Notebook: September 2021

News briefs from across the industry and beyond. This month’s articles include: AAFP End of life toolkit, Turning back the clock on a severe vision disorder, Canine cognitive dysfunction; Study examines dog pain sensitivity; Zoetis announces FDA approval of Simparica; AAPA pet products survey; AVMF, Merck offer COVID support; Nevada passes veterinary cannabis law; USPS releases dog bite statistics; AVMA donations

Study Links Periodontal Health and Canine Cognitive  Dysfunction

In a recent study published in Open Veterinary Journal, researchers Curtis Wells Dewey of Elemental Pet Vets and Mark Rishniw, BVSc, MS, PhD, DACVIM, of the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University found data that suggests that periodontal health may be related to the mental problems associated with canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD).

Researchers used photographs of aging dogs with known CCD as well as a control group, along with owner questionnaires and veterinarian evaluations, and found data suggesting that the older dogs with CCD tended to show worse levels of periodontal disease than similarly aged dogs without CCD. The data also indicated that the degree of cognitive dysfunction tended to correlate positively with the degree of gum disease. This seems to be in line with research on humans, which showed that periodontal disease is a risk factor for the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

They related that while a cause-and-effect relationship between periodontal disease and cognitive impairment cannot be ascertained from this preliminary study, they established a link between these two disorders that warrants further investigation using more stringent criteria for evaluating both periodontal disease and cognitive dysfunction.

Donate Books, Journals, and Supplies

NB2.jpgThe American Veterinary Medical Association reports that veterinarians and students in foreign countries can make use of the unused textbooks, journals, instruments, equipment, and other supplies cluttering many veterinary clinics in the United States. They maintain a list of individuals and organizations that collect contributions for various countries and advise that potential donors should call or email contacts on the list directly. Individuals or organizations that collect contributions may inquire about being added to the list by emailing [email protected].

For more information, visit


“Simplify, slow down, be kind. And don’t forget to have art in your life—music, paintings, theater, dance, and sunsets.”

­Eric Carle, writer, illustrator, designer

American Pet Products Association Releases Pet Owners Survey

NB3.jpgThe American Pet Products Association (APPA) reports that the latest edition of the APPA National Pet Owners Survey reveals significant post-pandemic changes for the pet care industry. They report that the industry set a new benchmark in 2020, generating over $100 billion in annual sales in the US, and that they project growth of 5.8% for the coming year, well above the historical average of 3–4%. Key findings from the 2021–2022 study include:

  • Pet spending increased during the past year, with 35% of pet owners stating they spent more on their pet/pet supplies—including food, wellness-related products, and other pet care items—in the last 12 months than in the preceding year.
  • Fourteen percent of total respondents (pet owners and non–pet owners) obtained a new pet during the pandemic. Additionally, at least one in four new pet owners shared that their recent pet acquisition— including saltwater fish (60%), dogs (47%), birds (46%), small animals (46%), cats (40%), freshwater fish (34%), reptiles (27%), and horses (27%)—was influenced by the pandemic.
  • Pet owners shopping online increased by almost 20%, from 72% in the prior year to 86% of responses in this year’s study. Before the pandemic, 60% of pet owners usually purchased pet products in person at brick-and-mortar stores. During the pandemic, in-person shopping dropped to 41%, aligning more closely with the 46% of pet owners who prefer to purchase online with purchases shipped to their home.
  • Fifty-one percent of pet owners are willing to pay more for ethically sourced pet products and eco-friendly pet products.
  • Pet insurance purchases among both dog and cat owners have also increased, nearly doubling among cat owners in particular.

For more information, visit

Zoetis Announces FDA Approval of Simparica

Zoetis recently announced that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a new label indication for Simparica (sarolaner) Chewables for the prevention of Borrelia burgdorferi infections as a result of killing Ixodes scapularis ticks (deer ticks) for dogs six months of age or older. In two separate studies, Simparica prevented 100% of infections that cause Lyme disease, even when challenged near the end of the month.

This new indication for Simparica is particularly significant, as Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) data has shown that Lyme disease is a rising threat to dogs in the United States, with a 147% increase in B. burgdorferi–positive dogs in under 10 years and more than 400,000 dogs testing positive last year. A CAPC study also found that the prevalence of I. scapularis ticks carrying the B. burgdorferi pathogen has increased across the Northeast, as well as in states not typically considered endemic, including regions in Illinois, Iowa, North Dakota, Ohio, Michigan, and Tennessee.

“Lyme disease, caused by Borrelia burgdorferi, is transmitted by deer ticks, which are expanding to new areas of the country. So, it’s important for veterinarians to be aware of the current distribution of deer ticks as well as local prevalence of Lyme disease–positive dogs,” said Chris Adolph, DVM, MS, ACVM, senior veterinary specialist in parasitology at Zoetis.

New Project Studies Dog Pain Sensitivity

CS5.jpgResearcher Rachel Park works with “Eve” during the cognitive ability testing phase of the study.

A new study at the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) is hoping to answer the question of whether there are actual breed differences when it comes to pain sensitivity. “We’re trying to pinpoint whether it’s just a stereotype that we carry around or if there is something to it,” says Margaret Gruen, CVM, assistant professor of behavioral medicine, who is overseeing the research project. “If there is this biological basis for a difference in pain sensitivity, that would be something important for us to know from the standpoint of treatment of dogs, but also for understanding pain in pets.”

The two-year study, funded by the American Kennel Club, involves 180 dogs of 10 different breeds, including Chihuahuas, Maltese, Jack Russell terriers, Boston terriers, golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers, border collies, Siberian huskies, pit bull terriers, and German shepherd dogs. Dogs are examined to make sure they are in normal health and free from joint or other pain. They then undergo a sensitivity test, in which a small portion of hair is clipped from their front and back legs. Three tools are used, two that apply pressure and one that applies light heat. As soon as the dog pulls away, the encounter is stopped. Researchers record the grams of pressure, or how long the dog tolerates the heat stimulus.

Each dog spends the rest of the afternoon in playtime, during which researchers assess a dog’s cognitive flexibility, as well as other characteristics such as attention span and emotional reactivity to new objects and a stranger— even their judgment bias, whether they are optimists or pessimists. Researchers report that this information paints a picture of what makes the dog tick and helps form an idea of whether some dog breeds are truly more sensitive to stimuli or more emotionally reactive in general. The team is analyzing data now.

“The data are going to be fascinating regardless of what the answer is,” says Duncan Lascelles, CVM, professor of translational pain research and the project’s coinvestigator. “You can imagine the next step could be starting to look at the genetic makeup of these different breeds and relating that to pain sensitivity. And this has significant implications for breed-specific and individualized pain medicine in the future.”

USPS Releases Dog Bite Statistics

The United States Postal Service (USPS) released its annual statistics of the number of dog attacks against mail carriers. The USPS announced that more than 5,800 employees were attacked by dogs in 2020. An attack was defined as a postal worker submitting an injury claim or telling their supervisors they were attacked.

The USPS reported that this number was relatively stable from the previous years, with 5,803 postal service workers bitten by dogs in 2019; this was a decrease of more than 200 compared with 2018 and a decrease of more than 400 compared with 2017. Following are lists of the top 10 cities and states, and the number of recorded attacks:



Houston, 73
Chicago, 59
Los Angeles, 54
Cleveland, 46
Denver, 44
Baltimore, 43
Dallas, 38
Columbus, 37
San Antonio, 36
San Diego, 35
Detroit, 35
California, 782
Texas, 402
Ohio, 369
New York, 295
Pennsylvania, 291
Illinois, 290
Michigan, 253
Florida, 198
New Jersey, 179
Virginia, 169


AVMF Announces National Veterinary Charitable Care Grant Program

The American Veterinary Medical Foundation (AVMF) in partnership with Merck Animal Health recently announced that the AVMF is launching the National Veterinary Charitable Care Grant Program. The AVMF states that the program provides American Veterinary Medical Association member veterinary practitioners with a simple and effective way to offer low- or no-cost, necessary veterinary services to the animals of clients facing personal hardships due to COVID-19 or domestic violence.

Applicants will be reimbursed in full or in part for the cost of treatment using expense codes contained in the online application form. For requests related to COVID-19, there is a reimbursement cap of $500. For requests related to domestic violence, no cap is currently in place.

“This program is designed to improve access-to-care issues, especially as they relate to ongoing financial hardship due to COVID-19 and domestic violence,” said David Granstrom, AVMF assistant executive director, in an AVMF press release. He added the program also contributes to the wellbeing of the veterinary healthcare team and members of the public struggling to afford veterinary care for their pets.

The AVMF reports that the new grant program is designed to build on the success of the AVMF Veterinary Care Charitable Fund (VCCF), which offers clinics the opportunity to raise funds to provide charitable care within the clinic. Practices enrolled in the VCCF program are eligible to apply for funding through the new grant program. For more information, visit

Nevada Passes Veterinary Cannabis Law

Nevada has become the first state in the US to authorize veterinarians to recommend and administer cannabidiol (CBD) under a new law that protects practitioners from disciplinary action if they treat veterinary patients with the cannabis derivative. The law takes effect October 1.

Sponsored by Assemblyman Steve Yeager (D-Las Vegas), AB101 authorizes licensed veterinarians to administer products containing CBD or hemp in the treatment of an animal and to recommend use of such products to pet owners. It also prohibits the state Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners from taking disciplinary action against veterinarians who administer or use such products. The bill passed unanimously out of the Senate and Assembly.

Two other states, California and Michigan, allow veterinarians to discuss the use of cannabis with clients but not administer the products. Meanwhile, a survey conducted by the Veterinary Information Network reports that 63% of veterinarians surveyed said clients ask questions regarding cannabis pet products on a monthly, weekly, or daily basis.

CS5.jpgA mutation in the NPHP5 gene leads to a severe blinding disorder, Leber congenital amaurosis. Dogs with the condition that were treated with a gene therapy regrew normal, functional cone cells, labeled in red, that had previously failed to develop. The treatment led to a recovery of retinal function and vision.

Researchers Study Severe Vision Disorder

Gustavo Aguirre and William Beltran, veterinary ophthalmologists and vision scientists at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, have studied a range of different retinal blinding disorders.

They report that the one caused by mutations in the NPHP5 gene, leading to a form of Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA), is one of the most severe. In a new paper in the journal Molecular Therapy, Aguirre and Beltran, along with colleagues at UPenn and other institutions, have demonstrated that a canine gene therapy can restore both normal structure and function to the retina’s cone photoreceptor cells, which, in patients with LCA, otherwise fail to develop normally. Delivering a normal copy of either the canine or human version of the NPHP5 gene restored vision in treated dogs.

“What’s amazing is that you can take this disease in which cone cells have incompletely formed, and the therapy restores their function—they had no function whatsoever before—and recover their structure,” says Aguirre.

AAFP Releases End-of-Life Toolkit

The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) has released an online End-of-Life Educational Toolkit to provide information to help facilitate a peaceful and painless transition for a cat at the end of their life. The toolkit addresses several key aspects of the euthanasia process, such as the Quality of Life discussion, decisionmaking, the euthanasia experience for both veterinary professionals and caregivers, the euthanasia process, and how to support a client through final arrangements and beyond.

View, download, or print the toolkit from the AAFP website, Resources to help cat caregivers understand more about euthanasia, quality of life, and end-of-life decisionmaking can be found at

AAHA End-of-Life Care Accreditation

AAHA’s new End-of-Life Care accreditation will help veterinary practices elevate their end-of-life services, further enhancing and strengthening the human-animal bond. Learn more at


Photo credits:Mary Swift/iStock via Getty Images Plus, DmitriiSimakov/iStock via Getty Images Plus; insonnia/iStock via Getty Images Plus; Photo courtesy John Joyner/NC State Veterinary Medicine; Photo courtesy of Gustavo Aguirre and William Beltran



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