COLORADO STATE AWARDED $2M GRANT FOR BIOSECURITY RESEARCH
Colorado State University in July announced a $2 million commitment from The Anschutz Foundation to further the development of new solutions for building resilience and agility in stopping infectious disease transmission among animals and people.
The grant will be funded over two years and used to sponsor new interdisciplinary research teams and graduate students. CSU leaders say increasing diversity in these teams and graduate students will be an important component of the grant. The grant will also fund one of the first comprehensive cyber biosecurity programs to protect health data in the nation.
Christian Anschutz, president of The Anschutz Foundation, said in a statement that CSU’s dedication to the one-health model was a key factor in making the contribution.
“We recognize that the integrated, interdisciplinary approach at CSU is key to the future of addressing infectious disease with resilience and agility,” Anschutz said. “This is a way to help ensure that the impact of the next outbreak is quickly minimized, or possibly avoided entirely. A multidisciplined approach is the best way to stop a pandemic.”
Areas of focus include enhanced monitoring and surveillance for the emergence of infectious disease threats that could lead to widespread consequences, agile production and distribution of countermeasures such as therapeutics and vaccines, social and cultural practices that could influence societal response to outbreaks, and the protection of critical health data used in research and response.
EDUCATION COUNCIL SCHEDULES SITE VISITS
The AVMA Council on Education has scheduled site visits to eight schools and colleges of veterinary medicine for the remainder of 2021. Comprehensive site visits are planned for Long Island University College of Veterinary Medicine, Oct. 10-14; Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, Oct. 24-28; Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Nov. 7-11; and The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Nov. 14-18.
In accordance with the AVMA Council on Education policy regarding site visits conducted virtually because of COVID-19, verification site visits are planned for North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Oct. 28-Nov. 1; the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine, Oct. 31-Nov. 3; the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, Nov. 8-10; and Texas Tech University School of Veterinary Medicine, Nov. 21-23.
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.
AKC CANINE HEALTH FOUNDATION HONORS OTTO
The American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation announced Aug. 5 that Dr. Cynthia Otto is the recipient of the 2021 Asa Mays, DVM Excellence in Canine Health Research Award.
The cornerstone of Dr. Otto’s AKC Canine Health Foundation–funded research has been the 9/11 Medical Surveillance Study, now in its 20th year. Since 2001, Dr. Otto has received almost $600,000 in funding to study the consequences of the deployment of search and rescue dogs to the 9/11 disaster sites. To date, the work has produced 11 peer-reviewed publications describing the short- and long-term effects of deployment on toxicosis, behavior, mortality, the dog-handler relationship, and more.
Data analysis from the 9/11 Medical Surveillance Study is ongoing with funding through a grant from the AKC Canine Health Foundation titled “Analysis of the health, behavioral, and longevity data collected in the 9/11 Medical Surveillance Longitudinal Study.”
A day in the life of an emergency veterinary clinic
COVID-19 has upended many things, including the practice of veterinary medicine
Story and photos by Malinda Larkin
The Sunday afternoon sun streams through the windows of Iowa Veterinary Specialties’ reception area, which stretches lengthwise, enough to comfortably seat at least a dozen clients. But none are there. Instead, they sit in their cars in the parking lot, the engines humming in unison.
Inside the reception area, the only sound is the low din from phones ringing and receptionists talking on the phone with clients. Often the conversations go like this:
“Thank you for calling Iowa Veterinary Specialties. This is Courtney, how can I help you?”
A pet owner asks how long the wait would be for a walk-in appointment.
“We are pretty busy today. I’d say it’s a one- to two-hour wait before a doctor can see you. ”
The owner says she’ll come back Monday.
About every 20 minutes, an overhead announcement breaks the relative quiet to summon a veterinary technician to the front for an emergency case.
In mid-June, the emergency and specialty veterinary clinic in Des Moines, Iowa, was days away from allowing clients back in the building. It was yet another transition to navigate for the staff members, something they had already done a lot of during the COVID-19 pandemic. They’ve gone from the early days of the pandemic, with figuring out what COVID-19 biosafety protocols to put in place and how to do curbside service, to not knowing when staff members would be able to get vaccinated or how to procure personal protective equipment in short supply to now figuring out how to stay fully staffed and meet the demand for services.
Pre-COVID, the veterinary profession had already been dealing with staff turnover, productivity and efficiency problems, and mental health and well-being issues. Now those matters have become exacerbated with delayed client visits and pent-up consumer demand. According to national data from analytics company VetSuccess, appointments in veterinary practices are up 4-6% overall, which is healthy albeit not skyrocketing growth. While some local experiences may differ from the national average, this healthy growth in visits, coupled with additional productivity declines related to COVID-19 and increased staff turnover, has impacted workloads and created an overall sense of busyness.
JAVMA News spoke with veterinarians and other staff members at Iowa Veterinary Specialties to get a feel for how one clinic is managing during this unprecedented time.
EVERYTHING MADE A LITTLE HARDER
A sign in Dr. Angie Gearhart’s office reads, “Everything is figureoutable.” As medical director at IVS, she’s had to figure out a lot in the past 18 months.
She joined IVS in March 2019, with hopes of improving biosecurity and surveillance in the clinic. Then COVID hit, and that became her focus, developing standard operating procedures on how to provide essential services during the pandemic while minimizing possible exposure of staff members and clients to SARS-CoV-2. The clinic quickly adopted mask-wearing and had to remove the shared silverware. For a while, “I felt like I was the most hated person in the clinic,” Dr. Gearhart said.
Before COVID, it already took an hour or so before an emergency patient was seen by a veterinarian. Pet owners would come in, and the receptionist would walk them to an examination room, then step out and page a veterinary technician. After conducting an evaluation and taking a history, the veterinary technician would get a veterinarian.
Receptionist Caitlin Dozark said that since the clinic implemented curbside service in March 2020, she triages more than she normally would just to be safe.
“If a dog comes in with respiratory distress, you can obviously see that,” Dozark said. But if pet owners are on the phone, “I’ve noticed some owners will overreact, like with a broken toenail. But some others underreact, and they don’t know the dog is in critical condition. So they don’t really convey that to you on the phone. And then you see the dog, and you’re like, ‘I had no idea. They didn’t make it seem like this is happening.’ That definitely makes the job a little harder.”
With curbside service, the veterinarian examined each patient, made a plan, and then called the client to go over the information, provide an estimate, and determine what the client wanted to do. The veterinarian would offer a spectrum of care and then proceed from there.
Dr. Lena Ribbey, one of the practice’s emergency veterinarians, had just started working her first few shifts at IVS when COVID hit. She said the pandemic changed the way the emergency veterinarians operated, with them not being able to show pet owners what’s wrong and having to explain radiographs and ultrasound images verbally. Once the owner consented to treatment, a staff member emailed the owner, who signed off and left a deposit before going home.
“At the beginning, it was really inefficient,” she said. Should the veterinarian call the owner after getting temperature, pulse, and respiration? “Then we started getting more efficient.”
She said the emergency veterinarians always start with a plan that includes an ideal diagnostic workup, but then will work with owners to determine what meets their needs, including their budget.
“I’ve seen a lot of higher compliance because of the pandemic,” Dr. Ribbey said. “People have lost a lot already, and their pet means a lot to them. And people are sitting at home and seeing their pets more.”
DEALING WITH STAFF SHORTFALLS
Not knowing early on how the clinic would be affected financially, Dr. Gearhart said, administrators were careful with money. Staff members wanted hazard pay and bonuses, but administrators weren’t sure how much costs for supplies were going to increase, and they didn’t want to have to let people go. By September 2020, they were able to give bonuses and raises.
IVS has still suffered gaps in staffing numbers, though, like many other clinics. Even though only six staff members have become ill with COVID-19, and the cases didn’t appear to be related, staff members who got tested had to stay home until their results came back negative. If the results were positive, staff members stayed home for two weeks, and the clinic had to notify people they worked with and tell those contacts to get tested if they had clinical signs.
“But early on, it was taking 10 days to get a COVID test back. And so you’d wait, and you’d have employees off for 10 days to find out they were negative, which was great, but then you’ve been 10 days without employees,” Dr. Gearhart said.
Also contributing to staffing challenges was figuring out child care. Of the 15 veterinarians on the staff, four have been pregnant or recently gave birth, increasing the number of staff members who need to find and coordinate child care amid the pandemic.
The clinic leaned more into flexible schedules, telling people to come in when they could so they could be there for their kids when needed. “The most important thing we do is raise kids,” Dr. Gearhart said.
Dr. Shelby Mangus, one of the emergency veterinarians, had just gotten back from short-term leave after having her baby in January. She said that on her first day back, she was surprised how the other veterinarians didn’t seem concerned about a backlog of patients.
Dr. Mangus usually works on Wednesdays and would see two to three cases in a day; now it’s more like eight cases.
“I can tell there’s a big difference and that it’s busier. I keep thinking it’s me, but it’s not,” she said.
TAKING IT AS CASES COME
It used to be, for example, the clinic would have a dog with a suspected urinary tract infection on a Saturday night. The clinic would do diagnostics, prescribe antimicrobials as appropriate, and send the dog home, telling the owners to follow up with their primary care veterinarian. But suddenly, no one could get in for a 10-day checkup. Or one client’s veterinarian couldn’t do a cystotomy until four months out. “So we’d call their primary doctor to ask if we can do it, and they’d say yes because they don’t have the time,” Dr. Gearhart said.
More recently, what’s been contributing to the increase in cases has been another local emergency clinic diverting cases—at least three times a week. IVS was getting cases from as far as six hours away over the summer because other emergency clinics have been diverting patients, too. “Which is overwhelming,” Dr. Gearhart said, “because we also don’t know when they’re going to do it. So then clients just show up and think that there’s no wait, which is super frustrating.”
Criticalists and residents from Iowa State do fill-in work at IVS, such as Dr. April Blong, who is a clinical assistant professor at Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine. IVS has also been hiring, on average, seven or eight people a month, Dr. Gearhart said. Before COVID, the clinic had 54-58 employees; now it has 81. It has tripled its overnight support staff coverage.
Retention has been an issue. Dr. Gearhart concedes that emergency work is different and very high volume. She said the new hires that the clinic lost mostly didn’t understand what they were getting into, although the clinic has lost a few long-standing employees, too.
“If you do the right thing, it will all work out in the end,” she said.
Veterinary technician, other staff members talk about pandemic experiences
Veterinary professionals share challenges related to work-life balance, client issues
By Kaitlyn Mattson
Months into the pandemic, Ashli Selke, a credentialed veterinary technician, was overwhelmed.
“I was crying on the way to work,” she said. Selke is president-elect of the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America. She works for Purdue University in its veterinary nursing program as a clinical laboratory coordinator. However, in 2020, she worked as a surgical supervisor at a 24/7 emergency and specialty veterinary clinic.
Practices may have quickly adapted with new COVID-19 safety protocols to ensure the continued provision of quality patient care. But these same changes also limited team efficiency and productivity and continue into the present.
Many practices also have struggled with temporary or permanent losses of staff members, meaning these businesses have had to operate with a suboptimal number of employees.
Veterinary technicians already had one of the highest annual turnover rates of all health care positions at just over 25%. The current conditions appear to have further contributed to reduced job satisfaction or even burnout for some.
Meghan Bingham, a practice manager at West Alabama Animal Clinic in Houston, said the staff is tired and stressed.
“We are trying our very best to maintain our level of care, customer service, and communication, but it’s been a struggle,” Bingham said. “Customers have cried and yelled and cursed.”
Selke also experienced upset clients and bad reviews. She was working longer hours and suffering from compassion fatigue, and the hospital was understaffed.
“I was getting really upset client calls who couldn’t handle the wait,” Selke said. “People were mean. It was hard on me. With the pandemic, there was shortened staff and triple the caseload. I was working close to 60 hours weekly just to try and keep up. It started to weigh on me.”
Selke eventually checked herself into an in-patient mental health facility for a week and started taking antidepressants.
She decided to step down from her position but stayed on an additional six months until a suitable candidate could be found and trained. She worked to set new obtainable goals and boundaries so her successor would not go through the same situation.
Gerard Gervasi, hospital administrator at Collierville Animal Clinic in Collierville, Tennessee, said the veterinary industry has been impacted by COVID-19 in unimaginable ways, and people are experiencing more than just burnout.
“Unfortunately, the pandemic has left our veterinary and lay staff emotionally depleted and has in some instances left us in a work-life crisis,” Gervasi said. “Once we find the end of the tunnel, the industry leaders will need to address the staff concerns and find meaningful ways to bring the balance back into their lives.”
Selke said that at her previous job, “No one was getting raises or any support for the continuous onslaught of new duties or the overwhelming patient-technician-veterinarian ratio.”
“I hope the profession advances from this and comes out stronger and we as veterinary technicians can state our boundaries without fear of reprimand as well as our value to the profession, and that is conveyed through our compensation with livable wages and benefits.”
People ingesting veterinary-use ivermectin in attempts to prevent, cure COVID-19
Misuse of the antiparasitic causes shortages, rise in poison control calls
By Greg Cima
State and federal authorities repeated warnings that people shouldn’t take ivermectin approved for livestock use in attempts to prevent or treat COVID-19.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that prescriptions for human-use formulations also had risen dramatically even though the drug is not approved for use in treating COVID-19 in any form. The World Health Organization also recommends against administering ivermectin to patients with COVID-19 except during a clinical trial.
Food and Drug Administration officials have been warning since at least March that people shouldn’t ingest ivermectin formulated for nonhuman animals.
On Aug. 30, FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine officials said in a letter to veterinarians and animal product retailers that people have become seriously ill from consuming highly concentrated ivermectin formulations, such as pour-on products, injectable products, pastes, and drenches meant for horses, cattle, and sheep. Agency officials also were receiving reports of local shortages of some veterinary-use approved ivermectin products, and they called for veterinarians and animal caretakers to report difficulties obtaining those drugs to AnimalDrugShortages@fda.hhs.gov.
They also called for veterinarians and retailers to report false claims about ivermectin and COVID-19 by sending messages to FDA-COVID-19-Fraudulent-Products@fda.hhs.gov or calling 888-InfoFDA (888-463-6332). And they created a warning sign that veterinarians and retailers could post or distribute, available at jav.ma/ivermectin.
REGIONAL IMPACTS AT POISON CONTROL CENTERS
Poison control officials said in August they were receiving substantial numbers of calls from people experiencing side effects—mostly mild illnesses—from consuming veterinary-use ivermectin. Some poison control centers across the U.S. were receiving five times as many calls about human exposures to ivermectin in July 2021 as compared with a pre-pandemic baseline. The reports of ivermectin misuse coincided with rising numbers of SARS-CoV-2 infections.
Authorities with the Mississippi State Department of Public Health warned Aug. 20 that the Mississippi Poison Control Center had received an increase in the number of calls from people who had ingested ivermectin to treat or prevent COVID-19. Two days earlier, department officials said in a press conference that hospitals in the state needed help during what had become the worst point in the pandemic, and they expected the situation would worsen.
Officials from the Mississippi Poison Control Center, located at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, indicated about 2% of calls received by the center from Aug. 1-25 were related to ivermectin. Of those calls, 70% were connected with formulations intended for livestock or other nonhuman animals.
Mark Winter, PhD, director of the Southeast Texas Poison Center in Galveston, said Aug. 27 that Texas’ network of poison control centers had received about 301 ivermectin calls in 2021, 82 of them since the start of the month. The centers received about 200 calls annually in 2019 and 2020, and a typical case in past years involved an accidental exposure while treating an animal.
MISUSE CAN HAVE DANGEROUS CONSEQUENCES
Dr. Winter described one recent call to his poison control center from a woman whose boyfriend, a man in his 30s, had eaten the full contents of an oral administration syringe of horse-deworming ivermectin paste. The dose would have been appropriate for a 1,250-pound animal, Dr. Winter said.
“I could hear him yelling from the background, ‘It’s apple flavored; it didn’t taste that bad,’” he said.
Dr. Winter tried to convince the woman that the man needed medical attention because that dose could cause neurologic and cardiac symptoms, in addition to the man’s nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Dr. Winter also learned the man had COVID-19 and thought a large dose would cure the disease.
In the warning first issued in March, FDA officials indicated it was understandable that some people sought unconventional treatments after living so long with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19. But such unproven, unapproved, and unauthorized treatments can cause serious harm.
Even the ivermectin products approved for use in human medicine can interact with blood thinners or other medications, FDA officials warn. Animal drugs, on the other hand, are often highly concentrated—especially those used in large animals such as horses and cows—and high doses of those drugs could be highly toxic in humans.
Ivermectin overdoses can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, hypotension, itchiness, hives, dizziness, loss of balance, seizures, and coma. Some overdoses can be fatal.
In addition, animal drugs often have inactive ingredients not evaluated for use in human medicine, and FDA officials don’t know how those ingredients affect drug absorption in a human body, FDA information states.
In a Q&A, agency officials acknowledged that a scientific article published in June 2020 by Antiviral Research describes positive results from use of ivermectin in a laboratory setting. But they also said such studies are common in the early stages of drug development, and additional testing is needed to determine whether ivermectin might be appropriate to prevent or treat COVID-19.
HUMAN-USE PRODUCT CONSUMPTION SURGING
Dr. Winter said some callers say they are taking ivermectin instead of getting vaccinated because ivermectin products have been made longer, so they assume medical professionals have more data on effects of those products than they have on the SARS-CoV-2 vaccines. But he said medical professionals lack information on the long-term effects of ivermectin on the human body, and some of these callers are taking it daily at three to four times the approved human-use doses.
Some take it in attempts to cure COVID-19 and others to prevent it, he said. Though people are often buying the veterinary-use products from farm supply stores, most of the calls are coming from Texas’ most populous counties.
On Aug. 26, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an advisory after seeing that retail pharmacies in the U.S. dispensed about 88,000 prescriptions for human-use ivermectin in the week ending Aug. 13, a 24-fold increase from an average of 3,600 prescriptions a week prior to the pandemic. The same day, the Houston Chronicle reported that Dr. Joseph Varon, chief medical officer at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, told the newspaper that he had been administering ivermectin to his COVID-19 patients since the start of the pandemic.
And, one day earlier, the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas published a statement indicating a medical provider for a county jail in northwestern Arkansas had prescribed ivermectin to treat inmates with COVID-19, despite FDA warnings. Holly Dickson, executive director of the ACLU of Arkansas, said in the organization’s statement that nobody, including incarcerated individuals, should be subject to medical experimentation.
The CDC data on ivermectin prescriptions come from retail pharmacies that together represent 92% of all retail prescription activity in human medicine.
In human medicine, ivermectin is FDA approved in oral formulations to treat onchocerciasis and intestinal strongyloidiasis and in topical formulations for head lice and rosacea. CDC officials advised that medical professionals educate patients about the risks of using ivermectin without a prescription or ingesting formulations meant for external or veterinary use.
HORSE RACING DEATHS DECREASING IN CALIFORNIA
By Malinda Larkin and Kaitlyn Mattson
A cluster of deaths at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California, in 2019 sparked changes across the horse racing industry.
Since then, the California Horse Racing Board reported a 50% decline in equine fatalities in California horse racing, dropping from 144 to 72 over the past two years. Trending downward since 2005, the number of equine fatalities declined by 40% over the last fiscal year alone, according to an Aug. 2 CHRB press release.
Dr. Alina Vale, an official veterinarian for the California Horse Racing Board, discussed horse racing safety during “Can Horse Racing in California Survive? Lessons learned from the CHRB’s Equine Postmortem Examination Review Program” on July 30 at AVMA Virtual Convention 2021.
“There are multiple equine welfare concerns across various equestrian disciplines,” Dr. Vale said. “Racehorse fatalities attract significant public attention.”
Dr. Vale is one of seven state- or track-hired veterinarians at Del Mar Racetrack in Del Mar, California, who observe and test horses from the time they leave their stalls through any drug testing after races are completed. She suggests that equine postmortem review programs can help the industry acknowledge and learn from fatal events.
“Our first goal is to reduce the fatality rate and then go beyond that and show that we do care about these horses and we are doing things to improve their welfare,” Dr. Vale said.
The CHRB Postmortem Examination Review Program through the California Animal Health and Safety Laboratory at the University of California-Davis has conducted about 60 postmortem reviews in the last 10 months, she said. Some of the initial findings suggest preexisting lesions, often subclinical, were present. More information about the Santa Anita Fatalities Report is at jav.ma/fatalityreport.
In addition, Dr. Susan Stover, director of the J.D. Wheat Veterinary Orthopedic Research Laboratory at UC-Davis, has conducted numerous studies that have provided insight into how various surface types at tracks and arenas impact equine athletes, according to an Aug. 9 press release from UC-Davis.
“Recent research from her laboratory discovered, characterized and described changes in proximal sesamoid bones that precede fracture and put racehorses at risk for catastrophic fracture, providing guidance to veterinarians for injury prevention and treatment,” the press release states. “With the concurrent introduction of standing equine positron emission tomography scanning, the changes discovered have allowed affected horses to be identified and rehabilitated for return to training and competition.”
Finally, according to the CHRB press release, Dr. Greg Ferraro, chair of the CHRB and former director of the UC-Davis Center for Equine Health, and the other commissioners have taken more than 40 regulatory actions over the past 19 months intended to better protect horses, including the following:
Requiring trainers to participate in a full postmortem examination review to make them aware of the nature of the injuries and to discuss ways to prevent such injuries in the future.
Allowing official veterinarians to require diagnostic imaging prior to removing horses from the restrictive Veterinarian’s List and permitting them to train or compete.
Prohibiting or severely restricting the use of bisphosphonates, thyroxine, extracorporeal shock wave therapy, and intra-articular injections prior to workouts and racing.
Taking substantial steps to make veterinary treatments transparent to authorities and, in certain cases, new owners.
In addition, the CHRB recently created the position of chief official veterinarian and named Dr. Timothy Grande, longtime official veterinarian on Southern California’s Thoroughbred circuit, to oversee veterinarians, veterinary procedures, and practices throughout the state.
PET-FRIENDLY RENTAL HOUSING COMES WITH RESTRICTIONS, HARD TO FIND
By Kaitlyn Mattson
More than 25 million pet owners are renters in the U.S., according to the Pet-Inclusive Housing Report.
Steven Feldman, executive director of the Human Animal Bond Research Institute, spoke during the session “Some Dogs Allowed: A Comprehensive Look at Pet-Friendly Rental Housing in America” on July 30 during AVMA Virtual Convention 2021. Feldman discussed the role of the veterinary community in supporting pet owners who are renters and data from the report.
The report is from HABRI and the Michelson Found Animals Foundation. The research from 2019 drew on a survey of 1,299 renters and 551 property owners and operators.
About 72% of renters said pet-friendly housing is hard to find, 59% said it’s too expensive, and 24% said that their pet has been the reason they needed to move, which means about 6 million renting households have moved because of their pets.
The research shows the biggest challenge is not necessarily a lack of pet-friendly housing but restrictions on pets. Restrictions can be based on the number of pets, size, weight, and breed. For example, some landlords only allow dogs that weigh 45 pounds or less.
According to the report, property owners and operators mentioned several reasons for these restrictions, such as protecting property from physical damage caused by pets and the perceived risk of larger animals and certain breeds harming people or property.
Seventy-six percent of property owners and operators say their properties are pet friendly, according to the report, but only 8% are free of any restrictions.
The pandemic has also added an extra layer to housing concerns. An estimated 19 million pets in the U.S. are living in households that are at risk of eviction, according to data from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
On Sept. 4, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention imposed a nationwide temporary federal moratorium on residential evictions for nonpayment of rent. The CDC order has since been extended multiple times, but it expired July 31. On Aug. 3, the CDC issued a new eviction moratorium through Oct. 3 for counties with heightened rates of COVID-19 community transmission, but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in an unsigned opinion on Aug. 26 that the federal agency did not have the power to order such a ban, effectively ending the moratorium.
Feldman said pet owners are going to come to veterinarians for advice and knowledge on societal topics such as pet-friendly rental housing.
“They’ll ask you about their pets’ health, but they may also ask you about these kinds of issues, about pets in society,” Feldman said.
COVID-19 surveillance study ongoing at wildlife rehabilitation center
By R. Scott Nolen
A study at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota is investigating the efficacy of a surveillance system for detecting asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infections in center staff members and the animal patients.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists are funding the project, which began in early June and was initially set to conclude in August but was extended to December. The project is being overseen by Dr. Jan Mladonicky, a resident in veterinary public health and preventive medicine at the University of Minnesota Center for Animal Health and Food Safety.
Dr. Mladonicky spoke about the project during her presentation, “SARS-CoV-2 in Companion Animals and Wildlife,” during AVMA Virtual Convention 2021 on July 31.
She noted in the talk that while cats and dogs account for most of the confirmed animal cases of SARS-CoV-2, minks, gorillas, and big cats are susceptible to the virus as well. Laboratory studies found that rabbits, pigs, tree voles, and white-tailed deer can be infected with the coronavirus. Some infected animals can pass the virus to animals of the same species.
Dr. Mladonicky explained that physical distancing and other safety measures aren’t always possible within a wildlife rehabilitation setting.
“This is a concern, of course, because those rehabilitated animals will ultimately be released into the wild, opening up the potential to infect wild animals, which could open up the possibility of creating a wildlife reservoir for SARS-CoV-2,” she said. “This could, in turn, lead to viral transmission back to humans from these wildlife.”
Within a wildlife reservoir, variants of the coronavirus could flourish, Dr. Mladonicky added, making containment of the virus extremely difficult.
In her overview of the project, Dr. Mladonicky explained that the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota is one of the nation’s busiest wildlife hospitals, admitting approximately 15,000 patients annually, representing approximately 188 species. The center is staffed year-round by approximately 21 people with additional seasonal staff members and over 500 volunteers.
Animals tested for SARS-CoV-2 for the study are either sampled through a case- or an event-based surveillance strategy, Dr. Mladonicky explained. Members of the animal care team participate on a voluntary basis and provide interior nasal swabs.
When the surveillance study was rolled out in June, 51 animal care workers consented to participate. Of these, all but one have received their COVID-19 vaccine. As of Aug. 19, 275 samples had been collected from participants. To date, all results have been negative.
Nearly 200 animals were tested at the center during the same period. All tested negative for the virus.
“Ultimately, with this pilot study, we hope our results will contribute to the growing knowledge of the role of animal transmission, particularly in wildlife, in SARS-CoV-2 in the United States and pave the way for future zoonotic disease surveillance systems in settings where humans work in close proximity of wildlife,” Dr. Mladonicky said.
MARS VETERINARY HEALTH INVESTS IN EMPLOYEE INITIATIVES
By Malinda Larkin
Mars Veterinary Health North America announced a $500 million multiyear commitment to create career advancement opportunities, increase workforce diversity, and improve pay and benefits by 2025.
Mars Inc. owns veterinary health care and diagnostics providers nationwide, including Banfield Pet Hospital, BluePearl Specialty and Emergency Hospitals, VCA Animal Hospitals, and Antech Diagnostics, and employs more than 55,000 people in the U.S., according to a July 20 Mars press release.
Highlights of the announcement are as follows:
$360 million in increased wages and benefits, including more than 10,000 employees impacted by a $15-per-hour minimum by the end of 2022.
$50 million toward further educational and career opportunities for employees.
$40 million for COVID-19 pandemic support for employees, including additional pay and benefits.
$25 million toward support for educational debt.
$25 million for diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives in addition to committing to a 50% increase in Black veterinarian employees and 100% gender-balanced senior teams.
Doug Drew, president of Mars Veterinary Health North America, said in an interview with JAVMA News that Mars Veterinary Health is taking a holistic approach to investments across its business in North America while also collaborating with the rest of the profession. Mars Veterinary Health started over the last two years by increasing starting wages by 38%.
Then, at the beginning of the year, Mars introduced four weeks of paid parental leave, up to 26 weeks of short-term disability at 60% of pay, and gender reassignment coverage for those covered by its health care plans and dependents older than 18. A few months earlier, Mars had launched the website mvh4you.com, which provides resources on mental health and well-being available not only to employees but also the profession at large.
Once COVID-19 hit, Mars increased overtime pay rates. Employees whose hours were reduced because of the pandemic continued to receive full pay and benefits.
“With the pandemic, we knew there would be challenges for those with family members who were sick or who had to provide for their kids,” Drew said, which is why Mars gave each employee an additional 80 hours of sick leave to cover testing or treatments because of COVID.
Later this year, the company is launching the Mars Center for Veterinary Excellence, which will be a hub for offering skill building, educational pathways, and leadership training for employees.
Mars has also been partnering with InStride to help veterinary technicians—and now practice managers as of mid-August—earn an undergraduate degree in science, technology, engineering, or math from Arizona State University. The program that Mars has set up with Penn Foster allows veterinary technicians to become credentialed, or they may earn a bachelor’s degree in veterinary technology from Appalachia State University.
For veterinarians, Banfield launched its Veterinary Student Debt Relief Program in 2017 to help support its associates’ financial well-being. Since then, the program has helped veterinarian employees pay off $16.5 million in loans, and another $16.5 million has gone toward refinancing outstanding loans.
“In coming years, we’re looking to have expanded student debt relief programs across all our business and, if it makes sense, to do more at Banfield,” Drew said.
Finally, he mentioned that Banfield formed the Diversify Veterinary Medicine Coalition in fall 2020. So far, the DVMC has made a “Roadmap to Equity, Inclusion & Diversity in Veterinary Medicine” video and resource page available at diversifyvetmed.org/news for veterinary professionals, practices, and organizations to use in guiding their own equity, inclusion, and diversity efforts. The DVMC is also in the process of developing scholarship and mentorship programs.
MIDWESTERN PET FOODS WARNED CORRECTIVE ACTIONS ARE INSUFFICIENT
By R. Scott Nolen
The Food and Drug Administration on Aug. 17 issued a corporatewide warning letter to Midwestern Pet Foods Inc., after the FDA determined that the company’s corrective actions to prevent additional pet food contamination at its manufacturing sites were insufficient.
“It is imperative that manufacturers and distributors of pet foods understand their responsibility to comply with all requirements of federal law and FDA regulations and, when applicable, to implement a robust hazard analysis and risk-based preventive controls program,” said Dr. Steven Solomon, director of the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine, in a statement.
In December 2020 and January 2021, Midwestern voluntarily recalled all corn-containing pet foods made at its Chickasha, Oklahoma, plant after potentially lethal concentrations of aflatoxin were found in its Sportmix brand of dry dog food. Samples of Sportmix contained concentrations of aflatoxin as high as 558 parts per billion. The FDA considers pet food to be adulterated if it contains more than 20 ppb of aflatoxin.
As of Aug. 9, the FDA was aware of more than 130 pet deaths and more than 220 pet illnesses possibly linked to eating pet foods manufactured by Midwestern. The tally is approximate and may not reflect the total number of pets affected, according to the agency, adding that not all of these cases were confirmed to be aflatoxin poisoning through laboratory testing or review of veterinary records.
In March, Midwestern also recalled several pet food brands manufactured at its Monmouth, Illinois, plant when samples tested positive for Salmonella.
The FDA inspected all four Midwestern manufacturing sites, including those in Waverly, New York, and Evansville, Indiana. As the agency noted in its letter to Midwestern President and CEO Jeffrey Nunn, those inspections found evidence of “significant violations” of the federal regulation titled Current Good Manufacturing Practice, Hazard Analysis, and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Food for Animals.
“We acknowledge your voluntary recalls of adulterated product contaminated with aflatoxin and Salmonella,” the letter states. “However, recalling product does not prevent the reoccurrence of a hazard in your pet food.
“You have not provided documentation showing that you have adequately implemented your preventive control for mycotoxins that will significantly minimize or prevent this hazard. You also have not provided documentation showing that you have adequately implemented preventive controls for Salmonella to prevent the recontamination of product from reoccurring at your Illinois facility or occurring at your other three facilities. Therefore, we are unable to fully assess your corrective actions.”
Midwestern had 15 working days to respond to the FDA, listing specific steps that the company will take to resolve the issues that the agency raised.
Midwestern Pet Foods said in an Aug. 27 press release that its response has been “swift and comprehensive,” including conducting root-cause analyses and making extensive upgrades to the company’s facilities.
“MPF is not aware of any food safety issues with respect to any products currently in its facilities or warehouses or that it has shipped to customers going back to the previously conducted recalls,” the company said. “MPF plans to file a timely, robust response to the FDA letter.”
STUDY IDENTIFIES DIFFERENCES IN DCM-ASSOCIATED DIETS
Recent study results provide details on the biochemical differences between diets associated with dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs and those with no known connection to the disease.
Researchers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Tufts University profiled nine canine diets associated with canine DCM. Each contained at least three pulses ingredients such as peas and lentils, potatoes, or sweet potatoes among their ingredients, and each was identified by the Food and Drug Administration as among the diet brands most often associated with DCM cases reported to the agency, according to a scientific article published Aug. 5 by Scientific Reports. The researchers also profiled nine diets with no known association with DCM.
DCM is one of the most common heart diseases of pet dogs, causing chambers of the heart to dilate and pump blood less effectively. Dogs can develop congestive heart failure or unexpected death.
The disease historically affected mostly large-breed dogs and Cocker Spaniels. In July 2018, FDA officials warned they had received reports of DCM in dogs of other breeds. In 2020, agency officials indicated they had received 1,100 adverse event reports linked with DCM since January 2014, and they planned to collaborate with researchers on studies into nonhereditary DCM, including its possible link to diet.
FDA representatives have indicated in presentations that more than nine in 10 dogs with identified DCM in reports had eaten diets high in peas, lentils, or both.
For the recent Scientific Reports article, the researchers identified, measured, and compared concentrations of 830 biochemical compounds within the foods, 665 of them known and 165 unknown.
They found that diets associated with DCM had lower volumes of B vitamins, which are co-factors in reactions related to cardiac metabolism such as carnitine and taurine synthesis. DCM-associated diets also had higher concentrations of amino acids, amino acid derivatives, and plant-derived compounds, some of which could contribute to deficiencies in molecules essential to heart function by, for example, influencing carnitine metabolism, the article states.
The researchers also found no significant difference in concentrations of taurine. Dietary taurine deficiency is a cause of DCM in cats.
The article authors identified a few ingredients in particular that appear to contribute to the biochemical differences among the diets: peas, lentils, rice, and chicken or turkey meat. Peas and, to a lesser degree, lentils appear to be the main sources of elevated concentrations of certain biochemical compounds in the DCM-associated diets, the article states.
“While we cannot establish with certainty if any of these compounds and ingredients are causal for disease, the findings support peas as a leading possible ingredient associated with diet-associated DCM in dogs,” the article states.
Academic groups seek easier approval path for gene-edited food animals
AAVMC, APLU want multiple approval processes dependent on nature of changes
By Greg Cima
When geneticists modify a food-producing animal, the changes are typically regulated as drugs.
Two academic groups argue that the amount of regulatory oversight for genetic changes should be decided case by case—that the changes introduced through gene editing should be regulated differently if identical changes could have occurred through traditional selective breeding. If, for example, gene editing creates a hornless version of Holstein cattle, the developers could argue that the change merely hastened a process that otherwise would have required multiple generations of animals and risked selecting for other genetic changes along the way.
The groups, the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges and Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, also say the researchers developing genetic engineering applications see the federal regulatory processes for those modifications as ambiguous, slow, and cost prohibitive. This summer, the organizations published their Gene Editing in Agriculture Task Force Report, which argues for “a remodeling of the federal regulatory landscape” for gene editing.
They argue, in part, that researchers and agricultural companies should be able to meet less-extensive evidence collection requirements for introducing a single-nucleotide polymorphism, for example, than they would for creating a transgenic animal.
Officials with the Food and Drug Administration responded that they are willing to consider alterations as low risk and to be flexible in how those products would be regulated. That low-risk determination, though, requires conversations with agency officials about the project, the intended results, and how to show the results would be low risk.
Agency officials have already applied the low-risk determination to nonfood applications on a case-by-case basis, such as glowing fish sold in pet stores and mice genetically altered for use as research models for human medicine. Those modifications are allowed without drug approvals. FDA officials also note that there is a program in place to help guide academic researchers and startups through the regulatory process of creating biotechnology products.
SCIENTISTS DESCRIBE FRUSTRATION
Dr. Andrew Maccabe, AAVMC CEO, said researchers within AAVMC and APLU member institutions had described challenges because any genetic alteration that affects the structure or function of an animal is regulated by the FDA as a drug. Gaining drug approval requires studies to demonstrate efficacy and safety, and researchers are having difficulty getting funding for studies into changes that are difficult to bring to a market because of the work needed to gain drug approval, he said.
“Once they know they’ve got a product, they know it still can’t be used,” Dr. Maccabe said. “So it stymies the whole process.”
Dr. Maccabe said researchers on the task force contend that some of the modifications they are studying are no different from changes that occur in nature. The beef, pork, and chicken eaten today come from animals genetically modified through selective breeding, yet those products are regulated as foods rather than drugs, he said.
The organizations plan to use the report in lobbying members of Congress and talking with federal regulators, Dr. Maccabe said. The task force members want a rational regulatory system that would allow research and opportunities to bring the products of that research to market or otherwise used to help produce animal-source foods.
Jon M. Oatley, PhD, is associate dean for research and a professor at the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, director of the interinstitutional Center for Reproductive Biology, and director of the Functional Genomics Initiative. He has led development of a method that uses gene editing to produce male cattle, goats, and pigs that are born sterile but are able to become surrogate producers of sperm from animals with desirable genetic traits.
Although those surrogates are edited, their offspring are born with genetics of unedited animals. Dr. Oatley said some of those products have advanced toward becoming commercial products, but, despite talks with FDA officials, he still lacks clear understanding what data are needed to satisfy regulatory concerns.
“It’s not really clear what the road map is to get approval or to get considered for approval,” he said.
He also said the regulatory structure is built for drugs and transgenic alterations, not gene editing applications. Addressing concerns about the possibility of off-target editing, for example, is nearly impossible because of the genetic variation animal to animal in livestock species and the natural genetic recombination in every generation.
“I think there’s a disconnect, sometimes, between the federal regulatory bodies and what reality of science or biology actually is,” he said.
He said FDA officials have helped him understand the process. But many researchers developing applications that use genetic changes in food animals, especially those working in academic institutions, lack the time to navigate a federal regulatory approval process that he described as lengthy and burdensome.
FDA FLEXIBLE, OPEN TO TALKS
FDA officials have previously indicated they would use enforcement discretion in evaluating the risks of modifications involving animal species that are not raised for food or are raised in contained and controlled laboratory conditions for use in research. Modifications in many laboratory rodents, for example, are considered low risk by the agency because of controls already in place, so many such alterations are allowed without going through the drug approval process.
Heather Lombardi, PhD, director of the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine’s Division of Animal Bioengineering and Cellular Therapies, said the agency would consider a similar low-risk determination for certain food animals after reviewing the risk.
“We’ve had examples where the developer is making an argument that something could be low risk based on something that could be found in nature,” Dr. Lombardi said. “And so that’s the case where they can provide information to show a history of safety for that product.”
That information could include scientific articles that describe occurrence of the proposed alteration in nature without known safety issues or data collected by the developer that supports a low-risk determination.
Laura Epstein, senior policy adviser in the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine, said the agency also would consider low-risk determinations for alterations to food animal species raised as research models for human diseases, and the agency is open to discussing other alterations that developers think are low risk.
“We do have a process in place where we encourage folks to come in if they believe there is that low risk, and we’re doing it on a case-by-case evaluation basis.”
Epstein said a relatively small number of developers have worked with the FDA to submit data and go through the regulatory process, so many more likely are unfamiliar with that process and the case-by-case, risk-based evaluations.
Dr. Lombardi said she spoke at an AAVMC and APLU meeting in September 2019 ahead of the formation of the task force, and she learned from meeting participants in academia and industry that much of the FDA’s regulatory process for genetic engineering in animals remains unfamiliar to developers.
“It really made us realize that we need to do a better job of communicating with our stakeholders and, especially, those in academia,” she said, including how developers of genetic alterations can start conversations with FDA officials even if they don’t have a product ready for commercial use.
Epstein noted that, in October 2018, the agency had created the Veterinary Innovation Program to help guide small developers, such as academic researchers and startups, through the regulatory process of creating biotechnology products. An agency announcement published at the time stated that the FDA intended to improve regulatory predictability and efficiency, improve agency responsiveness, and allow early and sustained interactions with innovators.
FDA officials also recently resumed an outreach campaign, delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, with plans for a series of meetings with stakeholders and the public to help educate people on the regulatory process and hear from those affected.
“We’re actively seeking feedback from our developers, and we’re trying to make improvements and to clarify confusion about our process,” Dr. Lombardi said.
Epstein said agency officials are committed to using a science- and risk-based process, and regulating genetic alterations reassures the public that products are safe to consume, safe for the animals, and effective. But agency officials don’t want a process that delays progress, and they have worked to make the process more accessible and less burdensome.
In their report, the AAVMC and APLU argue that the ability to modify food animals is necessary to improve efficiency to feed a growing global human population.
“The next frontier in devising strategies to effectively feed a growing global human population will be defined by genetic enhancement; gene editing technologies are a key component in this endeavor,” the report states.
United Nations officials estimated in 2019 that the global human population would grow to 9.7 billion in 2050 and 10.9 billion in 2100. A study published in July 2020 by The Lancet suggests the global human population would peak in 2064 at 9.7 billion and fall to 8.8 billion by 2100.
The Food and Agriculture Organization’s 2021 report on the state of food security and nutrition indicates conflict, climate variability and extremes, and economic downturns all are major drivers of global food insecurity. Hunger will not be eradicated by 2030, as hoped, without bold actions—especially access to address unequal access to food, the report states.
PHI ZETA PRESENTS 2021 RESEARCH AWARDS
Phi Zeta, the international honor society of veterinary medicine, recently presented the 2021 Research Manuscript Awards.
The award in basic sciences went to Dr. Joy Tomlinson (Cornell ’10) of the Alpha chapter of Phi Zeta at Cornell University. Her winning paper was “Tropism, pathology, and transmission of equine parvovirus-hepatitis.” Dr. Tomlinson is a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine in large animal internal medicine. She is currently completing her doctorate in immunology and infectious disease at Cornell. She also works as a specialist at Cornell’s Equine Hospital and Nemo Farm Animal Hospital.
The award in clinical sciences went to Dr. Pablo Jimenez Castro, a 2013 veterinary graduate of the National University of Colombia, of the Xi chapter of Phi Zeta at the University of Georgia. His winning paper was “Multiple drug resistance in the canine hookworm Ancylostoma caninum: an emerging threat?” After working at Novartis Animal Health and Elanco Animal Health, Dr. Jimenez Castro enrolled in a dual residency and doctorate program in the Department of Infectious Diseases at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine. He completed his doctorate earlier this year.
CALIFORNIA CREATES STATEWIDE VETERINARY DISASTER TEAM
By Greg Cima
A new program will help train, coordinate, and equip emergency responders across California to aid animals during disasters.
The California Veterinary Emergency Team, administered by the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, is intended to increase response capacity, standardize disaster responses across counties, and unite disparate and fragmented groups involved in animal care, according to an Aug. 2 announcement from the veterinary school. The state plans to provide $3 million a year for the team.
The announcement notes that the program will be modeled after the UC-Davis Oiled Wildlife Care Network, which also prepares responders to rapidly mobilize during an emergency.
Dr. Michael Ziccardi, who is director of the California Veterinary Emergency Team and the Oiled Wildlife Care Network as well as executive director of the university’s One Health Institute, said the CVET will augment existing programs used by state agencies, county departments, local animal emergency response groups, veterinary associations, and existing veterinary emergency response teams. He expects the emergency team may have some abilities this year, and he expects it will continue developing into 2022.
The work planned immediately after the announcement involved meetings among UC-Davis team members and representatives from state agencies that oversee animal disaster response: the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. Dr. Ziccardi hopes to get a sense of where agency officials see the UC-Davis–led team fitting into the existing disaster response structure.
He and other team leaders plan to conduct a listening tour across the state to hear from local animal responders about their challenges and needs and understand how the new team can fit into their emergency work. The team leaders also plan to acquire a cache of equipment that local responders lack.
The team should be part of a collective among governmental, nongovernmental, and university-based responders who can deploy across the state within hours of notification, Dr. Ziccardi said.
The Aug. 2 announcement notes that the existing California Animal Response Emergency System within the California Department of Food and Agriculture has been managing evacuation and care of animals during emergencies and working with community animal response teams and nonprofit organizations.
State Sen. Steve Glazer, whose district is east of San Francisco, said in the UC-Davis announcement that recent wildfires had overwhelmed the state’s capacity to evacuate and care for pets and livestock, and he noted that California authorities had called on Texas to send emergency teams twice in five years.
“That puts not just animals at risk but also increases the danger for residents and first responders if people stay behind fire lines because they fear their animals will not be cared for,” he said. “We need this new team to help train, coordinate and lead the hundreds of volunteers who are eager to help.”
Sen. Glazer authored legislation to create the emergency team, and language from that bill was incorporated into the state budget signed this summer by Gov. Gavin Newsom, according to the announcement. The senator said the goal has been to create a team that is ready to respond anywhere in the state with “a mobile command center, a clinic if necessary, and the veterinarians, equipment and medicine to get the job done.”
SECOND VIRTUAL NATIONAL VETERINARY SCHOLARS SYMPOSIUM DRAWS 900
The National Veterinary Scholars Symposium for student researchers, hosted by Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine this year, went virtual for a second year in a row because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges collaborated with Iowa State to present the event from Aug. 4-6. Almost 900 people attended the symposium, which showcased hundreds of student posters.
Veterinary students participating in summer research programs conduct a hypothesis-driven project developed jointly by the student and a faculty mentor, which is typically conducted over an 8- to 12-week period during the summer. The student researchers then share the results at the end-of-summer symposium. Every year, the American Veterinary Medical Foundation provides stipends for five veterinary students who are conducting a second year of summer research.
The following keynote speakers presented remarks during the virtual symposium:
Dr. Kathryn M. Jones, an associate professor at Baylor College of Medicine, discussed “Addressing the Global Burden of Chagas Disease.”
Dr. Jim Roth, a professor at Iowa State’s veterinary college, discussed “Infectious Disease Control Through Research, Policy Development, and Education.”
Dr. Liara Gonzalez, an associate professor at North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine, discussed “Intestinal Regenerative Medicine: Targeting Key Stem Cells to Enhance Intestinal Viability.”
The symposium featured a variety of breakout sessions that provided students with a chance to obtain career advice from experts regarding academic programs and career pathways leading to careers in academia, government, and corporate practice as well as opportunities in various areas of veterinary medicine and science. A Combined Degree Colloquium held in conjunction with the symposium offered programming for students pursuing dual professional and PhD programs.
Boehringer Ingelheim, which provides stipends for veterinary students to conduct summer research, presented its Veterinary Research Award for Graduate Veterinarians to Dr. Brittany Szafran at Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine and presented its Veterinary Research Award for Veterinary Students to Carley Allen at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine.
The members of the National Planning Committee for the symposium, all at Iowa State’s veterinary college, were Dr. Qijing Zhang, associate dean for research and graduate studies; Dr. Brad Blitvich, interim assistant dean of graduate studies and research training; and Karen Barker, grants specialist.
The sponsors for the symposium were Boehringer Ingelheim and the National Institutes of Health. Ahead of the symposium, the AVMA provided the abstract submission service and compiled the 370-page electronic abstract book.
AVMA PRESENTS RESEARCH AWARDS FOR 2021
Four veterinarians were recognized with 2021 AVMA Excellence Awards for contributions to research. The awards were presented during the National Veterinary Scholars Symposium, held virtually Aug. 4-6 and hosted by Iowa State University. Following are some key achievements of the award recipients.
AVMA LIFETIME EXCELLENCE IN RESEARCH AWARD
Dr. Mark E. Peterson
Dr. Peterson (Minnesota ’76) owns and directs the Animal Endocrine Clinic, a specialty referral hospital devoted to the diagnosis and treatment of cats with thyroid disease, where he conducts his clinical research. He also is an adjunct professor of medicine at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. Over the last 40-plus years, most of Dr. Peterson’s clinical and research efforts have been directed toward advancing the understanding of endocrine disease. He was the first to describe feline hyperthyroidism and first to report successful treatment with antithyroid drugs and radioiodine. He has continued his studies on hyperthyroidism and other feline thyroid disorders.
AVMA Clinical Research Award
Dr. Larry D. Cowgill
Dr. Cowgill (California-Davis ’71) is a professor in the Department of Medicine and Epidemiology of the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. He is associate dean for Southern California clinical programs and director of the University of California Veterinary Medical Center–San Diego. Dr. Cowgill pioneered the application and development of hemodialysis and extracorporeal treatments for dogs and cats and established the world’s first clinical hemodialysis program for animals at UC-Davis. He directs the hemodialysis and blood purification programs at UC-Davis and the UC Veterinary Medical Center in San Diego. He established the Hemodialysis Academy, which provides instruction in extracorporeal treatments internationally.
AVMA CAREER ACHIEVEMENT AWARD IN CANINE RESEARCH
Dr. Steven C. Budsberg
Dr. Budsberg (Washington State ’83) is a professor of orthopedic surgery in the Department of Small Animal Medicine and Surgery at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine. His research has focused on developing measurements for improvements in pain and lameness in dogs and cats, including canine gait analysis techniques. His laboratory has defined methods to assess effects of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs on the inflammatory cascade in dogs and cats and has performed trials to assess the efficacy of treatments to manage pain in dogs and cats. He served on the AVMA Council on Research, among other involvement in organized veterinary medicine.
American Veterinary Medical Foundation/EveryCat Health Foundation Research Award
Dr. Brian G. Murphy
Dr. Murphy (Washington State ’92) is a professor in the Department of Pathology, Microbiology, and Immunology at the University California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, where he has interdependent research, instructional, and diagnostic missions. He began his veterinary career as a small animal practitioner near Seattle, where he practiced for eight years. After completing a pathology residency and doctoral degree at Washington State University, he was hired as an anatomic pathologist at UC-Davis. His research is focused on working toward a better understanding of the pathogenesis of feline infectious peritonitis and feline immunodeficiency virus.
NEVADA VETERINARIANS CAN TREAT PATIENTS WITH CERTAIN CANNABIS PRODUCTS
Many questions yet to be answered about cannabinoids as a veterinary treatment
By R. Scott Nolen
Starting this October, veterinarians licensed in Nevada can recommend and administer hemp and cannabidiol products containing not more than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol without fear of sanction from the state licensing board.
Earlier this year, Gov. Steve Sisolak signed Assembly Bill 101, making Nevada the first state to legalize the use of cannabinoids as a veterinary treatment. The Nevada Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners helped write AB 101, which the Nevada VMA supported, according to NVMA Executive Director Michelle Wagner.
The bill’s sponsor, State Assemblyman Steve Yeager, introduced the measure in February because Nevada law was unclear about whether veterinarians were permitted to administer CBD products or discuss them with pet owners.
“Because of the ambiguity in our law, I learned that many veterinarians chose not to talk about CBD with pet owners for fear of being disciplined,” Yeager said. “This left pet owners in a tough spot because CBD products are generally unregulated, and it would be difficult for a pet owner to know exactly what to purchase or administer without the professional advice of a veterinarian.”
Nevada voters approved medical marijuana for people by ballot initiative in 2000. Cannabis became legal for recreational use in the state on Jan. 1, 2017, following a 2016 ballot measure.
AB 101 encountered no opposition and passed the state Assembly and Senate without a single no vote, Yeager explained.
“I certainly hope that other states follow Nevada’s lead and provide reassurances to licensed veterinarians that they can administer CBD or talk about it with patients without fear of facing disciplinary proceedings,” he said. “The bill itself is fairly simple and, thus, is a good model for other states.”
Although products containing 0.3% or less THC are exempted from the federal Controlled Substances Act, the products do fall under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act if they are used therapeutically or included in animal food. The Food and Drug Administration considers the therapeutic use of these products to be the use of unapproved drugs.
A SIMPLE QUESTION
But do medical cannabinoids actually help animal patients?
It’s a deceptively simple question at the heart of an animal health concern complicated by a tangle of federal and state regulations, research challenges, and species-specific pharmacokinetics.
Dr. Dawn Boothe is a professor of veterinary physiology and pharmacology at Auburn University studying cannabis’s potential as a veterinary treatment. She sought to make sense of the issues during her presentation “Medical Cannabinoids Revisited” at AVMA Virtual Convention 2021 on Aug. 1.
The cannabis sativa plant contains more than 90 unique compounds, or cannabinoids, including CBD and THC, as well as almost 500 other terpenoids and phenylpropanoids. For several millennia, humans have used cannabinoids for pain, epilepsy, gastrointestinal disorders, and even infections.
Dr. Boothe said research interest in the therapeutic use of cannabis in the United States essentially came to a “screeching halt” in 1971 with the federal Controlled Substances Act, which listed cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug, meaning the federal government regarded cannabis as having no therapeutic properties and a high potential for abuse.
“That’s changed in the last couple of decades as, increasingly, states are paying attention to medical cannabinoids,” Dr. Boothe said. “But I do shudder to think sometimes about how much we would have learned if we had taken a different path in our reaction to cannabis.”
The federal government’s position on cannabis has somewhat softened in recent years, most notably with the 2018 Farm Bill’s removal of industrial hemp containing 0.3% or less of THC from the Controlled Substances Act. That said, the use, sale, and possession of cannabis over 0.3% THC, despite laws in many states permitting it under various circumstances, is illegal under federal law.
MAKING SENSE OF IT ALL
The restrictions on veterinarians haven’t diminished interest among pet owners, who have available to them a veritable pharmacopeia of CBD products claiming to treat any number of animal ailments and behavioral problems.
None of the products are approved by the FDA, which, as Dr. Boothe explained, raises concerns about variability in cannabinoid concentrations, mislabeling, and contamination with harmful additives, such as fentanyl or synthetic cannabinoids.
“If you’re looking for a product that has a certificate of analysis that you can have faith in—as I would—go to the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) website and look at the laboratories that the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) has approved as being appropriate for analysis of hemp crops,” Dr. Boothe said. “That at least can increase the level of validity for that product.”
Then there are questions about what constitutes a therapeutic dose of cannabinoid in a particular species as well as which formulations actually deliver that dose to the animal patient. There’s evidence that, in dogs, the route of CBD administration, such as in a soft capsule containing oil, may increase the oral bioavailability, according to Dr. Boothe.
“Hemp seed oil, sesame seed oil, and medium-chain triglycerides are the most common oils that are being used,” she said. “We need to see data demonstrating the differences in oral bioavailability among these different compounds.”
Cats are more challenging. “We’re going to have to have some good pharmacokinetic studies providing us information about dosing and cats,” Dr. Boothe said. “We have demonstrated that in cats there is variability in absorption, but, as in dogs, feeding will enhance that absorption.”
Dogs appear to tolerate CBD far better than THC, which was shown to cause ataxia when administered intravenously in smaller, less-concentrated doses than CBD. Dogs were also found to build a tolerance to cannabinoids over time.
“My comfort zone with CBD is much greater than with THC,” Dr. Boothe said. She highlighted a Veterinary Clinics of North America report on marijuana toxicology that showed patients that had received CBD were much more likely to be asymptomatic than those patients that received a synthetic cannabinoid or THC.
“In fact, fatality in pets from marijuana is probably more likely due to receiving a medical-grade chocolate or probably a synthetic cannabinoid, not a phytocannabinoid,” or cannabinoid that occurs naturally in the cannabis plant, she explained.
A small yet growing body of research indicates that CBD is a safe and effective treatment for lameness and epilepsy in dogs, Dr. Boothe said, but more studies are needed to bear this out.
“I am excited about CBD,” she said. “I think it’s a very safe compound. I think it’s claim to fame is going to be largely in combination with our traditional therapies—if the indication or if the disease is very mild, maybe sole therapy, but as the disease progresses, adjuvant therapy is going to be important.
“And I do think that therapeutic drug monitoring should be an important tool to make sure that therapeutic concentrations have been achieved.”
STETTER MOVES AS DEAN FROM COLORADO STATE TO UC-DAVIS
Dr. Mark Stetter will go from being dean at Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences to dean of the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine on Oct. 18.
While the specific goals and objectives he will set for the UC-Davis veterinary school will depend on what he learns from visiting with the faculty and staff at the school as well as with leaders across the university, he comes with some ideas, according to an Aug. 10 UC-Davis announcement.
“I have several overarching priorities,” he was quoted as saying. “They are: Maintaining and advancing SVM’s high excellence; continuing the school’s significant contributions to society and the planet; promoting an environment in which every member of our community feels included and respected; and fostering a work climate and culture in which our faculty, staff, and students can be at their best while simultaneously enjoying all that a productive life has to offer.”
Under his leadership at Colorado State since 2012, the veterinary college entered a period of growth powered by fundraising of more than $370 million in donations—supporting student scholarships, new buildings and renovations, endowed positions, research programs, and clinical service.
Specifically, Dr. Stetter’s tenure brought a new undergraduate umbrella program in biomedical sciences; a 2+2 program with the University of Alaska-Fairbanks; new construction across the college, including the Temple Grandin Equine Center that opened this past May; a $45-plus million research enterprise; creation of the CSU One Health Institute; and a focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion in addition to wellness for the students, faculty, and staff.
A national search for a new dean at the Colorado State veterinary college will launch this fall.
“I am so proud of the many achievements we have accomplished: nine buildings in nine years, new programs from Mexico to Alaska and Japan to Denver. Every aspect of our mission has grown, and our local and global impact is tremendous,” Dr. Stetter said in a CSU press release. “Thank you for everything you do and for continuing to create a platform of excellence and helping to improve the health of animals, people, and the planet.”
Dr. Stetter (Illinois ’88) interned at the Animal Medical Center in New York City after graduation and served as a resident in zoological medicine at the Wildlife Conservation Society. He is a diplomate of the American College of Zoological Medicine. He worked at several of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s New York City facilities, including the Bronx and Central Park zoos and the New York Aquarium. He also directed the Animal Health Care Center at the Audubon Nature Institute’s Zoological Garden in New Orleans.
Dr. Stetter’s research interests have included advancing minimally invasive surgery in nondomestic species and have included work on a variety of different animals including fish, reptiles, birds, and mammals.
From 1997-2012, he served as director of animal operations, director of animal health, and clinical veterinarian at Walt Disney World. During this time, Dr. Stetter also helped oversee the company’s international wildlife research and conservation programs.
“My experiences at Colorado State and Disney World provided me with an excellent foundation for the role of dean at UC Davis,” Dr. Stetter said in the UC-Davis release. “But in complementary ways, each gave me a uniquely valuable opportunity to care for animals, grow my veterinary expertise, and learn how to lead large and complex organizations.”
AMERICAN BOARD OF VETERINARY TOXICOLOGY
Virtual annual meeting, Aug. 2
Dr. David Dorman (Colorado State ’86), Raleigh, North Carolina. Dr. Dorman is a professor of toxicology in the Department of Molecular Sciences at North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine. Earlier in his career, he was a staff scientist at the Chemical Industry Institute of Toxicology before joining NCSU’s veterinary college as associate dean for research and graduate studies. A diplomate and immediate past president of the ABVT, Dr. Dorman is also a diplomate of the American Board of Toxicology and a fellow of the Academy of Toxicological Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences. His research interests include neurotoxicology, nasal toxicology, pharmacokinetics, and cognition and olfaction in animals.
Drs. Charlotte Flint, Bloomington, Minnesota; Andras Laszlo Nagy, Cluj-Napoca, Romania; Scott Radke, Boone, Iowa; Renee Tourdot, Urbana, Illinois; Kirsten Waratuke, Mahomet, Illinois; and Ginger Watts, Monticello, Illinois
The ABVT has developed a survey to gather data on how veterinary technology is being taught at institutions accredited by the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges. The survey will be sent later this year to the teaching faculty at these institutions and will include questions on faculty qualifications and course delivery methods.
Drs. Tam Garland, College Station, Texas, president; Ahna Brutlag, Bloomington, Minnesota, president-elect; Adrienne Bautista, Davis, California, secretary; Sherry Ripple, Bloomington, Minnesota, treasurer; and David Dorman, Raleigh, North Carolina, immediate past president
AMERICAN COLLEGE OF LABORATORY ANIMAL MEDICINE
The American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine welcomed 62 new diplomates following the board certification examination it held July 16 at Prometric test sites in the United States and Canada. The new diplomates are as follows:
Obituaries: AVMA MEMBER | AVMA HONOR ROLL MEMBER | NONMEMBER
GARNARD J. BONER
Dr. Boner (Ohio State ’63), 90, Marysville, Ohio, died June 29, 2021. He served on the faculty of The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine prior to retirement in 1995. During his tenure, Dr. Boner was director of Finley Farm, the veterinary college’s teaching and research farm; served as building coordinator for The Ohio State Equine Center; taught and practiced at OSU Large Animal Services in Marysville; and served as associate director of the OSU Veterinary Medical Center. Early in his career, he owned a mixed animal practice in Kenton, Ohio.
Dr. Boner was a past director of the American Association of Small Ruminant Practitioners and was a member of the American Association of Bovine Practitioners. He was also a member of the Union County Fair Board, serving as the veterinarian for county and state fairs. In 1991, the Ohio Sheep Improvement Association honored Dr. Boner with a Charles Boyles Master Shepherd Award. A veteran of the Korean War, he served in the Air Force.
Dr. Boner is survived by his wife, Donnie June; three daughters; four grandchildren; and a great-grandchild. Memorials may be made to the Dr. Jack Judy Memorial Scholarship, c/o the Ohio Sheep Improvement Association, 280 N. High St., Columbus, OH 43218; the Union Rural Electric Scholarship Fund, c/o Union County Foundation, 126 N. Main St., Marysville, OH 43040; or the Veterinary Medicine Farm Animal Support Fund (#310054), The Ohio State University Foundation, 2200 Olentangy River Road, Columbus, OH 43210.
HENRY B. CURTIS
Dr. Curtis (Michigan State ’59), 86, San Diego, died June 14, 2021. Following graduation, he practiced small animal medicine in Detroit for four years. Dr. Curtis then moved to Houston, where he worked at Bellaire Blvd Animal Clinic and the former Post Oak Animal Clinic. He subsequently owned what was known as Animal Medical Clinic of Memorial Drive and River Road Animal Clinic in Houston.
Dr. Curtis was a member of the Texas and Harris County VMAs. He was a past president of the Optimist Club of Sharpstown and was active with the Boy Scouts, serving as a sponsor for scouts interested in veterinary medicine. Dr. Curtis is survived by his wife, Fifi; a stepdaughter; and two grandchildren.
CHARLES B. FAGER IV
Dr. Fager (Pennsylvania ’55), 96, Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, died Feb. 26, 2021. He co-owned Camp Hill Animal Hospital in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, with his brother, Dr. Hummel Fager (Pennsylvania ’53). Dr. Fager was a member of the Capital Area Flyers Club. An Air Force veteran of World War II, he received an Air Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, a European–African–Middle Eastern Campaign Theater Ribbon, four Bronze Stars, and a Distinguished Unit Citation Badge. Dr. Fager’s two daughters, two sons, and four grandchildren survive him. Memorials may be made to the Humane Society of Harrisburg Area, 7790 Grayson Road, Harrisburg, PA 17111, or Molly’s Place Rescue, P.O, Box 328, Mechanicsburg, PA 17055, mollysplace.rescuegroups.org.
THOMAS A. KRALL
Dr. Krall (Ohio State ’74), 72, Seminole, Florida, died May 8, 2021. Following graduation, he practiced small animal medicine in Canton, Ohio. Dr. Krall subsequently served in the Air Force as a base veterinarian in Plattsburg, New York. During that time, he also worked part time at a practice in Burlington, Vermont. Dr. Krall retired with the rank of captain. He then moved to Florida, where he began teaching in the veterinary technology program at St. Petersburg College while also continuing his career in small animal medicine at Pasadena Veterinary Hospital in St. Petersburg.
In 1977, Dr. Krall co-established Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital in Seminole, serving as a managing partner for more than 25 years. He also became a professor at St. Petersburg College, retiring as a professor emeritus in 2019. Dr. Krall was a past treasurer of what was known as the American Association of Human-Animal Bond Veterinarians; a member of the Florida and Pinellas County VMAs, American Animal Hospital Association, and Association of Veterinary Technician Educators; and served on the American Association of Veterinary State Boards’ Veterinary Technician National Exam Committee. He was also active with Rotary International for many years.
A marathoner who completed 15 marathons, Dr. Krall led a winning six-member veterinarian team in a relay in 1982 across Florida. His wife, Barbara; a son and a daughter; and three sisters survive him. Memorials toward the Carillon Fund may be sent to the Bay Pines National Cemetery, 10000 Bay Pines Blvd., St. Petersburg, FL 33708.
DONALD F. LAMB
Dr. Lamb (Iowa State ’59), 86, Moorhead, Iowa, died July 20, 2021. Following graduation, he practiced large animal medicine in Baxter, Iowa, for seven years. Dr. Lamb subsequently worked in Sioux City, Iowa, until 1989, when he retired to his farm. During his life, he farmed with his partners for nearly 50 years.
Dr. Lamb was active with Gideons International. His wife, Pat; two daughters and a son; eight grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren survive him. Dr. David K. Meyerholz (Iowa State ’94), Dr. Lamb’s son-in-law, is a professor of pathology at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine. Memorials may be made to The Gideons International, P.O. Box 140800, Nashville, TN 37214, or Christian Veterinary Mission, P.O. Box 5888, Lynnwood, WA 98046.
MONTE Y. SWATZELL
Dr. Swatzell (Texas A&M ’51), 93, Cleburne, Texas, died July 2, 2021. He owned Cleburne Veterinary Hospital, a mixed animal practice, prior to retirement in 1995. Dr. Swatzell was a member of the Texas VMA. A master gardener, he was also a member of the Bluebonnet Garden Club. Dr. Swatzell’s son, two daughters, six grandchildren, five great-grandchildren, and two brothers survive him. Memorials may be made to First United Methodist Church, P.O. Box 114, Cleburne, TX 76033, fumccleburne.com.
LEIGH T. WILCOX
Dr. Wilcox (Cornell ’75), 70, Jefferson, New York, died July 16, 2021. Following graduation, he served as a partner at a practice in Lowville, New York. Dr. Wilcox then became an instructor at the State University of New York in Canton, where he later served as dean of veterinary sciences and as acting vice president. He subsequently served as president of Mater Dei College in Ogdensburg, New York, and was a professor of veterinary science at the State University of New York in Delhi prior to retirement. Throughout his academic career, Dr. Wilcox continued to practice veterinary medicine, most recently from his farm in Jefferson.
His wife, Susan; two sons and a daughter; and two sisters and a brother survive him. Memorials may be made to Oneonta Helios Care, 297 River Street Service Road, Suite 1, Oneonta, NY 13820, helioscare.org/donate.