Mark’s Blog

An important opportunity to improve pet food safety

DVM360 Magazine

Veterinarians, pet owners need rigorous testing to be mandatory.

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has requested public comment on a proposed regulation called the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA, for short), intended to strengthen the safety of pet food and animal feed sold in the United States. If it’s done right, this regulation has the potential to significantly improve the safety of pet food, prevent recalls and assure the public that it can depend on the safety of the food fed to family pets.

There is currently no requirement that pet food factories test finished products for contamination from Salmonella. Finished product testing means that after a food product goes through manufacturing but before it is shipped, it goes through one final round of testing to ensure that the product is safe. Most major pet food manufacturers already undertake such procedures—and have strong internal food safety programs—but these food safety standards are voluntary and are not universally implemented across the pet food industry.

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Consumer research demonstrates need for pet food label reform

DVM360 Magazine

Most veterinary clients have no idea what labeling mean for their pets’ health.

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Attention, veterinarians: Do your clients read the labels on the food they feed their pets—the list of ingredients, the feeding guide or the “guaranteed analysis”? Do these labels influence how and what they feed? Do they make sense and are they easy to understand?

According to recent research conducted by a major U.S. pet food manufacturer, most pet owners would answer “no” to all of the above questions. Most consumers do not read pet food labels, and when they do, they often find them overwhelming and confusing. As a result, the information provided is not meaningful and is not used as intended to guide consumer purchasing and feeding decisions.

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Policy future looks bright with new generation of veterinary students

DVM360 Magazine

Boots on the ground makes a big difference in Congress.

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More than 65 U.S. veterinary students took two days off from classes this week for a good cause. These representatives of accredited U.S. schools met in Washington, D.C., with AVMA’s leadership and its Governmental Relations Division to learn how to be effective in advancing the policy agenda of America’s veterinarians. Banfield Pet Hospitals served as event sponsor to defray travel costs for the students.

After an advocacy “boot camp” on Feb. 10, the students and AVMA leaders hit Capitol Hill on Feb. 11 to meet with senators and representatives. A prime topic was the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act, previously discussed here, in addition to equine soring and transportation issues.

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Alabama’s at it again with bills regulating veterinary shelters

DVM360 Magazine

Alabama’s at it again with bills regulating veterinary shelters and Massachusetts is looking to establish a veterinary technician board.

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State legislatures are political laboratories in a manner that Congress can never replicate. It’s the genius of our dual system of government, providing for legislative powers in 50 separate states along with the federal government. We’re fascinated (or repelled) by the machinations of Congress and the president, but we ignore the doings of state legislatures at our peril.

Consider these just-below-the-radar issues in small animal healthcare: (1) the strategic plans of some metropolitan shelters and humane societies to convert their veterinary departments into full-service commercial veterinary clinics competing with the profession, and (2) expanding the scope of practice for veterinary technicians.

With that backdrop, let’s take a look at HB 141 and HB 93 in Alabama, and HB 246 in Massachusetts.

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Congress starts fast out of the gate in 2014

DVM360 Magazine

Success of Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act in Senate could build momentum for more positive results.

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Veterinarians launched 2014 with a political win, but there’s more to do. The U.S. Senate passed S. 1171, the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act, which allows veterinarians in mobile practices to transport and use controlled substances. This addresses a critical need for large animal veterinarians covering a wide territory, in applications ranging from anesthesia to pain management to euthanasia. Of course, this bill also will protect mobile companion animal health services.

What’s left is the U.S. House of Representatives and its version of the mobility bill, H.R. 1528. Veterinarians and animal health interests must keep up the pressure as it takes both houses of Congress for the legislation to become law. Veterinarian House members Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) and Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) are leading the charge, but they need outreach and support from the greater veterinary community.

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Hands off, California! You’ll only make things worse.

DVM360 Magazine

FDA’s new antimicrobial guidelines don’t need legislative ‘help.’

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A recent dvm360 article (“FDA’s final antimicrobial regulation proposal provides veterinarians more flexibility”) highlights a major success on the part of both the animal health industry and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), with clear benefits for American food consumers.

Years of hard work, negotiations, research and stakeholder outreach led to the creation of these FDA guidelines governing antibiotics in our animal feed. At a time when public opinion of our federal government is at an all-time low, the animal health industry has stepped up and showed how government can work. Huge kudos must go out to pharmaceutical manufacturers for patience, flexibility and sustained commitment to make this happen.

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Human-animal bond goes mainstream in the Wall Street Journal

DVM360 Magazine

Collaborative investigation a model for future veterinary research.

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This morning’s Wall Street Journal contained a fascinating article on page 4: “How dogs might protect kids against asthma: gut bacteria.” According to the article, researchers have determined that children in households with dogs exposed to the outdoors may develop a gastrointestinal tract with a more mature immune response to allergens. The consortium of researchers came from the University of Michigan, Henry Ford Health System and Georgia Regents University. It was funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

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Why doesn’t a growing bond lead to better pet healthcare?

DVM360 Magazine

Veterinarians aren’t seeing increased pet owner spending the way pet retail outlets are. At least not yet.

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Perhaps you’ve heard this ancient Chinese curse: “May you live an interesting life.” If this proverb has any merit, then veterinarians in the United States must feel especially “cursed” right now.

So what’s so interesting about veterinary medicine these days? This: While Americans are spending more money than ever on pets, fewer than half the pets in America receive regular veterinary care, according to reliable estimates. Spending is up for pet food, boarding, grooming and pet toys but down for pet healthcare. “Interesting” indeed, especially since pet owners are seeking more and more health-related services for themselves.

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Texas, Minn., N. Carolina ‘get’ the human-animal bond

DVM360 Magazine

Innovative programs pair people and animals for boosted health and well-being.

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There’s a wave sweeping across the country that spells good news for animals and people of all stripes, including pet owners and veterinarians. Legislatures, universities and small nonprofits are recognizing the power of the human-animal bond, and research is backing up their discoveries. This could lead to a surge in demand for pets throughout the United States as the positive value of animals and their effects on people are better understood. Put simply: pets do good, so why not provide more people with an opportunity?

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Survey of young pet owners calls shelter marketing into question

DVM360 Magazine

‘Problem pets’ stigma is driving down adoptions, experts fear.

Cushing_Logo2A recent survey, described here in The Columbian of Clark County, Wash., sheds an important and fascinating light on pet owner attitudes toward sources of pet dogs.

The study was conducted by Best Friends Animal Society and focused on people 18 to 34 years of age. The results? Nearly half—46 percent—of these young people found shelter animals less desirable than animals purchased from breeders or pet stores. This study will draw a lot of attention, but not necessarily for obvious reasons.

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