Notebook: August 2021

News briefs from across the industry and beyond. This month’s articles include: AVMA awards veterinarians, dogs and stress, heartworm likely above average this year, canine cancer studies receive funding, new JAVMA editor, new zoonotic threat potential tool, WSAVA Oncology group, FDA approves import of canine heart drug, COVID tax break, cats sit in squares for science.

Canine Stress Linked to Owner-Pet Relationship

In a study published in Scientific Reports, researchers from Sweden’s Linköping University found that a dog’s relationship with its owner can impact its long-term stress level. Researchers measured levels of cortisol in the hair of a sample group of 18 hunting breeds along with their owners. A second group included 24 dogs from ancient breeds that are genetically more closely related to the wolf than other breeds.

Owners were surveyed about their relationship with their pet, including their interactions and emotional attachment to the animal as well as the extent to which owning a dog gave rise to problems. Researchers related that the findings suggest a correlation between a relationship a dog has with its owner and the animal’s stress level, and that this correlation differs between breeds.

The results showed the owner’s personality affected the stress level in hunting dogs, but, interestingly enough, not in the ancient dogs,” says Lina Roth, PhD, senior lecturer in Linköping University’s Department of Physics, Chemistry, and Biology. “In addition, the relationship between the dog and the owner affected the stress level of the dogs. This was the case for both types, but the result was less marked for the ancient dogs.”

These new findings build on a study previously completed by the same research team that determined dogs in herding groups experienced long-term stress levels mirroring those of their owners..

“If I Fits I Sits”

NB CatZ.pngGabriella Smith, a recent master’s graduate from New York’s Hunter College and animal cognition researcher, recently conducted a study that tested her hypothesis about cats and squares. She conducted experiments with pet owners at home and found that cats tend to sit inside two-dimensional shapes that only look like squares about as often as they’ll sit inside a real square. Smith and her colleagues published their findings in Applied Animal Behavior Science in a study titled “If I Fits I Sits: A Citizen Science Investigation into Illusory Contour Susceptibility in Domestic Cats.” 

Ultimately, 30 owners completed the experiment in full, which involved six days of trials. Of these, nine cats were cooperative, meaning that they actually made a choice at least once during the trials. And out of the 16 times a choice was made, cats sat on the square eight times, the square-like illusion seven times, and the control illusion once. Smith reported that, given the drawbacks of citizen science projects such as participant attrition, future research would benefit from replicating this study in controlled settings.

She noted that “the major takeaways are that cats are susceptible to the Kanizsa illusion in a human-like way and are most likely attracted to 2D shapes for their contours (sides), rather than solely novelty on the floor.”


“If people like you, they’ll listen to you, but if they trust you, they’ll do business with you.”

—­Zig Ziglar, author, salesman, and
motivational speaker

Biden Encourages Businesses to Take Advantage of the Employee Retention Credit

The Biden administration is encouraging businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic to take advantage of a potentially large tax break, the employee retention credit. The White House reports that more than 30,000 small businesses have claimed more than $1 billion via the credit in 2021, and that the administration wants to further increase awareness of the program with guidance forthcoming from the Treasury Department.

The 2020 employee retention credit gives eligible businesses a refundable tax credit of 50% of up to $10,000 in qualified wages paid per employee in 2020. That means eligible businesses can receive a credit of up to $5,000 per employee for last year. In 2021, eligible businesses can deduct up to 70% of up to $10,000 in qualified wages paid per employee per quarter, bringing the total annual amount of potential credit to $28,000 per employee this year.

There are strict eligibility rules for which businesses can claim the credit, which is designed to focus on those hit hardest by the pandemic. The Treasury Department provides some guidelines in a recent publication, available at ERC-COVID-Snapshot-5.7.21_full-text.pdf. Because of the complexity of the program and the rules that changed between 2020 and 2021, the Treasury Department advises that business owners consult with their tax advisors for specifics.

AVMA Names New Editor-In-Chief

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The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) announced that Lisa A. Fortier, DVM, PhD, a leading veterinary surgeon, researcher, and editor, will become the new editor-in-chief of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) and the American Journal of Veterinary Research (AJVR) effective June 28.

Fortier is currently the James Law professor of surgery, director of equine programs, and associate chair for research and graduate education at Cornell University and serves as editor-in-chief of The Journal of Cartilage and Joint Preservation, the offcial open-access journal of the International Cartilage Regeneration and Joint Preservation Society (ICRS). She previously served as president of the ICRS, where she also launched the society’s first journal, Cartilage.

She earned a PhD in veterinary medicine from Cornell in 1998 and her DVM from Colorado State University in 1991 and is a career-long member of the AVMA. Fortier’s research has received over $20 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health, foundations, and other sources.

Fortier will succeed Kurt Matushek, DVM, MS, DACVS, who has served as editor-in-chief of JAVMA since 2009 and as associate editor since 1997. Matushek is transitioning into a new role, focusing on enhancing AVMA’s digital delivery of scientific news to the profession.

AVMA Awards Veterinarians

The American Veterinary Medical Association recently presented awards to three veterinarians. The AVMA named Ontario Veterinary College professor Jason Coe, DVM, PhD, the 2021 Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year. Jeff Boehm, DVM, DACAW, CEO of The Marine Mammal Center, received the AVMA Animal Welfare Award, and Valerie Fenstermaker, former executive director of the California Veterinary Medical Association, was presented with the AVMA Humane Award.

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Jason Coe, DVM, PhD

Jeff Boehm, DVM, DACAW

Valerie Fenstermaker

Heartworm Above Average This Year

NB Heartworm.pngHeartworm occurrence is expected to be higher than average this year, the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) reports.

The group’s 2021 Parasite Forecast and 30 Day Pet Parasite Forecast maps predict that instances of heartworm will be higher than average throughout 2021, especially along the Atlantic coast and Mississippi River, with increased risk in parts of California, Idaho, and Montana. Additionally, the risk for Lyme disease, transmitted by ticks, continues to expand southward and westward with “hot spots” expected in portions of Michigan and Ohio, heightened risk persisting in the Northeast, and movement into the southern states, including the Carolinas and Tennessee, CAPC reports.

“Because of the dynamic and ever-changing nature of parasites, we started providing our annual forecasts more than nine years ago,” says the group’s CEO, Christopher Carpenter, DVM. “Over the years, we’ve seen the risk for parasitic diseases continue to increase and expand into areas that have had historically lower prevalence. CAPC’s 2021 Parasite Forecast is critical to alerting pet owners to the risks this year and reinforcing CAPC’s recommendation that all pets need to be annually tested and protected year-round.”

For more information, visit

NB Ghana big1.jpg

The risk of a zoonotic outbreak is high when wildlife, livestock, and humans are in contact, as seen here with primates and cattle exploring the grounds outside a residence in Ghana. A new online tool, SpillOver, aims to identify where such an event is most likely to occur.

Online Tool Ranks Zoonotic Threat Potential

SpillOver, a new web application developed by scientists at the University of California, Davis, and contributed to by experts from all over the world, ranks the risk of wildlife-tohuman spillover for newly discovered viruses. The university reports that SpillOver is the first open-source risk assessment tool that evaluates wildlife viruses to estimate their zoonotic spillover and pandemic potential. SpillOver was inspired by risk assessments used by banks and insurance companies. It creates a “credit-like” score for viruses by looking at key risk factors and using them to prioritize those viruses posing the greatest potential threats to human health for a watchlist. Users can customize the watchlist to their own circumstances, such as country of interest..

The tool is linked to a study published in the journal PNAS, in which the authors identified the most relevant viral, host, and environmental risk factors for virus spillover. Then the team ranked the risk from 887 wildlife viruses using data collected from a variety of sources, including viruses detected by the United States Agency for International Development Emerging Pandemic Threats PREDICT project, which UC Davis’ One Health Institute led from 2009 to 2020. The study’s coauthors include hundreds of individuals who supported the PREDICT Project in their countries and home institutions, as well as the Wildlife Conservation Society, EcoHealth Alliance, Metabiota, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, and Columbia University’s Center for Infection and Immunity.

FDA Helps Improve Availability of Vetmedin in the US

NB FDA.pngIn response to a shortage of Vetmedin (pimobendan), the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports that it does not intend to object to the temporary importation of Vetmedin capsules and Vetmedin chews from Canada, the United Kingdom, and Ireland to immediately increase the availability of Vetmedin in the United States. The FDA states that Vetmedin is a critical medication used to treat dogs with congestive heart failure due to valvular insufficiency or dilated cardiomyopathy, there is no FDA-approved alternative to Vetmedin, and this measure should help fill recent gaps in the supply of Vetmedin in the US.

Vetmedin capsules, chews, and chewable tablets all contain the same active ingredient, pimobendan. However, there are differences in the way these products are labeled. When imported Vetmedin is distributed in the US, it will be accompanied by a client information sheet for pet owners with detailed information explaining the key differences in labeling between the US-approved and imported products, including the differences in dosage forms, dose, and indications. The FDA states that although the imported Vetmedin products have not been evaluated or approved by the FDA, they are approved in their countries of origin and subject to those countries’ regulatory standards, including adherence to good manufacturing practices. Compounded formulations of pimobendan have not been reviewed by the FDA for safety or effectiveness and may vary in quality and potency.

Canine Cancer Studies Receive Funding

The American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation (CHF) has awarded more than $850,000 in grants to 11 projects, each with a focus on canine oncology. The newly funded studies include:

“Use of CRISPR-based Genome-wide Approach for Identification of Vulnerabilities in Canine Oral Melanoma” (principal investigator: Maciej Parys, DVM, PhD; R(D)SVS and Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh), which seeks to identify the genes specific for melanoma development and evaluate drugs targeting them; “Open-Label, Phase-2 Clinical Trial of Chlorambucil and Toceranib for Canine Mast Cell Tumors” (principal investigator: Kristen Weishaar, DVM, MS; Colorado State University), a clinical trial of combination chemotherapy for mast cell tumors; and “Continued Investigation into Tumor-permissive Collagen Signatures in Canine Mammary Gland Tumors: Development of Prognostic Markers and Targeted Therapies for Improved Outcomes” (principal investigator: Susan W. Volk, VMD, PhD; University of Pennsylvania), a continuation study on cancer-associated collagen networks and how they can be used to predict clinical outcomes, prevent cancer development, and inhibit residual tumor growth and metastasis following surgery.

“CHF’s recently awarded oncology grants utilize the latest technologies and knowledge of cancer biology to identify new and more effective ways to diagnose, prevent, and treat canine cancer,” says the foundation’s scientific review committee chair, Stephanie Montgomery, DVM, PhD, DACVP. “We are excited for the outcomes of this research, which will advance our understanding of cancer formation and improve cancer therapies for all dogs.”

Veterinary Oncology Gets a Global Boost

The World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) reports that almost 50% of dogs over 10 years of age will develop cancer. Now, the WSAVA reports that, to raise awareness of the latest thinking in cancer therapy and promote best practice globally, it has created the WSAVA Oncology Working Group, with a team of expert members developing a set of easy-to-use, accessible global guidelines for veterinary oncology practice.

Members of the Oncology Working Group include specialists from around the world, including WSAVA past president Jolle Kirpensteijn, DVM, PhD, past president of the Veterinary Society of Surgical Oncology. The group is chaired by Argentinian veterinarian and oncology specialist Martin Soberano, DVM, who is based in Mexico City.

Soberano pioneered veterinary oncology in Latin America and is the founder and president of the Latin American Veterinary Oncology Society. Other members of the group include oncology specialists from the UK, Spain, Hong Kong, and Germany. The US member is Ann Hohenhaus, DVM, ACVIM, an oncology staff doctor at the Animal Medical Center in New York City.

Soberano said, “The WSAVA Oncology Working Group aims to overcome global variations in oncology treatment and raise awareness of the di›erent types of tumors a›ecting companion animals. Many cancers in these animals also occur in humans, so we see an opportunity to improve the lives of both animal and human patients by raising standards of treatment for veterinary oncology patients.”

For more information, visit

Photo credits: Smith, et al./Applied Animal Behavior Science; courtesy of Adrienne Daley; courtesy of AVMA; Rrraum/iStock via Getty Images Plus; Terra Kelly/UC-Davis; Naddiya/iStock via Getty Images Plus; koto_feja/iStock via Getty Images Plus



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