JAVMA News Digest

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Chronic wasting disease continues to spread

An always-fatal neurologic disease is contributing to declines in Western deer and elk herds and raising the possibility of local extinctions.

Bryan Richards, chronic wasting disease project leader within the U.S. Geological Survey's National Wildlife Health Center, has seen clear patterns of increasing spread and prevalence. The U.S. has many areas with recent detections and lacks effective tools to manage the disease once it becomes established in free-ranging herds.

Dr. Todd E. Cornish, a pathologist and associate professor who studies chronic wasting disease at the University of Wyoming, said two of his recent field studies show the disease has driven population declines among the mule deer and white-tailed deer studied. The article he co-authored on white-tailed deer, published a year ago August in the online scientific journal PLoS ONE (http://jav.ma/CWDdeer), described a 10 percent annual decline among deer in an area with a CWD prevalence of about 33 percent. His mule deer figures are pending publication.

Melia DeVivo, PhD, collared mule deer in southeastern Wyoming from 2010–14 to study CWD's effects, and she reported in her 2015 doctoral dissertation that the disease had caused significant declines in the herd studied.

In scenarios modeled for the dissertation, Dr. DeVivo and her co-authors found that the mule deer herd could be extinct within 41 years, although selection for a known genetic resilience to CWD could preserve a population about one-tenth the size of the original—several hundred deer—through the next 100 years. The minority of mule deer with that trait still acquire fatal infections but tend to live longer than others with CWD.

Richards said some genotypes in mule deer, white-tailed deer, and elk are categorized as resistant to CWD because, in wild, free-ranging populations, these animals seem to have lower infection rates and prolonged incubation periods. While a typical white-tailed deer could have a CWD incubation period of 18–24 months before clinical signs are seen, for example, a resistant deer could have an incubation period of 50–60 months, he said. But those deer also may shed infectious prions for a longer time.

The misfolded prion proteins responsible for CWD spread through saliva and waste. They are resistant to heat and ultraviolet light, and—like the prions that cause scrapie in sheep—they may remain viable for decades, Richards said. They also escape immune responses, so wildlife managers lack vaccines.

CWD prions are not known to cause infections in humans, but public health advisories recommend against eating meat of infected animals.

Dr. Michael W. Miller, senior wildlife veterinarian for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, said surveillance is identifying CWD in new areas, most of them adjacent to where the disease is endemic. But surveillance of recent years lacks the intensity needed to ensure early detection of spread.

Existing surveillance indicates one Colorado deer herd has had a decline in CWD prevalence since the state used sustained hunting and culling campaigns in the early 2000s, whereas other affected herds have had stable or increased prevalence, Dr. Miller said. Colorado Parks and Wildlife is gathering data to try to identify which hunter-based management strategies are most likely to stabilize or lower CWD prevalence. The state also is implementing required participation by hunters in some areas.

Condensed from Aug. 15, 2017, JAVMA News

Board takes on topics across breadth of profession

The AVMA Board of Directors, while meeting June 20–21 in Washington, D.C., took on topics across the breadth of the profession.

On June 20, members of the Board visited Capitol Hill to advocate on behalf of veterinarians’ interests. Highlights of the key issues that the AVMA is prioritizing during the 115th Congress are available at http://jav.ma/AVMA115th. On June 21, the Board conducted its business meeting.


Attendees at the AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference in January 2016 prepare for a workshop involving audience participation. This June, the AVMA Board of Directors received a report with recommendations to improve the annual conference. (Photo by R. Scott Nolen)

Citation: American Journal of Veterinary Research 78, 9; 10.2460/ajvr.78.9.1004

The Board received the report of the AVMA Task Force on the Veterinary Leadership Conference. The annual conference combines AVMA governance meetings, networking opportunities, and formal leadership training. Recommendations for improvement include the following:

  • • A more innovative continuing education program and use of governing meetings as platforms for discussion.

  • • Levels of programming tailored to the needs of individual veterinary professionals on the basis of not only career stage but also appropriate leadership skill-set growth and development.

  • • Novel structured or facilitated networking sessions.

  • • Ongoing contact with attendees after the meeting ends.

  • • Increasing of attendance to no more than 700.

  • • Integration of the VLC into the development of an overall AVMA leadership certificate program.

Among other actions, the Board approved the following:

  • • The “AVMA Strategic Approach to Antimicrobials” developed by the AVMA Committee on Antimicrobials.

  • • Endorsing the Veterinary Task Force on Feline Sterilization's recommendation to sterilize cats by five months of age.

  • • Hosting a meeting in 2018 for stakeholders to discuss issues surrounding the practice of veterinary medicine in U.S. waters that are not under the jurisdiction of any state, tribal, or territorial authority.

Condensed from Aug. 15, 2017, JAVMA News

Salaries, debt increase slightly for new graduates

Starting salaries for new veterinary college graduates continue to increase overall, but so does educational debt. In fact, for every sector of the profession, the growth rate for educational debt has continued to outpace the growth rate for starting salaries, according to the 2017 AVMA & Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges Report on the Market for Veterinary Education. Still, for 2016, the debt-to-income ratio was 2:1, which was essentially unchanged from the 2015 ratio of 1.99:1.

“This ratio helps establish a picture of the connection between the demand and supply of new veterinarians through understanding the cost to obtain a DVM degree, and the subsequent income that is the payback to the veterinarian for acquiring it,” according to the report.

The report, released in mid-June, derives much of its information from the AVMA Senior Survey conducted each spring among the graduating students of U.S. veterinary colleges accredited by the AVMA Council on Education.

Other key findings in the report are as follows:

  • • The percentage of last year's graduating veterinary students who found full-time employment was 54.9 percent, an increase from 48.9 percent in 2015. Meanwhile, internship participation has decreased from 35.6 percent in 2015 to 31.6 percent in 2016.

  • • The weighted, mean starting salary for 2016 graduates finding full-time employment prior to graduation was $73,380, up from $70,117 in 2015. Those pursuing internships had mean annual earnings of $30,829.

  • • The real weighted mean debt of all U.S. respondents reporting debt for the 2016 graduating class was $143,758, an increase from $141,354 in 2015.

Condensed from Aug. 1, 2017, JAVMA News

Diversity, inclusion added to accreditation standards

Many veterinary colleges have long been promoting diversity and inclusion, but now the AVMA Council on Education has codified these practices, approving revisions to six of its 11 Standards of Accreditation during its spring meeting, March 25–28.

The council revised Standard 11 (Outcomes Assessment), Standard 9 (Curriculum), Standard 8 (Faculty), and Standard 7 (Admissions) to encourage veterinary colleges to show a commitment to diversity, whether that is done by providing opportunities throughout the curriculum for students to gain and integrate an understanding of the important influences of diversity and inclusion in veterinary medicine or by cultivating a diverse faculty through their hiring policies and retention practices, among other things.

The COE had received a number of public comments on the proposed changes; most were in support of the revisions. On the basis of the public comments, the council also revised—and ultimately approved—language that clarified the COE's intent and was less prescriptive, according to the council's newsletter.

“The intent of the council is not to require colleges to meet specific numeric goals; rather, to have appropriate policies, processes, and practices in place that, in keeping with the mission of the college, are designed to promote the recruitment and retention of a diverse academic community and to promote, from qualified applicants, the recruitment and admittance of a diverse student body, consistent with applicable law. In addition, the council believes that, within the framework of the law that each college must function, diversity may be utilized as part of a holistic admission process,” the COE wrote in the newsletter.

Condensed from Aug. 1, 2017, JAVMA News

JAVMA launches first mobile application

Designed with AVMA and Student AVMA members in mind, the recently released JAVMA mobile app renders the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association more suitable for reading on Apple and Android tablets and smartphones.

Available to individual subscribers only, the JAVMA app can be downloaded for free through the Google Play and Apple App stores. Users will then enter their AVMA user ID and password—the same ID and password they use to sign in to the AVMA website—to log in and access the full content of issues. Institutional subscriptions (libraries and colleges, for example) will not have access to the JAVMA app at this time.

Each new issue will be posted a few days ahead of the print version. Once downloaded, issues can be read offline.

The app offers two reading formats. One is a fixed-layout—or replica—version that looks similar to a PDF; the other is a responsive version that reflows text and images to fit the screen and is optimized to be viewed on small devices. The app has pinch-to-zoom functionality in the replica version to view text and images in greater detail. In the responsive version, text size can be increased and pictures tapped to enlarge them. Readers also can bookmark favorite pages, add notes, and also make freehand annotations on pages. A cross-edition search capability will be available later this year.

Condensed from Aug. 1, 2017, JAVMA News

Conference charts one-health approach to addressing obesity in pets, people

A recent conference charted a one-health approach to addressing obesity in pets and people, and a consensus statement reflecting the key outcomes and recommendations from the meeting appeared in the May 2017 issue of the Journal of Comparative Pathology.

The One Health Committee of the World Small Animal Veterinary Association, in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hosted “Preventing Obesity in People and Their Pets: A One Health Approach” on Nov. 10–11, 2016, in Atlanta. The conference paired speakers from human and veterinary medicine to discuss obesity in humans and companion animals.

The one-health concept is that human, animal, and environmental health are interrelated. Dr. Michael Day, chair of the WSAVA One Health Committee, said in a Dec. 1, 2016, statement: “This was a milestone event for One Health, showcasing the key role of the human–small companion animal bond and the value of comparative research into spontaneously-arising companion animal disease states.”


Walking with dogs can provide people with motivation for physical activity, according to speakers and delegates at the recent conference “Preventing Obesity in People and Their Pets: A One Health Approach.”

Citation: American Journal of Veterinary Research 78, 9; 10.2460/ajvr.78.9.1004

The Journal of Comparative Pathology published the consensus statement along with open-access manuscripts summarizing the conference presentations, available at http://jav.ma/oneobesity.

According to a related study out of England, older adults who own a dog have an increased likelihood of achieving World Health Organization–recommended levels of physical activity. The study appeared June 9 in BMC Public Health and is available at http://jav.ma/dogwalkingstudy.

In another related report, one in three dogs and cats that visited a Banfield hospital in 2016 was overweight or obese, according to Banfield Pet Hospital's 2017 State of Pet Health Report. The report is at www.stateofpethealth.com.

Condensed from Aug. 1, 2017, JAVMA News

Why microchipping may finally be happening in the equine industry

The debate over how to track and identify horses has been ongoing for more than a decade. Lack of consensus on methodologies, where information would be stored or accessed, what technology to use, privacy concerns, and other issues has hindered progress until recently. The 2017 Equine Identification Forum, hosted by the National Institute of Animal Agriculture and the U.S. Animal Health Association this past January, brought together equine industry stakeholders to gain a better understanding of equine identification and traceability issues and identify potential solutions.


Dr. Allison Barca, of Folsom, Louisiana, implants an Equine Mini Chip, one of the microchips available for horses. (Courtesy of Microchip ID Systems)

Citation: American Journal of Veterinary Research 78, 9; 10.2460/ajvr.78.9.1004

“Advances in equine microchip technology make microchips the ideal industry choice for a unique permanent individual identification of horses. The biothermal microchip has a tremendous benefit as a temperature surveillance tool for the industry. The use of biothermal chips allows for enhanced health monitoring at equine events, racetracks, boarding facilities, or breeding operations. The ability to rapidly scan multiple horses during a disease outbreak would be extremely beneficial as it could assist in early and prompt isolation of horses demonstrating a fever,” said Dr. Katie Flynn, equine staff veterinarian for the California Department of Food and Agriculture, who helped organize the event.

She said the major accomplishment of the forum was agreement by all equine stakeholders that current measures in the U.S. are inadequate and that industry-driven advancement of equine identification and traceability is needed in the U.S. to ensure the health and prosperity of the equine industry.

Further dialogue and cooperative efforts are required to realize a national equine identification program. A new industry working group formed at the forum will provide leadership in this area by developing a strategic plan.

Condensed from Aug. 15, 2017, JAVMA News

Video helps veterinarians treat opioid overdoses in working dogs

The University of Illinois has produced a video to help veterinarians and law enforcement teams treat working dogs that encounter opioids in the line of duty. The university reached out to the AVMA and other organizations for help in creating the video.

Some opioids, such as fentanyl and carfentanil, are so potent that even a small exposure can be deadly. Many law enforcement officers have begun carrying naloxone, which can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. Naloxone can be used effectively to provide emergency treatment for working dogs, but the version carried by law enforcement officials is often a nasal spray rather than the injectable version commonly used by veterinarians.

Law enforcement officials are encouraged to take a dog suffering from an overdose to a veterinarian immediately. However, research indicates that administering naloxone on-site can be a proactive, life-saving option. The new video provides information for veterinarians who have a relationship with dog handlers and need to provide advice by phone.

The University of Illinois Police Training Institute provided expertise and financial support for the video. Other collaborators included the university's Division of Animal Resources and Extension Office and the Illinois State VMA.

As a follow-up, University of Illinois veterinarians and the Police Training Institute plan to study training of dog handlers and opioid-related adverse events in working dogs.

From Aug. 15, 2017, JAVMA News

AVMA's champion for global veterinary medicine

For the past three years, Dr. René Carlson was president of the World Veterinary Association, the internationally recognized voice of global veterinary medicine and arguably one of the least understood veterinary organizations among U.S. veterinarians.

Dr. Carlson understands; for 34 years, most of her time and attention were spent in private clinical practice, with the last 15 years devoted to running her own small animal practice in Chetek, Wisconsin. “Veterinarians are busy with so many other things that it's a real challenge to look beyond their own communities,” she said.


Dr. René Carlson, who spent the past three years as president of the World Veterinary Association, addresses the AVMA House of Delegates in 2015. (Photo by Scott Nolan)

Citation: American Journal of Veterinary Research 78, 9; 10.2460/ajvr.78.9.1004

Headquartered in Brussels, the WVA promotes veterinary medicine globally by working with various international entities such as the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the World Health Organization. “(W)e need to belong because the WVA needs representatives from strong associations like AVMA to lead,” said Dr. Carlson, whose term as WVA president ended in August.

In March 2015, Dr. Carlson appeared before a WHO advisory committee to testify against curbing ketamine abuse by scheduling the anesthetic as a controlled substance under the 1971 U.N. Convention on Psychotropic Substances.

The WVA supports and promotes the harmonization of basic core competencies in all veterinary education programs that offer a veterinary degree. Additionally, the WVA has partnered with the World Continuing Education Alliance to offer free and discounted CE to any veterinarian in the world through the Continuing Education Portal at www.worldvet.org. A customized portal for veterinary associations to offer their members is available for a fee.

This May, the WVA and Health for Animals, an international association representing the global animal medicine industry, together launched www.animalhealthmatters.org, a website designed to educate the public on the importance of animal health.

Condensed from Aug. 1, 2017, JAVMA News

Concentration labeling changed for epinephrine, two other medications

Three human-use pharmaceuticals used in veterinary medicine will be sold with labels containing revised descriptions of drug concentrations.

The Food and Drug Administration, in a June 20 notice, said veterinarians should be aware of the changes to labels for epinephrine injection, isoproterenol hydrochloride injection, and neostigmine methylsulfate injection. The agency is requiring that drug manufacturers remove ratios to express drug concentrations, such as 1:1,000, and instead use only the amount of drug per unit volume, such as 1 mg/mL.

The FDA information indicates the agency has received several reports indicating ratio expressions are confusing and they contributed to medication errors that resulted in adverse outcomes including death.

Another organization, the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, had found that ratio expressions could be difficult to differentiate in small print, especially when numbers were typed without commas, the FDA information states. That organization also found that health care providers misunderstood the concentrations represented by ratios.

The observations by the ISMP led to evaluation of the ratio expressions by the United States Pharmacopeia, a standard-setting scientific nonprofit. The USP implemented a new standard, effective May 1, 2016, on concentration labeling for single-entity drug products, and federal aw requires that drug products named in the USP or National Formulary be packaged and labeled as described in that compendium, the FDA information states.

From Aug. 1, 2017, JAVMA News

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