Issues in Companion Animal Medicine

SVP is developing new products to solve major issues in companion animal medicine. This page describes issues in contemporary companion animal medicine that pet owners and veterinarians grapple with every day. These issues are under study by leading academic veterinarians (see references provided at the end of each section below) and are often discussed in the popular pet press. SVP recognizes the need for improved medications to deal with these issues and is developing new products to address those needs. We hope you find our discussion of these topics informative and helpful. Your feedback, anecdotes of your own related experiences and suggestions are welcome.

Time of change in companion animal medicine

Companion animals (dogs and cats) have come to play an important part in the lives of many people. Sixty-two percent (62%) of U.S. households now own a companion animal, that’s about 73 million homes (1). The bond between companion animals and their caregivers continues to strengthen. With it, the demand increases for pharmaceuticals products able to improve the health and wellbeing of these animals.

Pets are living longer and their life care now often mirrors human health care. For example, diagnostic imaging of pets, using ultrasonography and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), is commonplace. Many veterinary practices have in-house analyzers for clinical chemistry and hematology, as well as rapid patient-side tests for infectious agents.

In the past, many diseases simply were not treated. But today, pet owners expect veterinarians to treat almost every ailment. In an effort to treat infectious diseases, cardiovascular disease and/or pain, veterinarians adopt innovations from human medicine. In parallel, the ethics of animal treatment and care by veterinarians has changed dramatically during the past several decades. Today, for example, managing pain and preserving the quality of life in small animals is just as important as healing illnesses and injuries (2).

(1) US Pet Ownership and Demographic Sourcebook 2012 Edition, American Veterinary Medical Association.
(2) Mathews K et al 2014. Guideline for Recognition, Assessment and Treatment of Pain. Journal of Small Animal Practice 55: E10- E68.

Perioperative Care

19 million surgeries in dogs and 13 million surgeries in cats occur in U.S. veterinary clinics each year. Perioperative care, care before and after surgery, is vital to good outcomes for animals undergoing a surgical procedure. A major part of perioperative care is the control of pain and infections. Untreated or undermanaged perioperative pain has systemic effects that negatively impact a patient’s welfare and return to function (1).

Pain management plans may include a combination of opioids, anesthetics, NSAIDs and analgesic adjuncts, such as Gabapentin. Effective pain management remains challenging despite the recognition by veterinarians of its importance mostly because of a lack of appropriately formulated pharmaceutical drugs.

There are a number of situations in small-animal surgery that warrant antibiotic treatment (2). The drug selected should be effective against coagulase positive staphylococcus, E coli, and anaerobes, the microbes most likely to cause post-operative infections in dogs and cats. The emergence of antimicrobial resistance creates the need for new products for antimicrobial prophylaxis in surgery to avoid selecting resistant strains.

(1) Berry SH. 2015. Analgesia in the Perioperative Period. Vet Clin Small Anim. 45: 1013-1027.
(2) Eugster S et al 2004 A prospective Study of Postoperative Surgical Site Infections in Dogs and cats. Veterinary Surgery 33: 542-550.

Treatment Compliance

Compliance with treatment schedules is a major issue in veterinary medicine (1). Carefully designed therapeutic plans may be worthless if the pet owner does not follow the suggested dosage regimen (2). Patient resistance, sub-optimal drug formulation characteristics (taste, odor, shape or size of tablets), ease of administration, and the experience of the caregiver can prevent satisfactory administration of pharmaceutical therapies, producing angry animals and frustrating owners. In two canine studies, only 27 percent of owners gave the prescribed number of doses each day during short-term antibiotic treatment (1, 2).

Undesirable consequences of poor compliance include:

  • Inadequate response to treatment, depriving the patient and client of potential benefits;
  • Recurrence or relapses of the poorly-treated disease;
  • Increased cost caused by continuing need for reassessment and further treatment; and,
  • Under dosing, in addition to being ineffective, may be a strong selection force for antibiotic or parasite resistance.

(1) Talamonti Z et al 2015. Preliminary Study of Pet Owner Adherence in Behaviour, Cardiology, Urology and Oncology Field. Veterinary Medicine International 2015: 1-7 accessed online at http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2015/618216
(2) Adams VJ.et al 2005. Evaluation of client compliance with short-term administration of antimicrobials to dogs. JAVMA 226: 567-574

Palliative and Hospice Care

Pet hospice and palliative care is a relatively new concept in veterinary medicine (1). The World Health Organization defines palliative care as “active total care of patients whose disease is not responsive to curative treatment. Palliative care provides relief from pain and other distressing symptoms.”

Veterinarians can apply several different care goals to their patients, including longer life, relief of symptoms, improved mobility, improved appetite and good patient hygiene. The overarching requirement of palliative and hospice care is the relief and prevention of suffering, where pain management plays a critical role. Most animal patients entering palliative and hospice care are dealing with a maladaptive pain state, i.e., pain that is not serving a useful physiologic function in the body. A maladaptive pain state may have multiple root causes and involve multiple areas of the nervous system. An optimal treatment outcome is best achieved by targeting multiple receptors in the nervous system using different pharmaceutical agents (2). The current range of pain products registered for animal use is limited and could be expanded to target more receptors by developing new drugs.

(1) Shearer TS. 2011. Pet Hospice and Palliative Care Protocols. Vet Clin Small Anim. 41: 507-518
(2) Downing R 2011. Pain Management for Veterinary Palliative Care and Hospice Patients. Vet Clin Small Anim 41: 531-550.

Antimicrobial Resistance

Veterinarians commonly prescribe antimicrobials for a wide variety of indications particularly for infections of the respiratory, urinary and gastrointestinal tracts, the skin and the ears. In a recent study at the North Carolina State University Veterinary Hospital, the mean number of antimicrobial prescriptions was 1,031 prescriptions per month for 2,839 patients, i.e., more than 1 out of every 3 patients seen (1). Antimicrobial resistance is an emerging problem in companion animals (2). It is clear that resistance is problematic in many pathogens, such as staphylococci, enterococci, E. coli, salmonella and pseudomonas.

A unique and critical aspect of antimicrobial resistance in companion animals is that their close contact to humans creates opportunities for interspecies transmission of bacteria, including multi-resistant strains. There is a consensus among veterinarians that antimicrobials of critical importance in human medicine, because of emerging antimicrobial resistance, should be restricted in animals. Such antimicrobials include vancomycin, carbapenens, glycopeptides and 4th generation cephalosporins. A new approach is required for the development of new antimicrobials to keep dogs and cats healthy and avoid development of resistant strains of bacteria.

(1) Jacob ME et al. 2015. Opinions of clinical veterinarians at a US veterinary teaching hospital regarding antimicrobial use and antimicrobial-resistant invections. JAVMA 247 (8): 938-944.
(2) Weese JS. 2008 Antimicrobial resistance in companion animals. Animal Health Research Reviews 9 (2): 169-176