Notebook: September 2022

News briefs from across the industry and beyond. This month’s articles include:

  • Harbor Seal Aided by Noninvasive Kidney Stone Treatment
  • USDA Adds $400M for Avian Influenza Response
  • FDA Conditionally Approves First Drug to Delay Onset of Congestive Heart Failure in Dogs

and more!

Adoption Surge Leads to Continued Growth in Pet Insurance Sector

pet-insurance.pngThe North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA) recently published its 2022 State of the Industry Report. It states a 30.5% increase in premiums in 2021 as compared with 2020, totaling more than 4.41 million insured pets across North America. That figure is a 27.7% increase from the previous year.

“The societal and behavioral changes we are experiencing around our relationships with pets have contributed greatly to an unprecedented period of growth for our industry,” NAPHIA’s executive director Kristen Lynch said in a press release. “A record number of household pet adoptions and purchases during the pandemic, combined with continued work-from-home arrangements and pet owners’ desire to mitigate unexpected veterinary costs, have contributed to even higher growth rates in the past several years.”

The 2021 results show total premium volume in the U.S. amounted to $2.6 billion, NAPHIA reports. To read the report, visit naphia.org.


Harbor Seal Aided by Noninvasive Kidney Stone Treatment

Notebook_-_Hermes_Procedure_4.png

When Hermes, a 23-year-old harbor seal at the Vancouver Aquarium in British Columbia, exhibited signs of abdominal pain, aquarium staff diagnosed him with kidney stones on both sides. Because of the unique anatomy of seal kidneys, stones cannot usually be removed using standard endoscopic techniques.

Vancouver Aquarium veterinarians worked with urologists from Vancouver General Hospital to perform the procedure, which involved brand-new noninvasive technology that fragments stones by creating standing stress waves within the stones. The device used for the burst wave lithotripsy, a SonoMotion Break Wave system, is being studied in clinical trials in human patients. The device uses ultrasound imaging to guide delivery of the ultrasound pulses.

“We were pleased to see that the technology successfully broke up several stones in the left kidney, which was clearly evident in real time.” said Martin Haulena, DVM, DACZM. “Hermes has recovered well from the procedure, and a follow-up CT exam will help guide further treatment.”


QUOTE OF THE MONTH

“It’s not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the most responsive to change.”

­—Charles Darwin 


 

American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges Receives $1.3M Grant

The American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) received a $1.3 million grant awarded by the Stanton Foundation to support the AAVMC Spectrum of Care (SOC) initiative.

The AAVMC reports that the SOC initiative aims to address the growing challenge of affordability of veterinary care by providing a continuum of care options that are rooted in evidence-based medicine and responsive to client circumstances. The purpose of the initiative is to provide the infrastructure and support for a unified and collaborative approach across veterinary colleges that brings SOC pedagogy to veterinary education.

The Stanton Foundation has supported the AAVMC SOC since the initiative’s inception in 2021. This new grant will support work over the next two years to develop an educational model including the competency outcomes, assessment strategies, and learning experiences that will prepare graduates to practice with competence and confidence across the spectrum of care.

“This funding will help us establish an evidence-based pedagogical approach to better prepare graduates for practice, meet the needs of a diverse clientele, and provide high-quality care to more patients. We believe the result of this work will be transformational to the profession and help address the growing challenge of affordability of veterinary care,” said Julie Noyes, executive director of the AAVMC Spectrum of Care initiative.

DVM Student Enrollment on the Rise

According to the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges’ (AAVMC) Annual Data Report (ADR), total enrollment in US colleges of veterinary medicine rose 4.7% over last year.

Other highlights from this year’s ADR include:

  • The number of students from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups is higher than ever at 23.2%.
  • The percentage of men enrolled dropped a percentage point from the previous year to 17.3%.
  • 3,460 Americans are studying veterinary medicine outside of the U.S. this academic year.
  • Debt levels for indebted graduates stayed level in 2021.
  • On average, tuition made up 16.4% of college revenue, while instruction, academic, and student support made up nearly a quarter of college expenditures.

To access the report, go to aavmc.org/about-aavmc/public-data.

Canine Cancer Registry

Charge-graphic.pngTake C.H.A.R.G.E. (Canine Health and Registry Exchange) is a national canine cancer registry and cancer care index. The registry reports that it provides the veterinary community and canine pet owners with incidence and prevalence data to guide canine cancer diagnosis and treatment decisions and that it is intended to help improve canine cancer care and build a community of hope for dog lovers.

Take C.H.A.R.G.E begins with a review of deidentified and anonymous canine patient records provided by veterinary clinics that join the registry and by pet owners who upload their dog’s medical records. The group reports that all research and academia-related activities are deidentified and anonymized. The registry also includes a nationwide Gallup survey of dog owners addressing their experience with canine cancer. For more information, visit takechargeregistry.com.

 

“Seek and Destroy” Cancer Trial Explores Nonsurgical Therapies

Notebook_Doggles.jpgPatient Miya sporting “doggles” following her porphysome infusion at the Ontario Veterinary College.

When Patricia and Zach Mendonca’s two-year-old Labrador retriever cross, Jelly Bean, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, the leg was amputated and Jelly Bean started chemotherapy at Ocean State Veterinary Services in Rhode Island.

Osteosarcoma starts in the bone and can travel through the bloodstream. Despite chemotherapy treatment, the cancer spread to Jelly Bean’s lungs. Doctors at Ocean State suggested looking into a clinical trial at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University.

In a press release from the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Holly Moriarty describes the clinical trial that helped Jelly Bean. Researchers in that clinical trial were testing combinations of three immunotherapy medications to treat dogs with metastatic osteosarcoma with spread to the lungs. Cummings School jointly launched the trial with Colorado State University (running a parallel study) in 2018, funded by the National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Moonshot initiative.

Moriarty quotes Cheryl London, DVM, PhD, DACVIM (Oncology), “This clinical trial is entirely novel as there are few, if any, treatments that work in the setting of metastatic osteosarcoma.” London is director of the Clinical Trials Office and associate dean for research and graduate education at Cummings School.

Typically, dogs with osteosarcoma live only 8 to 10 weeks once the cancer spreads to the lungs, even with treatment.

Natalie Smith, DVM, a specialty intern in Clinical Trials at Cummings School, told Moriarty, “We’re trying to come up with treatment options to have more time—and more quality time—than 8 to 10 weeks. . . . This is a unique combination of medicines that don’t kill cancer cells directly, but rather stimulate and retrain the dog’s immune system to kill the cancer cells itself.”

To date, 43 dogs have participated in the study, with most lasting four months. Jelly Bean entered the trial in October 2020 and, at the time of the press release, was approaching her 18-month mark.

“I didn’t expect much to come of it,” Patricia admits. “But by December, it was our Christmas miracle.”

Within two months, the masses in Jelly Bean’s chest had shrunk, and by March, they disappeared from her X-rays.

While the trial is still ongoing, the doctors reveal that the medications are stabilizing cancer in most of the dogs, giving them, on average, several more months of life instead of several weeks.

This trial could potentially impact treatment for humans as well.


USDA Adds $400M for Avian Influenza Response

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) will use another $400 million from the Commodity Credit Corp. to address the outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza, which has now been found in 35 states, affecting nearly 38 million birds.

The money will be used “to address indemnity, diagnostics, field activities, and other emergency response costs,” USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) said. The funds will go directly to APHIS and “allow APHIS personnel to continue to deploy and support the emergency wherever they are needed,” USDA Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Jenny Lester Moffitt said.

The outbreak is geographically larger than the one in 2014–2015, which hit about 50 million birds in 21 states. APHIS has been tracking the outbreak on its website, which shows the last four detections were in backyard flocks—three in Washington and one in Idaho.

The outbreak has so far affected 183 commercial operations, compared with 211 during the 2014–2015 outbreak. However, the USDA says that the number of backyard operations, at 172, is more than eight times the number of backyard premises affected during 2014–2015.

 

Using Artificial Intelligence to Predict Life-Threatening Bacterial Disease in Dogs

Notebook_-_dogdialysis.jpgThe bacterial disease leptospirosis, if not caught early, can cause kidney failure in dogs among other life-threatening symptoms.

Veterinarians and researchers at the University of California- Davis School of Veterinary Medicine have discovered a technique to predict leptospirosis in dogs through the use of artificial intelligence. Their research was published in the Journal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation.

“Traditional testing for Leptospira lacks sensitivity early in the disease process,” said lead author Krystle Reagan, a board-certified internal medicine specialist and assistant professor focusing on infectious diseases. “Detection also can take more than two weeks because of the need to demonstrate a rise in the level of antibodies in a blood sample. Our AI model eliminates those two roadblocks to a swift and accurate diagnosis.”

The research involved historical data of patients at the UC-Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital that had been tested for leptospirosis. Routinely collected blood work from these 413 dogs was used to train an AI prediction model. Over the next year, the hospital treated an additional 53 dogs with suspected leptospirosis. The model correctly identified all nine dogs that were positive for leptospirosis and correctly identified approximately 90% of the 44 dogs that were ultimately leptospirosis negative.

The researchers report that the goal for the model is for it to become an online resource for veterinarians to enter patient data and receive a timely prediction.

FDA Conditionally Approves First Drug to Delay Onset of Congestive Heart Failure in Dogs

GettyImages-900894090.jpgThe U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conditionally approved Vetmedin-CA1 (pimobendan) chewable tablets, the first drug indicated for delaying the onset of congestive heart failure in dogs with Stage B2 preclinical myxomatous mitral valve disease (MMVD).

MMVD is a condition in dogs where an abnormal heart valve allows blood to leak backward (regurgitation), impacting the ability of the heart to pump blood and resulting in an enlarged heart. Stage B2 preclinical MMVD refers to dogs with MMVD that have not yet developed signs of heart failure but have a moderate or loud mitral murmur due to a leaking mitral heart valve and have an enlarged heart.

While Vetmedin is already fully approved for the management of the signs of mild, moderate, or severe congestive heart failure in dogs due to MMVD or dilated cardiomyopathy, the conditionally approved indication for Vetmedin-CA1 is the first for dogs in the preclinical stage of MMVD who have a heart murmur and an abnormal enlargement of the heart but are not yet in congestive heart failure.

An animal drug that addresses a serious or life-threatening disease or addresses an unmet animal or human health need for which demonstrating effectiveness would require complex or particularly difficult study or studies is eligible for conditional approval. The FDA determined that Vetmedin-CA1 is eligible for conditional approval because it met all of these criteria.

Photo credits: SirVectorr/iStock via Getty Images Plus; Photo courtesy of the Vancouver Aquarium; SirVectorr/iStock via Getty Images Plus; Photo courtesy of the Ontario Veterinary College; Photo courtesy of UC Veterinary Medical Center – San Diego; Chattrawutt/iStock via Getty Images Plus

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