JAVMA News Digest

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Cocaine gives Greyhound racing a black eye

Racing dogs in Florida have tested positive for cocaine or cocaine metabolites about 230 times in the past 20 years, according to state and court documents.

The Racing Laboratory at the University of Florida's College of Veterinary Medicine has analyzed more than 700,000 race-day urine samples since July 1998. Among the substances found during that time, cocaine and two metabolites—benzoylecgonine and ecgonine methyl ester—constitute one-fifth of the violations. The total number of cocaine-related positive test results may be higher when the state publishes data covering July 2016 through June 2017, a period during which complaint documents show dogs tested positive at least 29 times. Samples are collected before or after races.

Cocaine could give dogs an edge in racing, and state authorities say intentional administration is the most plausible explanation. But attorneys for two Greyhound trainers and leaders of organizations with opposing views on Greyhound racing have said the presence of cocaine metabolites in urine samples might be a result of accidental exposure through environmental contamination or human drug use around the dogs.

After a decade of single-digit annual totals, the number of times cocaine metabolites were detected spiked starting in late 2016.

Greyhounds under one trainer, Charles F. McClellan, were positive for cocaine and cocaine metabolites in 18 tests performed in 2017 at the Bestbet Orange Park track near Jacksonville, Florida. He and fellow trainer Natasha L. Nemeth, whose dogs have had six positive test results since October 2016—also at Orange Park—are fighting the rules that govern drug testing at tracks and that were used to suspend their state licenses.

The 24 positive test results under McClellan and Nemeth came from 16 dogs. One, WW's Flicka, had seven positive test results: six under McClellan and one under Nemeth.

Dogs under a third trainer, Malcolm McAllister, had six positive test results, all in January 2017. The state revoked his license, but he is not participating in the rule challenge.

An administrative law judge, Lawrence P. Stevenson, sided with McClellan and Nemeth in two rulings—delivered in December 2017 and March 2018—that the procedures used to collect and test urine samples from Greyhounds were invalid because Florida officials had failed to adopt the drug-testing rules through the official process and failed to set minimum concentrations for enforcement. State authorities are appealing the rulings.

In the announcement from December, National Greyhound Association leaders called for Florida's wagering division to work with the Greyhound racing industry to develop a new drug-testing regime and asserted that the state's failure to follow official rule-making procedures should invalidate any pending enforcement.

Condensed from April 1, 2018, JAVMA News

Veterinarians can earn certificate in human-animal bond

Practicing veterinarians as well as veterinary technicians and practice managers can now learn more about research backing the human health benefits of pet ownership and human-animal interactions—and learn how to use that knowledge in veterinary practice.

That's according to an announcement from the Human Animal Bond Research Institute and the North American Veterinary Community. On Feb. 3 at the NAVC's 2018 Veterinary Meeting & Expo in Orlando, Florida, HABRI and the NAVC launched an online certificate program in the human-animal bond, with the AVMA as a founding educational partner.

To assemble the course material, HABRI and the NAVC convened a group of highly qualified veterinarians, researchers, and academics. The AVMA was a key contributor. Among the course presenters are Dr. Kendall Houlihan, a veterinarian and an assistant director of the AVMA Animal Welfare Division, and Emily Patterson-Kane, PhD, the animal welfare scientist in the division.

The course consists of six online modules and costs $299, with a 20 percent discount for AVMA members. Zoetis, Petco, and PetSmart Charities are the premier sponsors.

To earn the certificate in the human-animal bond, a candidate must be a practicing veterinarian, veterinary technician, practice manager, or veterinary assistant; complete the work at-your-own-pace course; and pass an examination. Candidates who earn the certificate will receive a copy to display in their practice and online and will receive marketing tools to help attract new pet owners to the practice via social media and other online avenues.

Course details are available at www.navc.com/hab.

Condensed from April 1, 2018, JAVMA News

Environment: the bedrock of one health

At first glance, veterinarians’ role in environmental health is less apparent than their role in the other two legs of the one-health triad. One health, as defined by the AVMA, is the integrative effort of multiple disciplines working locally, nationally, and globally to attain optimal health for people, animals, and the environment.

At press time, 91 continuing education sessions were planned in the one-health track for AVMA Convention 2018 in Denver, July 13–17. View the CE Program at www.avmaconvention.org and search under “one health.”

Veterinarians have the expertise to adjust protocols for clients when climate change and other environmental factors negatively impact animals. Dr. Warren Hess, staff consultant to the AVMA Committee on Environmental Issues, said, “In my encounters, it's underappreciated what veterinarians can bring to this field. The climate is going to change. From a scientific aspect, our main focus should be on preparation. If we're going to approach the health of the planet, adapting and preparing for what (veterinarians are) involved in should be the AVMA's role, in my opinion.”

Dr. Hess said there's a need to think more broadly about environmental impacts, such as what is happening in the environment when antibiotics pass through humans and animals and end up in the environment. He said, “If we looked into that, we might find answers to questions we don't even know to ask yet.”

The next five stories are examples of veterinarians involved in one-health work with a distinct environmental component. In addition, Dr. Karyn Bischoff, chair of the AVMA environmental committee, shared her insights about the application of veterinary medicine to environmental health and some of her committee's work in the April 15 JAVMA News, page 905.

Condensed from April 15, 2018, JAVMA News

A one-health solution to the toxic algae problem

Free-living cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, are important. These ancient organisms fertilize soils, capture nutrients, and release oxygen in bodies of water, from the hot springs of Yellowstone to lakes, streams, catfish ponds, open oceans, and frigid seawater beneath polar ice caps.

Cyanobacteria have also been killing and injuring people and animals for as long as anyone can remember. When environmental conditions are right—often meaning the presence of warm, nutrient-rich, stagnant water—particular species and strains of cyanobacteria can grow prolifically, forming colonies of tremendous size known as harmful algal blooms that release toxins into the water.

“Monitoring drinking water and setting standards for recreational waters are important to protect people,” Dr. Val Beasley said, “but we can't forget about outdoor dogs, livestock, and terrestrial wildlife that may drink from surface waters; coastal marine mammals in areas where cyanobacteria from nutrient-rich water bodies are washed downstream into the ocean; or salmon that are exposed in coastal net-pen aquaculture systems.” Dr. Beasley, a professor of veterinary, wildlife, and ecological toxicology at Pennsylvania State University, has investigated cases of cyanobacterial toxicosis since 1983, when he encountered swine in Illinois dying after drinking from a contaminated farm pond. He has published extensively on research into the pathophysiology, lesions, diagnosis, and management of cyanotoxin poisonings in animals.

He explained, “More veterinarians in practice will need to be watching for cyanotoxin problems, and more should specialize in toxicology. These and other poisoning problems are national and global concerns—and our training provides a needed foundation in basic biology, pathology, toxicology, diagnostics, epidemiology, and preventive medicine.”

Condensed from April 15, 2018, JAVMA News

Conserving habitats, ecosystems everywhere key to saving wildlife

The romantic vision of habitat and ecosystem conservation is rather different from the reality.

People picture wildlife living in pristine places, far away and far from humans. The reality is that wild animals live everywhere, sharing the environment with humans and other animals.

Dr. Sharon L. Deem, a veterinarian and director of the Saint Louis Zoo Institute for Conservation Medicine, said: “We do look at the habitat needs of the wildlife that we're trying to conserve. Without healthy environments, you're not going to have healthy wildlife populations. You're not going to have healthy livelihoods for the people around them.”

In northern Kenya, the semi-arid grasslands are becoming more arid, so people are keeping camels instead of cattle. The Institute for Conservation Medicine is examining the potential impacts of camel health on wildlife and environmental health.

In another program, ICM is investigating how endocrine-disrupting compounds are feminizing turtles and fish. Dr. Deem said pollutants such as these are everywhere, affecting human and animal health.

The Saint Louis Zoo Center for Conservation in Western Asia is working with mountain vipers in Armenia, including tracking movement of the snakes, which involves veterinarians. As a result, Armenia has protected two new areas.

ICM also tracks the movement of box turtles in Missouri and tortoises in the Galapagos Islands along with the animals’ health status and human drivers of environmental change, including livestock production in the Galapagos. In Missouri, one goal is to put up road signs to protect female box turtles looking for nesting sites.

Condensed from April 15, 2018, JAVMA News

The case of the wildly varying degrees of toxicity in wildlife

Why are wildlife more sensitive to environmental contaminants in Nebraska than in Alabama? They aren't, of course, but inconsistent application of toxicity reference values in the Environmental Protection Agency's ecological soil screening guides has meant inconsistent results and time-consuming work during the screening process for risk assessments at potentially contaminated sites.

Dr. Anne Fairbrother is a retired consultant who has more than 30 years of experience in wildlife toxicology and contaminated site assessment. When she worked for the EPA more than a decade ago, she helped lead a collaborative effort that created the derivation process for ecological soil screening levels, which provide risk assessors a source of reference values for toxic concentrations of various chemicals in wildlife to improve consistency among risk assessments.

However, she is “terribly frustrated” at the lack of progress toward developing species-appropriate TRVs and soil cleanup values. One reason for the variation is that some risk assessors use one TRV for the screening stage and another TRV for more detailed stages of the risk assessment process.

But it doesn't have to be this way, as a better model exists, she said. When looking at human health risks, assessors can refer to the EPA's Integrated Risk Information System. For each chemical, EPA staff does a thorough literature review of studies. After that information is compiled, a board of experts reviews it and comes to a consensus on the value for that chemical.


Dr. Anne Fairbrother (pictured) and David Mayfield wrote the article “Efforts to standardize wildlife toxicity values remain unrealized,” published in Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management. (Courtesy of Dr. Anne Fairbrother)

Citation: American Journal of Veterinary Research 79, 5; 10.2460/ajvr.79.5.480

“The fact that we don't do a wildlife IRIS across the country wastes lots of money” and potentially endangers animals in those areas through unnecessary habitat destruction, Dr. Fairbrother said.

Condensed from April 15, 2018, JAVMA News

NOAA, NGOs debate effects of ocean farms on wildlife

Federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico have been open to fish farming for two years, but no farms yet exist.

In January 2016, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Service issued a rule that would let companies apply for 10-year permits to farm fish in federal waters of the Gulf, with five-year renewals thereafter. Up to 20 entities could operate beyond state waters in the U.S. “Exclusive Economic Zone,” mostly between 3 and 200 miles offshore, although no company had filed a permit application as of mid-February 2018.

Paul W. Zajicek, executive director of the National Aquaculture Association, suspects companies interested in starting offshore farms are waiting for results of a federal lawsuit against the fisheries service. If the service's plan is upheld, he expects that gaining permits still will require years in a complex approval process.

Nine organizations with economic, environmental, or food safety causes allege in a lawsuit that the proposed farms would hurt wildlife and ecosystems and take money from fishing communities.

In the approval process, NOAA would require that a farm operator have a contract with a veterinarian or someone certified by the American Fisheries Society's Fish Health Section as a fish pathologist or health inspector. AVMA leaders plan to host a meeting sometime in 2018 on the regulatory aspects of veterinarians working in federal waters, although details are forthcoming.

Condensed from April 15, 2018, JAVMA News

Animal sentinels sounding the alert

Veterinarians are accustomed to protecting animal health, but in some instances, animals end up protecting human health. The idea that pets can help identify problems that may threaten human health is certainly nothing new. More recently, reports of reproductive problems in animal populations, including developmental abnormalities and behavioral disturbances, have prompted concerns that chemical exposures could be affecting both animals and humans. The evidence linking animal disease events to human health is limited, but such links have become an emerging field of study that is being led by veterinarians.

For example, Dr. Gregory Bossart, senior vice president and chief veterinary officer at the Georgia Aquarium, and his colleagues started the Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin Health and Environmental Risk Assessment Project in 2003 when he was director of the Marine Mammal Research and Conservation Program at Florida Atlantic University. HERA was designed to evaluate the individual and population health of bottlenose dolphins in two southeastern U.S. coastal regions: Charleston, South Carolina, and the Indian River Lagoon, Florida.

“What was interesting in the 360 dolphins studied was we found various infectious and noninfectious diseases that parallel emerging public health and environmental issues,” Dr. Bossart said. Specifically, the HERA research team found that the dolphins had some of the highest concentrations of mercury ever found in marine mammals. They looked at coastal human populations and found they, too, had high concentrations of mercury. Currently, Dr. Bossart and the HERA research team are looking at pregnant women in the area and testing for mercury exposure to see how important a public health issue this might be.


Dr. Gregory Bossart checks for respiratory health as part of an examination on a wild dolphin during a 2015 health and environmental risk assessment project. (Photo by Georgia Aquarium/Addison Hill)

Citation: American Journal of Veterinary Research 79, 5; 10.2460/ajvr.79.5.480

Condensed from April 15, 2018, JAVMA News

PennVet hires new dean

Dr. Andrew Hoffman has been named the next Gilbert S. Kahn Dean of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, effective Aug. 1. Dr. Hoffman is currently director of the Regenerative Medicine Laboratory and professor of large animal internal medicine at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. Pennsylvania's School of Veterinary Medicine made the announcement Feb. 28.

At Tufts, Dr. Hoffman's leadership of regenerative medicine and stem cell research programs resulted in important contributions to both animal and human health. He also helped build and lead what it says is the world's first outpatient pulmonary function testing laboratory for equine and canine patients. Dr. Hoffman has led the Tufts Lung Function Laboratory for more than 20 years and served for five years as director of the Tufts Equine Sports Medicine Program.

Dr. Hoffman is a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine, past president of the Veterinary Comparative Research Society, and a member of the International Society for Stem Cell Research.


Dr. Andrew Hoffman

Citation: American Journal of Veterinary Research 79, 5; 10.2460/ajvr.79.5.480

He received his veterinary degree from Cornell University in 1985 and holds a doctorate in veterinary science from the University of Guelph in Canada.

The selection of Dr. Hoffman concludes a global search to identify a successor to Dr. Joan Hendricks, who is retiring after serving as dean since 2006.

Dr. Hendricks has served more than 30 years on the Penn faculty, where she garnered acclaim for her work in veterinary clinical care and in the biology of sleep.

Condensed from April 15, 2018, JAVMA News

American College of Veterinary Microbiologists

Following the certification examination it held Nov. 10–11, 2017, in Denver, the American College of Veterinary Microbiologists welcomed 13 new diplomates—two of them certified in 2017 in two categories—and recognized two diplomates who previously were certified and became dual-certified in 2017. The college also conferred honorary member status on Dr. Qijing Zhang, Ames, Iowa. The new diplomates are as follows:


Emma Jane Kelly, Springville, Utah

* Owais Khan, College Station, Texas Constanze Kirchgaessner, Berlin Sonja Kittl, Bern, Switzerland

**Yung-Yi C. Mosley, West Lafayette, Indiana

Flavien Ndongo Kasse, St. Hyacinthe, Quebec

**Domenico Santoro, Gainesville, Florida

Marianne Schneeberger, Einigen, Switzerland


**Yung-Yi C. Mosley, West Lafayette, Indiana

**Domenico Santoro, Gainesville, Florida

Kerry Sondgeroth, Laramie, Wyoming


Vincenzo Lorusso, Paris Yoko Nagamori, Stillwater, Oklahoma

Jessica Y. Rodriguez, Rio Hondo, Texas

Adriano F. Vatta, Richland, Michigan


* Abdul G. Lone, Pullman, Washington

Sivakumar Periasamy, Albany, New York

*Dr. Khan was previously certified in virology and Dr. Lone was previously certified in bacteriology/mycology.

**Drs. Mosley and Santoro were certified in both bacteriology/mycology and immunology in 2017.

From April 15, 2018, JAVMA News.

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