What’s happening in veterinary medicine? Experts share their observations
Andrews McMeel Syndication
Pet owners’ experiences at veterinary clinics have been turned upside down over the past 18 months. Have you wondered why that is, what’s going on behind the scenes and how your pet’s veterinary care may change in the long term? We spoke to five veterinarians about what they’re seeing and what they think the future of veterinary medicine holds.
-- Visiting the vet. Will we ever get back into the exam room with our pets? It’s already happening at some clinics, but this is one change that may become permanent -- or at least an option for busy pet parents.
“There’s a real trend that owners don’t want to come back in the exam room, or they want to be able to pick and choose when they come,” says Lori Teller, DVM, professor of telemedicine at Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Bioclinical Sciences (CVMBS). “For routine wellness things, vaccines, they seem to be very happy dropping their pet off. Some surveys show that about half the clients would be happy sticking with curbside or drop-off, but there’s definitely those that do want to come in, that miss the connection with the veterinarian and the staff.”
-- Medication shortages. If you have a dog with mitral valve disease, you’ve probably had issues finding particular medications on a regular basis because of disruptions in production. Certain medications for pain relief are in short supply as well, a problem that began before COVID-19 (uexpress.com/pets/pet-connection/2018/08/06). Those problems won’t be solved anytime soon, Dr. Teller says.
“A lot of those products come from China, (including) the base product to be made into the drugs we use. As long as we’re having supply chain issues, that’s going to be complicated. The AVMA is working closely with the FDA to allow for easier access to compounded medications when we can’t get our name-brand drugs for whatever reason,” she says.
-- Not enough veterinarians. You may have noticed that you can’t get your pet in to see the veterinarian as quickly as in the past, and getting an appointment with a specialist such as an oncologist or cardiologist can require a wait of a month or more. The demand for veterinarians and veterinary specialists exceeds supply, even though it wasn’t that many years ago that leaders in the field were concerned that there were too many veterinarians. The number of households with pets grew during the pandemic, and the number of veterinarians dropped, often due to retirement or burnout. Adding new ones is a slow process.
“It takes six years to graduate more veterinarians after you make a decision that you need more,” says Eleanor Green, DVM, an internal medicine specialist and former dean of Texas A&M CVMBS. It takes even longer to add more specialists.
The good news is that more internal medicine specialists are joining large general practices, making ultrasounds, endoscopies and consultations more widely available, says Dave Bruyette, DVM, DACVIM, chief medical officer for veterinary pharmaceutical company Anivive. Then the internists seek surgeons and oncologists to help treat their patients. “I would be fairly optimistic about the continuing increase in the number of specialists in those given specialties,” he says.
-- Information. With increased adoptions of dogs and cats comes increased searches for information about them. “Information about dog and cat breed characteristics has been in high demand,” says Jennifer Coates, DVM, who consults for a variety of pet care businesses. “As many people have returned to in-person work, the prevention and treatment of separation anxiety have been popular topics.” -- Pet happiness. Concern for overall pet well-being is up, says Cheryl Brocki, DVM, vice president of veterinary relations at Vet’s Best Friend. “With owners returning to offices, they want to make sure that their pets are happy and that they are spending enough time with them or they have enough exercise and social time. Doggie daycares, walkers and even cameras are being utilized more than ever to make sure animals are healthy and happy.”
Is the “runt”
a bad choice?
Q: I’m looking at a litter of puppies, and one is very small. Is it OK to choose the runt of the litter, or are there reasons not to? And what causes “runts”?
A: A runt is defined as an animal who’s unusually small and usually refers to the smallest in a litter.
There are several reasons for variations in the size of newborns. A runt might occur in a very large litter because of positioning in the womb or because matings took place over several days.
Several factors affect whether a runt might be a good choice as a pet. Some runts are puny because they were born with physical abnormalities affecting the heart or digestive system. So you’d want to make sure your pup has been checked by a veterinarian who’s knowledgeable about what to look for overall as well as in a particular breed.
Runts don’t always have physical health problems, but their size means they need to have gumption to survive. It takes a sturdy, strong-willed little pup to muscle his way into the chow line and get his fair share. Good breeders can help by providing a little intervention to ensure that he gets a good spot at the milk bar.
It’s amazing to see how pups grow, and it’s not unusual for the littlest of the bunch to catch up to the others. Breeders often find that a different pup each week is a leader or straggler in the weight race.
By the time they are a year old, the puppy who was born the runt may have caught up in size or even have turned out to be the biggest. The runt who survives young puppyhood can turn out to be a great choice as your new best friend. -- Dr. Marty Becker
Do you have a pet question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
can be deadly
-- An Illinois man died last month after refusing a lifesaving vaccination for rabies, acquired when he was bitten by an infected bat. Rabies is a fatal -- but preventable -- virus that affects mammals, including humans, and is transmitted by a bite or scratch from an infected animal. Fatal cases of rabies in humans are rare in the United States, with only one to three deaths annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If humans are vaccinated before they begin showing signs of the disease -- which attacks the central nervous system and leads to brain death -- they can survive.
-- Veterinarians, ranchers and farmers are all having trouble obtaining ivermectin, a deworming medication incorrectly believed to treat COVID-19. As stocks run low, people who need the drug to treat livestock and pets are having to pay as much as 7 times more for another parasite-killing treatment. Veterinarians and retailers are now rationing the liquid and paste formulations made for animals and requiring purchasers to prove that they need it for an animal. The Food and Drug Administration issued a statement warning against humans self-medicating with animal versions of the drug.
-- Not everything you think you know about service animals is correct. Eight common misconceptions are that service animals always wear a vest, that they never bark (some are trained to bark as an alert), that people can have only one service animal at a time, that only Labradors or German shepherds can be service animals, that pit bulls aren’t allowed to be service animals, that service animals must be certified or registered, that service animals must complete official training programs, or that people with service animals don’t have to follow licensing laws or vaccination requirements. Learn more about service animals and the Americans with Disabilities Act here: adata.org/service-animal-resource-hub/misconceptions. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet care experts headed by “The Dr. Oz Show” veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker, founder of the Fear Free organization and author of many best-selling pet care books, and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. Joining them is behavior consultant and lead animal trainer for Fear Free Pets Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/KimCampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.