The U.S. state of Connecticut and Canadian province of Manitoba are taking steps to enlist licensed veterinary professionals along with other health care workers to administer vaccines against COVID-19, as the countries began this week to deliver the first shots in the quest to end the coronavirus pandemic. The Connecticut Department of Public Health issued an order on Dec. 7 authorizing podiatrists, dentists, dental hygienists, emergency medical technicians, paramedics and veterinarians who have received proper training to administer the COVID-19 vaccine.
Some Connecticut veterinarians learned about the order through an email from public health officials last week addressed to "Connecticut Licensed Health Care Professional," and asking recipients to answer a survey "to assist in determining how many individuals are interested in becoming eligible to administer COVID 19 vaccinations during mass vaccination events."
Michael San Filippo, a spokesperson for the American Veterinary Medical Association, said he was unaware of any other state that had taken this step. "We were just recently made aware of the Connecticut request and are looking into it," he told the VIN News Service by email. Asked what veterinarians should consider if they wish to participate, San Filippo identified liability protection as a concern.
"Typically, professional liability policies cover the veterinarian in their delivery of veterinary services; human vaccination would seem to fall outside the scope of those services," he said. "Veterinarians should contact their professional liability carrier to see whether they are covered. They should also see what coverage might be provided by the state/local authority and also reach out to their personal insurer to see if this would be covered under any umbrella policy."
San Filippo also encouraged veterinarians to consider the potential increased exposure risk at a time when COVID-19 case numbers are high around the country, which, he said, "would be of particular concern if the veterinarian has any of the identified comorbidities that put individuals at increased risk of severe disease." The Connecticut Department of Public Health did not respond to emails and calls from VIN News.
A department webpage for the COVID-19 vaccination training programs said the training is in development in a collaboration with the University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy. The page did not detail how the vaccinations would take place, whether vaccinators would be vaccinated, whether the work would be on a voluntary or paid basis, or address questions about liability. The order stipulates that a health care professional shall be at vaccination sites.
In May, Nevada authorized a role in pandemic response for veterinarians and veterinary technicians, including them among a wide array health care workers who could be mobilized as part of an emergency medical corps if the pandemic overwhelmed resources. The scope of practice for veterinarians in that state to assist with pandemic response includes triage and patient monitoring, COVID-19 testing, intravenous fluid administration, IV catheter placement, treating emergencies (hemostasis, bandaging, splinting, local anesthesia and suturing), airway maintenance (oral, nasal, pharyngeal and intubation), phlebotomy and giving vaccines. However, there have been no specific actions to date to activate veterinarians to administer vaccines, according to Dr. Jon Pennell, who spearheaded the effort to include veterinarians in the corps and allow for an increased scope of practice.
A Connecticut veterinarian has been charged with animal cruelty after a puppy reportedly suffered burns and died while in his care.
The dog, a 10-week-old American bulldog named Lyrics, was brought to Black Rock Animal Hospital in Bridgeport, Conn., for a “routine procedure” in September, News 12 reports.
The puppy’s owner, Eric Jones, says he was informed of his dog’s death the following day and was told Lyrics had died of parvovirus. Jones says he noticed burns on the dog’s body, according to News 12.
It was eventually revealed the puppy had been left unattended on a heating blanket, which caused the burns that led to its death, News 12 reports.
Amr Wasfi, DVM, MSc, PhD, has since been arrested for animal cruelty in relation to the incident, the news agency reports, and held on $10,000 bond.
According to Connecticut Post, Dr. Wasfi faced similar charges last year after he allegedly performed “unnecessary” surgery on a canine patient to pocket extra fees among other accusations.
News 12 reports the veterinarian’s previous charges have yet to be ruled upon due to COVID-related court delays.
For many veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), waiting years for a service dog is not uncommon. To combat the extensive waiting lists, Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine scientist and associate professor of human-animal interaction, Maggie O’Haire, is unveiling quantifiable data for these veterans as they wait for their animal companion.
With an increasingly growing waitlist for service dogs, O’Haire made it her mission to show the physiological and behavioral benefits service dogs have on veterans with PTSD, according to a Purdue press release.
“We continue to hear that service dogs are saving veterans’ lives,” she says, in the release. “Our research is intended to measure this. We see that the dogs are helping, but now the challenge is answering how exactly service dogs are helping and what to expect once you have one of them in your household. Service dogs for PTSD are not a cure, but for some veterans, they can offer benefits that make PTSD symptoms easier to manage.”
O’Haire led a preliminary study from 2015 to 2016 of 141 veterans— 76 of them had service dogs. With the help of K9s For Warriors – a nonprofit organization providing veterans with service dogs – O’Haire was able to successfully conclude her research, revealing that overall symptoms of PTSD were lower among veterans with service dogs.
Furthermore, the study results shed light on the scientific evidence of mental health benefits of service dogs for veterans with PTSD. “The findings during that study also went beyond behavioral benefits and assessed cortisol levels because it is a biomarker in the stress response system,” says O’Haire.
Cortisol levels in veterans with service dogs was higher in the morning compared with those without them or on the waiting list. Healthy adults without PTSD exhibit rising cortisol levels in the morning as a natural occurrence after waking up. O’Haire’s research also revealed that veterans with service dogs experienced less anger, anxiety, and better sleep.
O’Haire recently replicated her initial service dog research using a larger sample study, and found that service dogs were associated with decreased PTSD symptom severity. She also conducted a trial to find out how couples are affected by veterans’ service dogs. Study findings showed that service dogs may improve resilience and relationship satisfaction.
Animals, especially dogs, can have therapeutic benefits for children and young people. A new paper, published in The International Journal of Social Robotics, has found that the robotic animal, 'MiRo-E', can be just as effective and may even be a better alternative.
Dr Leanne Proops from the Department of Psychology, who supervised the study said: "We know that real dogs can provide calming and enjoyable interactions for children -- increasing their feelings of wellbeing, improving motivation and reducing stress. "This preliminary study has found that biomimetic robots -- robots that mimic animal behaviours -- may be a suitable replacement in certain situations and there are some benefits to using them over a real dog."
Dogs are the most commonly used animals for therapy because of their training potential and generally social nature. However, there are concerns about using them in a setting with children because of the risk of triggering allergies or transmitting disease, and some people do not like dogs, so may not be comfortable in the presence of a real therapy dog.
Olivia Barber, who owns a therapy dog herself, and is first author of the paper, said: "Although lots of people in schools and hospitals benefit greatly from receiving visits from a therapy dog, we have to be mindful of the welfare of the therapy dog. Visits can be stressful and incredibly tiring for therapy dogs, meaning that we should be exploring whether using a robotic animal is feasible."
There are lots of positives to using a robotic animal over a therapy dog. They can be thoroughly cleaned and can work for longer periods of time. They can also be incredibly lifelike, mirroring the movements and behaviour of a real animal, such as wagging their tails to show excitement, expressing "emotions" through sounds and colour, turning their ears towards sounds and even going to sleep.
The researchers used real dogs and a biomimetic robot in a mainstream secondary school in West Sussex to interact with 34 children aged 11-12. The two real-life therapy dogs were a three-year-old Jack Russell crossed with a Poodle and a 12-year-old Labrador-retriever from the charity Pets as Therapy. The robot was a MiRo-E biomimetic robot developed by Consequential Robotics.
The children were asked to complete a questionnaire about their beliefs and attitudes towards dogs and robots, before they took part in two separate free-play sessions, one with a real-life dog and one with a robot. The researchers found the children spent a similar amount of time stroking both the real-life dog and the robot, but they spent more time interacting with the robot.
Despite the children reporting they significantly preferred the session with the living dog, overall enjoyment was high and they actually expressed more positive emotions following interaction with the robot. The more the children attributed mental states and sentience to the dog and robot, the more they enjoyed the sessions. Dr Proops said: "This is a small-scale study, but the results show that interactive robotic animals could be used as a good comparison to live dogs in research, and a useful alternative to traditional animal therapy."
Improving the quality of life for man’s best friend is the goal of a newly launched cancer-detection tool. Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVMBS) has introduced a cost-effective oncology test veterinarians across North America can use for early cancer detection in canine patients. Developed by Belgium-based epigenetics company Volition, the proprietary Nu.Q Vet Cancer Screening Test uses a blood test to measure early markers of cancer, representing a streamlined diagnostic process.
“Unlike in humans, where routine cancer screening is relatively commonplace, there are few tests for animals,” says CVMBS professor, Heather Wilson-Robles, DVM, DACVIM (oncology), who helped develop the screening. “We are changing this today.”
“This simple, low-cost blood test can help streamline the diagnostic process and shorten the path to diagnosis, thereby allowing treatment (be that chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or surgery) to be initiated earlier, even before symptoms appear, increasing the chance of the dog’s survival and its quality of life.”
Cancer is the most common cause of death for dogs older than two in the U.S., according to Texas A&M. Further, as many as 50 percent of all dogs over the age of 10 will develop cancer in their lifetime.
The new test, which is available through CVMBS’ Gastrointestinal (GI) Laboratory, can be used during wellness checks of older dogs where there is a suspicion of cancer, as well as in younger high-risk breeds.
At 100 percent specificity, the test has been shown to detect 74 percent of lymphomas and 89 percent of hemangiosarcomas, which are two of the most common cancers in dogs, comprising approximately one-third of canine cancers, Texas A&M says.
“As with human cancers, early diagnosis is key, and this testing will not only save dogs’ lives, but will offer dogs a better quality of life through earlier treatment,” says John August, BVetMed, MS, MRCVS, DACVIM (SAIM), dean of CVMBS.
Feline friendship might have a positive effect on children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and their families.
This is according to a new exploratory study funded by the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) and the Winn Feline Foundation. The research, which was led by a team from the University of Missouri (MU), explored the emotional, behavioral, and social benefits of shelter cats on families of children with ASD.
“Previous research has focused on interactions of dogs with children who have ASD, but dogs may not provide the best fit for all children and their families, especially given the hypersensitivities to sound that are common among children with ASD,” says Gretchen Carlisle, PhD, MEd, RN, research scientist at the University of Missouri Research Center for Human Animal Interaction (ReCHAI).
Participating families were randomized into two groups and surveyed over a period of several months. One set of families adopted a shelter cat immediately and were followed for 18 weeks, while families in the second group lived without a cat for the same length of time, then adopted a shelter cat and were followed for an additional 18 weeks.
Researchers collected surveys every six weeks, measuring children’s social skills and anxiety, as well as parent/child bonds with the cat. All felines involved in the study were predetermined as having a calm temperament.
The study found that, following the introduction of a shelter cat, children with ASD experienced “significant increases” in empathy, while also demonstrating a decrease in some behaviors (e.g. bullying, hyperactivity/inattention) and less separation anxiety.
Additionally, children and parents reported feeling strong bonds with their new cat almost immediately and, despite the responsibilities involved in care for a cat, these bonds did not decrease over time. This, researchers say, suggests shelter cats may be beneficial for some children with ASD while not necessarily creating a burden for their parents.
“For the first time, we have scientific research that shows how beneficial cats can be for families of children with ASD,” says HABRI’s president, Steven Feldman. “Selecting a suitable family pet is an important decision. Families with a child with ASD now have more information and more choices, and we hope that this will also help more shelter cats find good homes.”
“To our knowledge, no studies prior to this have examined the attachment to the cats of children with ASD and their caregivers after adoption,” adds Winn Feline Foundation’s interim executive director, Vicki Thayer, DVM, DABVP (feline). “We hope other scientists will further study cat adoption in families of children with ASD, following this important study.” “Exploratory study of cat adoption in families of children with autism: Impact on children’s social skills and anxiety” has been published in the Journal of Pediatric Nursing.
Does your horse have sarcoids? If he does, he’s not alone. Sarcoids are common, accounting for about one-third of all skin tumors in horses. Although many sarcoids do not cause health problems, some interfere with tack or create aesthetic issues in competition horses. Because of this, owners frequently wish to have them removed.
“Unfortunately, complete and permanent excision of sarcoids has proven challenging, as they often regrow after treatment,” said Catherine Whitehouse, M.S., an advisor for Kentucky Equine Research. “Further, sarcoids that regrow tend to do so more aggressively than they did originally, which only complicates matters.”
In light of this poor response to therapy, many different treatment options have been proposed in the hopes of improving outcomes. To date, none has been completely successful, and trying all the available options can be economically draining on owners.
Researchers recently described a novel approach to managing sarcoids called calcium electroporation. “This technique involves injecting a tumor with calcium and then electrically pulsing the tumor so that individual tumor cells absorb the calcium, which kills the cells,” Whitehouse explained.
In a study describing the technique, researchers reported using calcium electroporation in eight horses with 32 sarcoids. In total, 44% of treated sarcoids responded to therapy, with 22% of sarcoids completely disappearing.*
“This study, which followed the horses for 38 weeks after treatment, demonstrates that calcium electroporation is safe and can be effective,” Whitehouse said.
It should be noted, however, that this technique requires horses to be fully anesthetized and that calcium electroporation was not directly compared to other available treatment options. Moreover, treatment efficacy did not appear to be related to location, size, and type of sarcoid.
Maintaining a healthy coat and supple skin relies on optimal health and nutrition. While a well-balanced diet often supplies all of the nutrients needed for a high-gloss sheen, many horses benefit from biotin supplementation. Biotin is typically used for horses that have hoof problems, such as soft or crumbly hoof walls that are predisposed to cracks. Because hooves and hair are made of the same microscopic structures, they both profit from biotin.
When choosing a hoof and coat supplement, look for one that contains an array of ingredients, most notably biotin, methionine, iodine, and zinc.
Improving the understanding of the equine intestinal microbiome has been a focus among researchers for many years. Among the many questions researchers ask, perhaps the most intriguing is the effect of the microbiome on a horse’s mental status.*
Studies demonstrate a direct link between the microbiota in the gastrointestinal tract and the brain, called the gut-brain axis. This axis can be either positively or negatively influenced through diet.
In horses with an “unhealthy” gastrointestinal tract, such as stabled horses without free-choice access to forage, shifts in the makeup of their microbiota occur. As a result, mental health may suffer, potentially manifesting as stereotypic behaviors, such as cribbing and weaving, or aggressive behaviors such as biting and kicking. In fact, some experts assert that if horses were fed like undomesticated horses, with 24-hour group turnout and access to forage, plus limited high-calorie offerings, fewer behavioral issues would occur due to a healthier gut-brain axis.
“In reality, it is not possible to maintain all domesticated horses on forage-only diets with unlimited pasture turnout. This is particularly true for sport horses that require additional calories that cannot be provided through forage alone,” explained Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutritionist for Kentucky Equine Research.
“Offering a research-proven hindgut buffer like EquiShure can help maintain an appropriate pH in the hindgut during times of stress or when adding concentrates to a forage-based diet,” she said. “The microorganisms that make up the microbiome function best at a specific pH. If the acidity level in the intestinal tract is altered, feed utilization and the horse’s welfare can suffer.”
As an extension of the basic gut-brain axis described above, the existence of a more intricate microbiota-gut-brain axis could play a more important role in mental and physical health, and therefore equine welfare, than originally suspected.
Pet owners unable to socialize with friends and family have turned to their pets even more than usual for companionship and comfort. The deeper bonds they’ve developed make them more likely to spend generously on home-based pet health, recreation, and pampering. It’s a trend that bodes well for the Christmas/winter holiday season, according to market research firm Packaged Facts.
For example, Packaged Facts found that a good indication of the prevalence of holiday pet pampering is that a substantial majority of dog owners (77 percent) and cat owners (71 percent) get special gifts or treats for their pets during the Christmas/winter holiday season.
“As pet owners cling to their furry family members more tightly than ever during the crisis, their tendency to downsize economically could be partially offset by a desire to pamper, interact with, and keep the ‘kiddies’ busy while the parents are working from home and celebrating the December holidays, as well as to purchase better quality and more fashionable products designed both to be highly functional and to complement the home décor,” says David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts.
The pet pampering trend is part of the overarching “pets as family” phenomenon that has shaped the U.S. pet market over the past decade. Most marketers and retailers have entrenched “pets as family” into their marketing, product development and even product names
Year after year, surveys of pet owners confirm that the “pets as family” trend remains in full force. Packaged Facts survey data show 95 percent of dog owners, 94 percent of cat owners, and 85 percent of other pet owners agree that “I consider my pets to be part of the family”— and this was even before the coronavirus pandemic had consumers retreating to their homes, and to the companionship and comfort they can find there, notes Sprinkle.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is now accepting public comments on the expected unintentional killing (or “incidental take”), under the Endangered Species Act, of California Condors at an existing wind energy facility. As the species has recovered from near-extinction, its range has continued to expand, bringing the birds more and more frequently into areas where wind turbines have been constructed.
“Condor recovery is a huge conservation success story, so we need to take wind turbine collision risk very seriously,” said Joel Merriman, Director of the Bird-Smart Wind Energy Campaign at American Bird Conservancy. “Losing even one of these magnificent birds is too many. We commend the facility operator for stepping up and working with the Fish and Wildlife Service to identify the means to avoid killing condors."
“This is just one of several existing wind energy facilities in this area,” Merriman added. “It’s hard not to conclude that we have already taken too great a risk with one or our rarest and most iconic birds.”
By the late 1980s the population of the California Condor was just over 20 birds. Thanks to decades of focused conservation efforts, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service now places the population at more than 400 individuals. “This species’ recovery is a testament to a huge amount of effort by stakeholders and the strength of the Endangered Species Act,” said Merriman. “But we absolutely cannot take this recovery for granted. We must ensure that we avoid this kind of conflict now and moving forward.”
“Smart wind energy planning starts with selecting an appropriate location, where risks to birds are minimized,” said Merriman. “This is especially true for species like California Condors, which have too many other threats to contend with and a slow rate of reproduction. We urge everyone involved to be more stringent about where wind energy facilities are allowed to be built in this species’ range moving forward. We will be there every step of the way to ensure that the appropriate lessons are learned.”