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    A veterinarian with Banfield Pet Hospital delivers care to a patient. (Courtesy of Mars Veterinary Health)

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    Dr. Jennifer Scaccianoce, a clinical assistant professor at Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine, organized a collective kneel in support of White Coats for Black Lives. (Photo by Dave Gieseke/ISU)

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    An illustration of drug-resistant nontyphoidal Salmonella (Courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

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    Dr. Tracy Farone, a veterinarian who is a professor of biology at Grove City College and a board member of the Honey Bee Veterinary Consortium, holds a new hive frame. (Photo by Deidra Ressler)

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    Dr. Carol Liew, a veterinarian at Companion Animal Surgery in Singapore, wrote about her experiences at work and at home during the COVID-19 pandemic in a lockdown diary for the World Small Animal Veterinary Association. (Courtesy of Dr. Liew)

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    One of the goals of the United Horse Coalition is to help at-risk horses. In recent efforts, the coalition has released an Equine Resource Database for horse owners to find help, available at jav.ma/database. (Courtesy of the United Horse Coalition)

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JAVMA News Digest

New school year brings hybrid curriculum

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A veterinarian with Banfield Pet Hospital delivers care to a patient. (Courtesy of Mars Veterinary Health)

Citation: American Journal of Veterinary Research 81, 9; 10.2460/ajvr.81.9.692

How do you fit 100 students in a lecture hall when they must stay 6 feet apart? That's a question many veterinary educators are working to answer.

Dr. Laura Nelson, associate dean and director of academic affairs at North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine, said classrooms at the veterinary college aren't big enough for the average student class of 100 students because of COVID-19–related social distancing.

“When those realities sank in, we realized we needed to adapt,” Dr. Nelson said. “We can't fill our rooms like we are used to.”

JAVMA News spoke with several veterinary college deans about how they plan to educate students this fall in the face of safety, health, and budgetary concerns related to COVID-19. Some veterinary colleges report moving the semester start date up and adopting a hybrid curriculum that will break students into smaller groups, with half on campus and the other half online at any given time.

NC State's veterinary college planned to, beginning in August, break its preclinical students into 25-person subgroups for on-campus laboratory sessions, with only 150 students on campus at any one time. Some lectures will be offered via distance learning.

The University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine, and Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine were the first three institutions to bring fourth-year students back to campus for clinical rotations in June.

Dr. Carolyn J. Henry, dean of Mizzou's veterinary college, said some fourth-year students returned in June, and others returned in July, depending on the rotation they were on.

Most veterinary colleges are breaking up their fourth-year student cohort into smaller groups, while also providing more distance learning options.

JAVMA News Digest provides a selection of articles, mostly condensed from JAVMA News. The complete articles are available at avma.org/javma-news.

Dr. Henry said half of the 120 fourth-year students will work remotely, and half will do hands-on work in the clinic. She said some of the changes allow for a better learning experience.

“If you have gone to veterinary school, you know when you go through clinical rotations, if there are a lot of students, you may not get to do much. But in this way, the day you are on, you are hands on. You don't have to wait around,” Dr. Henry said. “In that regard, as a student, I would have preferred it.”

Dr. Henry said she expects some practices, such as offering more online content and distance learning opportunities, to continue even after a COVID-19 vaccine is released or public health guidelines are relaxed.

“I don't want to glorify COVID-19, but there is a lot of good coming from it,” she said. “We are moving forward in a different way, but we are going to make it better.”

Dr. James Thompson, dean of the UT veterinary college, said the veterinary teaching hospital reopened to students on June 1, and the staff faced a potential COVID-19 case nearly a week later.

“It makes us nervous because we are bringing people in from multiple places, and we are trying to control a pandemic we are not immune to,” said Dr. Thompson. “I am looking forward to a vaccine so we can have our people working shoulder to shoulder.”

A person became sick in early June. Leadership performed contract tracing and found 16 people who had potentially been exposed. Those individuals self-quarantined for 14 days.

Dr. Thompson said it is not if the virus will infect people but when.

Condensed from Aug. 1, 2020, JAVMA News

Veterinary colleges committed to anti-racism, say Black lives matter

Greater recognition of systemic racism and calls for social justice have come in the wake of the most recent killings of Black individuals by police, including George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and the resulting protests. And a growing number of white people are becoming aware of how they may have benefited from a system built on racial inequities.

How to increase diversity within the veterinary profession has been an ongoing conversation for many years. The Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges created its DiVersity Matters initiative in 2005, the same year the AVMA created its Task Force on Diversity.

In the past 15 years, the number of underrepresented minority students enrolled in veterinary college has increased by over 11 percentage points, according to public data from the AAVMC, but 80% of the veterinary student population is white.

Dr. Andrew T. Maccabe, CEO of the AAVMC, said now is the time for more action.

“It is far too easy for us to say civil rights and social justice are for lawyers and social workers, but that's not right,” he said. “These things require every sector of society. We need to figure out what our role as veterinarians is. … This is an uncomfortable conversation and discussion for a lot of people, and that's OK. It is OK to be uncomfortable. Some people have been uncomfortable for a long time, and I think it is OK if everyone else is uncomfortable, too.”

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Dr. Jennifer Scaccianoce, a clinical assistant professor at Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine, organized a collective kneel in support of White Coats for Black Lives. (Photo by Dave Gieseke/ISU)

Citation: American Journal of Veterinary Research 81, 9; 10.2460/ajvr.81.9.692

Many veterinary colleges have released statements standing with the Black Lives Matter movement and the Black community and started book clubs to discuss anti-racism. Some are discussing how they plan to take further action.

Condensed from Aug. 15, 2020, JAVMA News

Guiding drug use, changing practices

When veterinarians are considering how to treat infections, AVMA officials hope a new report will help bring a panel of experts into the room.

Dr. Paul J. Plummer, who led the AVMA Committee on Antimicrobial's development of “Antimicrobial Resistant Pathogens Affecting Animal Health in the United States,” said veterinarians conduct complex evaluations when choosing the best medical option to treat infections. Their decisions become easier with more information, whether it comes from bacterial culture and antimicrobial susceptibility testing or resources such as the AVMA report, which describes trends in resistance by animal species, pathogen, and drug.

“This document gives you that scientific subject matter expertise of individuals in each of these host species,” he said.

At press time, the AVMA was finalizing edits on the document ahead of the AVMA Virtual Convention 2020, hosted online this year rather than in person, Aug. 20–22. A one-hour session, “AVMA Antimicrobial Pathogens Report,” describes the document and how veterinarians can use it.

Dr. Plummer, professor of veterinary diagnostic and production animal medicine at Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine, said the goal is to help veterinarians become aware of certain diseases and bacterial pathogens with concerning levels of antimicrobial resistance, which could affect animal health. Heightened awareness of that potential for resistance could influence treatment decisions.

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An illustration of drug-resistant nontyphoidal Salmonella (Courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Citation: American Journal of Veterinary Research 81, 9; 10.2460/ajvr.81.9.692

Condensed from Aug. 15, 2020, JAVMA News

United States to miss food safety goals

Numbers of confirmed illnesses in humans resulting from common foodborne pathogens have risen or remained level for several years, putting the U.S. on track to miss 2020 reduction targets.

Better tests and more testing may help explain why the numbers have not fallen, but to reach its goals, the U.S. needs more work to reduce food contamination, according to authors of an article published this spring in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Among the findings, the authors wrote that preliminary 2019 data show confirmed illness counts for Listeria, Salmonella, and Shigella have remained unchanged over several years, and confirmed illness counts for the other five pathogens tracked by the CDC's Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network increased.

The network is part of the CDC's Emerging Infections Program, which collects laboratory-confirmed infection data from 10 areas that together contain about 15% of the U.S. population.

“FoodNet surveillance data indicate that progress in controlling major foodborne pathogens in the United States has stalled,” the article states. “To better protect the public and achieve forthcoming Healthy People 2030 foodborne disease reduction goals, more widespread implementation of known prevention measures and new strategies that target particular pathogens and serotypes are needed.”

In 2019, the most common confirmed illnesses were caused by, in order: Campylobacter, Salmonella, Shiga toxin–producing Escherichia coli, and Shigella.

Condensed from Aug. 1, 2020, JAVMA News

Veterinarians and beekeepers: An arranged marriage

Veterinarians are still working to gain the trust of beekeepers in the wake of a federal rule that went into effect in 2017 bringing veterinarians and beekeepers together.

Dr. Terry Ryan Kane, a bee veterinarian in Michigan and secretary for the Honey Bee Veterinary Consortium, said the bee community did not anticipate the rule, which restricts beekeepers from using certain antimicrobials in honeybees without a veterinary feed directive or prescription from a veterinarian.

“Most livestock producers have a relationship with a veterinarian,” Dr. Ryan Kane said. “That was not true for the beekeeping community. We are establishing relationships now. … Someday it will be routine for veterinarians to be involved in the bee industry, but we are not there yet.”

Historically in the U.S., beekeepers and veterinarians have had very little interaction, and beekeepers were able to administer over-the-counter antimicrobials themselves. Dr. Ryan Kane compared the current situation with how veterinarians became involved with fisheries nearly 40 years ago. She said, “Back in the '80s, we went through this with fisheries, when aquaculture was starting to grab hold in the U.S.”

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Dr. Tracy Farone, a veterinarian who is a professor of biology at Grove City College and a board member of the Honey Bee Veterinary Consortium, holds a new hive frame. (Photo by Deidra Ressler)

Citation: American Journal of Veterinary Research 81, 9; 10.2460/ajvr.81.9.692

Dr. Ryan Kane, a backyard beekeeper herself, knows some veterinarians who just happen to also be beekeepers for fun.

Beekeepers are broken into three categories: backyarders, who keep only a few hives; sideliners, who have between 50 and 100 hives; and commercial beekeepers, who operate with over 300 hives.

There were 2.67 million bee colonies in January 2019, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Condensed from Aug. 1, 2020, JAVMA News

Pet poison control calls rise with COVID-19–related cleaning

Pets are being sickened or hurt by cleaning, disinfectant, and sanitizing products as people try to guard against COVID-19.

Dr. Ahna Brutlag, director of veterinary services for the Pet Poison Helpline, said hotline operators saw a spike in calls related to cleaning products starting in March—well above the usual spring cleaning bump. By mid-June, the volume of calls about cleaning and disinfecting products remained more than double the volume for the same period in 2019.

Dr. Tina Wismer, senior director of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals' Animal Poison Control Center, said that, when comparing the first five months of 2019 and 2020, her center saw a 65% increase in calls related to potential poisonings from household cleaning products.

From March through May, the Pet Poison Helpline's overall call volume was up 43% from the same period in 2019. By mid-June, the overall call volume remained at a historic peak, Dr. Brutlag said.

“Our call volume is higher than we've ever experienced it before,” she said.

Most of the hotline's calls about household chemicals related to accidental exposures, Dr. Brutlag said. Pets may drink out of mop buckets, lick their paws after placing them on cleaner-covered counter tops, eat food-coated wipes out of the trash, or drink from water bowls that were disinfected but not rinsed.

Some of this year's calls were about pets exposed to alcohol-based hand sanitizers, occasionally used directly on pets.

Condensed from Aug. 1, 2020, JAVMA News

Pandemic takes global toll on profession

Dr. Carol Liew, a veterinarian at Companion Animal Surgery in Singapore, described the COVID-19 pandemic as turning the world upside down, “posing one of the greatest challenges humanity has ever faced.”

Writing in a lockdown diary for the World Small Animal Veterinary Association, she went on, “Despite this, the veterinary industry marches on and we continue to provide essential services for animal health and wellbeing.”

Dr. Patricia Turner, president of the World Veterinary Association, said the concept of the essential role of veterinarians was not adopted universally by all countries, or there was a delay in doing so, making it difficult for some veterinarians to continue to do their work.

Veterinarians who could continue to practice shifted their mindset to develop alternate means of working with clients through telehealth and to provide alternate means for clients to purchase goods other than coming into a clinic.

Dr. Turner said, “Because in many regions of the world, there has been a significant impact on employment and a downward spiral of the local economy, clients are less able to afford health care for their animals—of all species.” This together with the restriction for conducting nonemergency animal health services has resulted in a significant reduction in revenue for veterinarians and the need to furlough or lay off support staff members.

Veterinary colleges in many regions were able to complete the school year by switching to an online teaching format, but not all institutions had that option. Various restrictions created uncertainty regarding how veterinary students would complete applied components of their training.

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Dr. Carol Liew, a veterinarian at Companion Animal Surgery in Singapore, wrote about her experiences at work and at home during the COVID-19 pandemic in a lockdown diary for the World Small Animal Veterinary Association. (Courtesy of Dr. Liew)

Citation: American Journal of Veterinary Research 81, 9; 10.2460/ajvr.81.9.692

Condensed from Aug. 15, 2020, JAVMA News

Heartworm prevalent in South, expanding in other hot spots

Heartworm disease has become more common in hot spots across the U.S. and remains prevalent in the Southeast, Gulf Coast, and lower Mississippi Valley.

Dr. Chris Duke, president of the American Heartworm Society, said the organization's 2019 survey showed rising numbers of infections with Dirofilaria immitis in Boston, Chicago, Las Vegas, and Minneapolis, as well as in smaller cities such as Durant, Oklahoma, and Redding, California.

Dr. Doug Carithers, AHS vice president and longtime survey chair, said those hot spots are often associated with animal movement, including when dogs move from shelters in high-incidence areas to shelters in low-incidence areas. He's glad shelters and veterinarians identified the infections reported in the survey because, without testing and preventive use, mosquitoes around the dogs' new homes could have spread heartworm disease throughout entire neighborhoods.

“Veterinarians and staff typically feel really comfortable in understanding heartworms, but they don't realize how ignorant their clients are about heartworms,” Dr. Carithers said. “And they aren't taking the time to go ahead and explain how heartworm disease is transmitted.”

The survey also shows overall declines in infections in the West.

The AHS conducts surveys on heartworm testing results every three years. About 6,000 veterinary practices and animal shelters provided data for the 2019 survey.

AHS officials said survey results show a gradual rise in the number of U.S. dogs with heartworm disease—about 12% since the organization's first survey 18 years earlier.

Condensed from Aug. 1, 2020, JAVMA News

COVID-19 may cause an increase in horse surrenders

Equine welfare experts are working to prevent and prepare for a potential surge in horse surrenders because of COVID-19–related financial challenges.

“Horses are expensive, there is no polite way to say it,” said Emily Stearns, the program manager of the Equine Welfare Data Collective, a program created by the United Horse Coalition to collect data and track equine welfare trends. “If people are losing their jobs, they're at risk of downsizing and not being able to house their horse.”

In May, the unemployment rate was 13.3%, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Stearns said one of the differences between large and small animal sheltering is cost. While small animal veterinary care can be expensive, equine care can be three times the price.

“Financial awareness has always been a front-and-center issue in supporting at-risk horses,” Stearns said. “Financial difficulties are always going to have a large cause and effect in equine welfare.”

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One of the goals of the United Horse Coalition is to help at-risk horses. In recent efforts, the coalition has released an Equine Resource Database for horse owners to find help, available at jav.ma/database. (Courtesy of the United Horse Coalition)

Citation: American Journal of Veterinary Research 81, 9; 10.2460/ajvr.81.9.692

One of the goals of the United Horse Coalition is to help at-risk horses. In recent efforts, the coalition has released an Equine Resource Database for horse owners to find help, available at jav.ma/database.

The equine community has seen an increase in grant funding and nonprofit support since March from organizations such as the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Hay banks, community efforts that help feed horses during challenging times, have been key supporters for horse owners during the pandemic.

Condensed from Aug. 15, 2020, JAVMA News

Education council schedules site visits

The AVMA Council on Education has scheduled site visits to three schools and colleges of veterinary medicine for the remainder of 2020. Comprehensive site visits are planned for the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, Oct. 4–8; the University College Dublin School of Veterinary Medicine, Nov. 15–19; and the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine, Dec. 6–10.

The council welcomes written comments on these plans or the programs to be evaluated. Comments should be addressed to Dr. Karen Martens Brandt, Director, Education and Research Division, AVMA, 1931 N. Meacham Road, Suite 100, Schaumburg, IL 60173. Comments must be signed by the person submitting them to be considered.

From Aug. 1, 2020, JAVMA News

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