on other services such as grooming, dog walking, and boarding, this was a 21.4% decline from the previous year. The report states that as quarantines are lifted and consumers venture out, the use of these services is expected to rise

From a retail perspective, every channel showed an increase, especially e-commerce, which is consistent with consumer shopping trends overall:

  • Total retail sales increased by 6.7% from 2019 to 2020.
  • 47% of pet owners reported they increased the number of times they purchased online
  • Pet specialty and independent retailers experienced solid growth
  • 30% of pet owners spent more on their pet/ pet supplies in the past year with only 10% saying they spent less

Kentucky Boy Working to Get Rescue
Animals Recognized as State Pet

Kentucky’s eight-year-old Ethan Branscum is on a mission to get rescue pets recognized as the official state pet. Branscum is known for his love for animals; his family has numerous rescue animals, and in the past, he set up a lemonade stand, donating the proceeds to a local humane society. His letter-writing campaign drew the attention of legislators, who sponsored a bill to name rescue animals as the Kentucky state pet.

Then came nearly a week of ice and snow that threw a wrench into the legislature’s schedule. “When we came back from the ice break, it was all hands on deck,” says state Sen. Adrienne Southworth (R-Lawrenceburg), Branscum’s senator, “and there were priorities for what got heard.” Southworth’s bill didn’t make it out of committee, but she did introduce a resolution encouraging Kentuckians to consider adopting pets from a shelter that was passed.

Undeterred, Branscum plans to work to introduce the legislation again at the next session. Meanwhile, he has a Facebook page and Instagram page and is starting a show, The Rescue Report, that will appear on his social media pages and feature news about animals and pets available for adoption.


JVME’s New Editor-In-Chief Makes History

The Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) has named Regina Schoenfeld-Tacher, PhD, MEd, MA, as editor-in-chief of its Journal of Veterinary Medical Education (JVME), the first female and Latina to hold this position. On July 1, Schoenfeld-Tacher will succeed Daryl Buss, DVM, PhD, who has held the title since 2012.

“My appointment as editor-in-chief for JVME is tangible evidence of AAVMC’s commitment to educational innovation and diversity/inclusion,” said Schoenfeld-Tacher, associate professor of veterinary educational development at North Carolina State’s University College of Veterinary Medicine, in an association release.

Schoenfeld-Tacher has nearly two decades of experience serving on the JVME editorial board, and the AAVMC reports she has also played a significant role in refining internal processes related to manuscript review, acceptance, and keyword searchability. She has authored or coauthored 82 peer-reviewed journal articles, 28 of which were published in the JVME, and has served on the editorial board of the Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-Based Learning and as a peer reviewer on nine additional academic journals.

Regina Schoenfeld-Tacher, PhD, MEd, MA


AAFP Releases Feline Hypertension Toolkit for Veterinary Professionals

The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) has released a new Hypertension Educational Toolkit to aid veterinarians in diagnosing systemic arterial hypertension in cats. The AAFP reports that this digital toolkit emphasizes the importance of checking blood pressure routinely to aid in tracking trends and early detection of hypertension in cats. AAFP stated that while veterinary professionals are encouraged to use the information provided in the toolkit when examining feline patients at any age, cats 10 years of age and older pose a higher risk for hypertension and need to be monitored more frequently.

The toolkit features section tabs focusing on different areas of content, including regulation, classifications, clinical signs, treatment, measuring blood pressure, frequently asked questions, and client resources, and a Blood Pressure Assessment Form is available to download and print in order to record results and other information. View, download, and print the hypertension toolkit from the AAFP’s website.


New Data on the Prevalence of Anal Sac Disorders in Dogs

Researchers from the UK’s Royal Veterinary College (RVC) have published new research into the frequency and treatment of anal sac problems in dogs. Their findings are published in the journal Veterinary Record. The study focused especially on identifying breeds with increased or reduced risk of anal sac disorders. The breeds at greatest risk of an anal sac disorder compared with crossbreeds included Cavalier King Charles spaniel, King Charles spaniel, and cockapoo.

Conversely, breeds at reduced risk included larger-breed dogs including boxer, German shepherd dog, and lurcher. Flat-faced (brachycephalic) breeds such as shih tzu had 2.6 times the risk for anal sac disorders compared with long-skulled breeds such as border collies. spaniel types, dachshund types, and poodle also showed increased risk for anal sac disease.

Other findings included:

  • Anal sac disorders affected 4.4% of dogs.
  • Flat-faced (brachycephalic) dogs had 2.62 times the risk of anal sac disorders compared with long-faced dogs.
  • Spaniel types had 2.09 times the risk of anal sac disorders compared with non-spaniel types.
  • Dachshund types had 1.38 times the risk of anal sac disorders compared with non-dachshund types.
  • Poodle types had 1.46 times the risk of anal sac disorders compared with non-poodle types.
  • The risks of anal sac problems were higher in older dogs.
  • 20% of dogs with anal sac problems were prescribed antimicrobials while 12% were given pain relief.
  • Anal sacs were surgically removed in under 1% of affected dogs.
  • Dietary change was recommended in 8.18% of cases, and weight loss was recommended in 1.14% of cases.

Anette Loeffler, DrMedVet, PhD, DVD, DipECVD, MRCVS, associate professor of veterinary dermatology at the RVC and coauthor of the paper, said: “This study shines a spotlight on critically important area of veterinary practice: antibiotic usage. 20% of dogs presenting with an anal sac disorder received antibiotics even though diagnostic criteria for anal sac infection or proof of efficacy of antibiotic treatment are lacking.”

Photo credits: Photos by Jérôme Mallefet/UC Louvain, Mariia Skovpen/iStock via Getty Images Plus, Photo by Dorothy Kozlowski/UGA, mixetto/E+ via Getty Images, Photo courtesy of the AAVMC, PeopleImages/iStock via Getty Images Plus

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