News


A report in the 6 April issue of Science explains why small dogs are small and large are large. Here’s a news article on the findings. Here’s the abstract.

A British cat won a giant Easter egg.

Tune in online to Heska’s annual shareholder meeting on 4 May 2007. Info about the Webcast is here. (The press release says to “click on the Annual Meeting of Stockholders link on the front page” of the Heska Web site, however when I checked today no such link yet existed; hopefully the PR and IT departments will coordinate a little more closely in the future.)

An editorial in the Times of Malta urges the Maltese to consider setting up their own college of veterinary medicine.

A U.S. military veterinary mission in Djibouti ends up rescuing a young man caught in a flash flood. “With a powerful current of water standing between them and the injured 19 year-old man, three military members, accompanied by a local Djiboutian, tethered themselves together with a rope and made their way into the river.”

A nice story on a Columbus, WI, veterinarian whose husband is reservist serving in Iraq.

A horse in Bakersfield, CA, that got trapped in an overturned, mangled horse trailer (in pouring rain) is rescued. The rescue is caught on camera. (Or you can read a transcript here.)

EquestrianMag.com reports on the end of the most recent outbreak of equine infectious anemia in Ireland.

CIO Asia reports on the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s development and implementation of a veterinary management information system. “With the value of the animals being cared for in excess of US$190 million, the stakes are high.” Indeed.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reports on caprine acupuncture.

K9 Magazine explains how the Petplan Charitable Trust, a charity operated by a British pet insurance company, works.

The Veterinary News Network deems itself newsworthy.

Donations from grateful clients to veterinary colleges (and their teaching hospitals) are climbing.

Go for the title (“Plastic Rats and Disposable Lungs”). Go for the lead image (tandem parachuters, one holding a large gray plastic dog). Go to learn about the new generation of pet mannequins being used to train veterinarians. Just go! This story from Wired has so much going for it!

A profile of Emily Hilscher, a veterinary assistant who was one of the people killed at Virginia Tech last week.

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Dr. Elankurmaran Subbiah, a veterinarian and assistant professor at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine is studying a modified strain of avian Newcastle disease virus (NDV) as a treatment for human prostate cancer. According to the press release here, “Subbiah and his associates are altering the fusion protein of NDV to replicate only in the presence of prostate specific antigen (PSA), which is found exclusively in cancerous prostate cells.”

Eli Lilly and Co. is entereing the veterinary medicine market with a drug for canine separation anxiety, Reconcile (active ingredient appears to be fluoxetine).

A veterinarian’s report led to changes in a controversial Canadian art exhibit. More here.

A Taiwanese veterinarian lost an arm (later reattached) while treating a crocodile at the Shaoshan Zoo. (Warning! The story in the Sydney Morning Herald includes a photograph of the aftermath that some might find too graphic. A shorter version of the story with a nongraphic photo is here.)

India’s lions need more veterinarians.

The BBC reports on Mycobacterium bovis infections in human beings, including cases of human-to-human transmission.

Dr. Nancy Davis, top veterinarian for the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority, is retiring.

Another story of cats attacking humans! This one is surprisingly charming and focuses almost exclusively on the cat rather than the victim.

The New York Times profiles Indonesian governor (and vetceteraVeterinarian of Note“) Irwandi Yusuf.

“Cowboy poet and large animal veterinarian” Baxter Black appeared on NPR’s Talk of the Nation last week.

William Booth, in the Washington Post, asks of his dogs’ wet food, “what, really, is that grayish brown reconstituted lump in the can?”

I assumed it contained lamb lungs and chicken brains. But there’s a lot more. A 99-cent unit of “cuts and gravy” is the signal product of global industrialized food, where nothing is wasted, a brutal efficiency rules and ingredients are assembled from a relentlessly competitive international marketplace. There is no accident in a can of dog food. Just the opposite.

The story pulls quotes from Drs. Tony Buffington and Bonnie Beaver and makes it seem like dogs are the major animal affected (see Dr. Khuly’s comments on this), but then the writer doesn’t admit to owning any cats.

Catmanager saw this AVMA news item the other day: “How to submit samples, report cases related to adulterated pet food.”

The story explains that “the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians, in consultation with the Food and Drug Administration, was refining a working definition” of what consitutes a “case” of food-recall-related illness. As part of their effort, the AAVLD has set up an online survey (available on the AAVLD Web site and conducted by Michigan State University and the University of Guelph on behalf of the AAVLD) to collect incidents that diagnostic laboratories or veterinarians suspect are related to the food recall.

The AAVLD will share data with the FDA and will present an analysis of the data at the October 2007 AAVLD meeting.

Catmanager was excited to hear about the AAVLD survey, but after checking it out I was somewhat confused.

First
What is the purpose of the survey? Veterinarians have already been encouraged to report incidents to the FDA, their state veterinarian, and (if they are members) to VIN. Now they need to submit to another organization? Already taxed for time, why would they contribute to AAVLD?

According to the AVMA, the primary goal of the survey

is to distinguish true cases of nephropathy unique to this recall, hopefully resulting in a set of criteria defining a true case.

Other survey objectives are to characterize the spectrum of lesions; the temporal and geographic distributions of the suspected intoxications; the species, breeds, and ages of affected animals; and when possible, the brands, lot numbers, and UPC numbers of pet food involved in the toxic exposure, and results of chemical analyses.

Catmanager interprets this to mean that the AAVLD isn’t in the business of counting cases. They aren’t trying to create an authoritative tally (that’s up to the FDA). Instead, they’re trying to figure out how one should go about counting cases. In an e-mail responding to my questions, survey coordinator Dr. Wilson Rumbeiha seemed to confirm this interpretation.

The main objective is to define a true case of pet-food-induced nephrotoxicity derived from several criteria including history of ingestion of contaminated pet foods, documentation of renal failure by chemistry assays and urinalysis, histopathologic signs consistent with pe-food-induced nephrotoxicity and chemistry tests for markers of contaminants found in food, tissues and/or urine. Everyday animals fall sick or die of acute renal faliure and so our job is to come up with criteria that decide what is in and what is out.

Second
Who should be submitting data to the survey? The survey is publicly accessible and doesn’t require registration or passwords. According to Dr. Rumbeiha, the openness of the survey “is meant to encourage participation rather than discourage.” However, some of the

information asked for in the survey is not what you would expect regular veterinarians to have. That information would be gathered at diagnostic laboratories or selfstanding commercial labs like IDEXX. Hence we expect that only terminal diagnosticians will complete the survey as primary practitioners will not have the information handy.

Looking over the survey questions, catmanager suspects primary practitioners could answer all of the questions (in fact, many of the questions about patient history will be more easily answered by the primary practitioner unless they provide extremely detailed histories to the labs) but might not be able to fully answer question 9, which asks about crystal composition. The average practitioner will need to rely on labs to confirm the presence of melamine in the pet’s food or tissues, for example.

Still, I wondered about the openness of the survey. I can without difficulty imagine pet owners attempting to complete the survey. Would the researchers screen out data submitted by laypersons? Dr. Rumbeiha indicated that they will, and he pointed to the unique animal ID (such as a case number assigned by a lab) and contact information asked by the survey. Dr. Rumbeiha and three other pathologists will contact “each and every case entered” using that contact info. Any unauthenticated cases will be discarded from the survey.

Third
Will the survey, which was released on April 4, be updated to include the foods subsequently added to the recall? Dr. Rumbeiha said no, they’ll rely on people using the spot for “other” in the list of foods. This holds open the possibility that the survey could identify new foods in need of recall, although it’s not certain whether that information would be identified soon enough to have a practical effect.

Fourth
When can we expect to see results of the survey? After one or two months, the survey will close so that the team contacting the cases, reviewing slides, and checking the data has enough time to complete their work before the fall presentation to the AAVLD. Because the AAVLD commissioned the survey, they get to decide when and how they’ll release the data to the public. Dr. Rumbeiha wasn’t sure when that might be. He also wasn’t sure when or how the data would be shared with the FDA, but he did say they wouldn’t be sharing data in real time.

Our job is to define criteria of what is a real case of pet food poisoning and what is not. . . . the real work will follow the survey where pathologists will come up with these criteria defining what is in and what is out. That requires time and good scientific review.

So, check with your diagnostic lab to see whether they’re submitting reports to the AAVLD survey. If they’re not, consider submitting them yourself. (Pet owners, please save yourself and the researchers conducting the survey some time and don’t try to submit data yourself. You might, however, want to check that your veterinarian is aware of survey—many veterinarians aren’t members of AAVLD, and the AVMA news story announcing the survey won’t be published in print until the May 1 issue of JAVMA.)

As Pet Connection noted last week, this survey could serve as a model for a future reporting mechanism. One thing that struck catmanager was how simple setting up the survey appeared to be. It’s hosted at SurveyMonkey.com, which is one of many online survey companies that make it surprisingly easy—and inexpensive—to create your own survey. Of course, someone has to review the data (which presumes people have taken the time to submit data), and as Dr. Rumbeiha noted in his e-mail to me, the real work doesn’t start until the data are all in.

Still, from a technological standpoint, setting up a national adverse-events database for veterinary medicine should be doable with existing, commericially available software. Finding money for the real work of reviewing all the data is where the political will is needed.

Lyme disease on the rise in Vermont.

World Veterinary Day is April 28. The AVMA has a press release.

The USDA has extended for another six months its BSE-testing contract with the University of Washington College of Veterinary Medicine. UW’s is the only BSE testing program in the Pacific Northwest.

An update from the New York Times on the 2005 fake veterinarian case. (You remember, the case in which Fred the cat went undercover to bust a Brooklyn man practicing veterinary medicine without a license. Sadly, Fred was later killed in a traffic accident.)

For the seventh straight year Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine has been ranked the top vet school in the country by U.S. News and World Report.

“Fat Cat Goes Wild”: another cat attack in the news.

Serbia is trying to give the veterinary and food production sectors of its economy a boost.

Veterinarians strike (briefly) in Cyprus.

The EU announced plans to form an emergency veterinary team similar to the AVMA’s VMATs.

News flash! Pet food scare over! So said a Florida veterinarian last week. The head of the AVMA says food is safe.

New York Times on the recent recall news.

The Washington Post weighs in too.

The AP offers a story about the possibility that cats are more susceptible to the contaminants in the recalled pet food.

We’re not the only ones having problems with recalled food.

Abaxis held a free “Wellness Testing Program” for pet owners at its Union City, CA, headquarters on Saturday. Cats and dogs that had eaten recalled foods were offered free blood tests.

From Michigan State, images from a dog that reportedly ate recalled food.

The Baltimore Sun profiles Maryland horse vet Fred Lewis, who has been practicing for over fifty years. Not that it’s felt like work to him: “‘I can’t retire because I’ve never worked a day in my life.'”

The following journal issues are now available online:

The news reports today are all over the board. These four stories appeared within three hours of one another:

What are we to conclude? The food is safe? Caution is still needed? The illness is mysterious and something to worry about? The problem is fear itself, and we are overreacting? Catmanager has no idea. But I’m sort of glad for the confusion; it reminds us that in a crisis events aren’t orderly, we don’t have immediate answers to questions, and we need both to remain skeptical and to keep an open mind. I’ve seen a lot of skepticism but somewhat less open-mindedness.

The discovery of melamine in the recalled food (and in the urine and kidneys of some affected cats) is unlikely to be the end of the story. So keep asking questions and keep demanding that governments and corporations share information. But don’t jump to conclusions. Remember that no one at this point has a panoramic view of the situation.

The Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine has been granted full accreditation. The school had been on limited accreditation status for the past few years.

Scientific American offers a special report on the pet food recall (PetConnection blogged about it earlier). While mostly a summary of the recall peppered with stories of pets that have been affected, what interested catmanager was the details about the process used to identify aminopterin as the toxin in the food:

[The Cornell lab] received samples of both food products and animal remains from Menu Foods a day or two before the recall. Using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (a process that separates complex mixtures and analyzes ingredients by measuring a weight-to-charge ratio), researchers compared the constituent chemicals in the food to standards for common molds, heavy metals and ethylene glycol (or antifreeze, which Goldstein says is the number one cause of kidney failure). All test results were negative.

Cornell’s initial tests were inconclusive, so the university sent samples to the NYDASM [New York State Department of Agriculture & Markets] food safety lab, which has an expanded set of contaminants to compare with the food. This lab detected aminopterin after switching to a UV-light detector to help them visualize the poison; it was initially difficult to pinpoint because of the food’s gummy consistency, which makes it hard to load into their machines and then to isolate out components.

Cornell is now trying to replicate the results of the state lab.

Charges were dropped today against the former head of the Nebraska VMA, who had been accused of injecting vodka into race horses.

The spring issue of Equine News, a newsletter from the Washington State University College of Veteirnary Medicine is now available. The current issue includes stories on laminitis, the current outbreak of equine herpes virus, and postpartum care for mares.

The FDA slapped Iams on the wrist for using chromium tripicolinate in some of its Eukanuba prescription diets.

The FDA also announced a public meeting on their Animal Feed Safety System to be held in May.

During the past several years, FDA has been considering changes to the Agency’s Animal Feed Safety System (AFSS), which is a program aimed at protecting human and animal health by ensuring that animal feed is safe. As part of this effort, FDA is developing a model for ranking the relative risks to human and animal health from contaminants in animal feed.

In light of the current pet food recall, catmanager thinks the tone of this meeting might be a bit different from the public meeting held last September.

Coming in June to the CW, a new TV drama about a veterinarian who moves his family to South Africa.

If you live in Virginia, Happy Rabies Awareness Week (catmanager is sorry to say he wasn’t aware—but then I don’t live in Virginia).

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