5 min read

Innovations in Pet Health: Fall 2022 Edition


By Mel Lee-Smith

Published: 10/11/2022, edited: 10/28/2022

Reviewed by a licensed veterinary professional: Dr. Linda Simon, MVB MRCVS

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Welcome to the latest installment of Innovations in Pet Health, a biannual series that spotlights the latest news and research in the pet health space. To help pet parents provide best-in-class care to their fur families, our editorial team combs through dozens of studies every quarter to find the most relevant developments. Then, we summarize our top picks in plain English before having our veterinary consultant, Dr. Linda Simon MVB MRCVS, sign off.

In this edition, we’ll look back at 5 pet health studies published in summer 2022 that every pet parent should know about. Let’s dig in!

closeup of a black dog's eyes

Dogs cry tears of joy when reuniting with their humans, study shows

Ever found yourself tearing up when greeting your pup after a long absence? Turns out your fur-baby might also get a little misty-eyed themselves! That’s according to an August 2022 study that measured the tear volume of dogs before and after reuniting with their humans.

The cutest part? A sweet mama Poodle named Jasmine inspired the study. Takefumi Kikusui, the lead researcher, noticed Jasmine’s eyes welling up as she nursed her pups. Aww!

This sweet observation gave Kikusui a hunch — maybe oxytocin, aka “the love hormone”, also regulates tear production. To find out, Kikusui and his team of researchers recruited a small cohort of pups and their parents. The researchers measured each dog’s tear volume using the Schirmer tear test. Then, they separated the dogs from their humans for several hours before measuring their tear volume again after the reunion.

The result? Tear volume increased “significantly” when the dogs reunited with their pet parents. The dogs also welled up slightly when reuniting with a familiar person who wasn’t their pet parent.

Check out Petted’s article on this pet health study to learn more about the results and science behind it.

black and white border collie dog eating premium pet food from a bowl on a dining table

Premium dog food is becoming more “pawpular”

Premium pet foods — particularly refrigerated dog foods like Nom Nom and Farmer’s Dog — are still leading the pack in 2022, according to a recently updated study by shopper intelligence agency Catalina. In 2020, Catalina predicted that premium pet food brands would become one of the highest-selling consumer packaged goods of the decade.

These findings align with that of another 2022 study, which found that pet parents became more concerned about their pets’ health and nutrition during the pandemic. Searches for topics like “vegan food for dogs” and “raw food diet” grew significantly from December 2020 to January 2022. More pet parents are also searching for info about individual dog food ingredients, from macronutrients like fat and protein to minerals like iron and zinc.

The Catalina report also found that shoppers who buy premium pet food also spend more on rug and upholstery cleaners. They’re also more likely to buy more frozen foods and easy-to-make snacks for themselves.

Pet parents are also switching to larger pet food package sizes as a result of inflation. Catalina also speculates that pet parents have more four-legged friends to feed as a result of increased pet adoption rates during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Got questions about your dog’s nutritional needs? Get expert advice with Wag! Vet Chat.

veterinarians in green scrubs examining a white bulldog

Groundbreaking study will transform disease detection and treatment for pets

With the aim of helping veterinarians discover new approaches to nutrition, aging, and health monitoring, Mars Petcare officially launched the Mars PetCare Biobank in June 2022. This 10-year study will collect and track health data from 10,000 dogs and 10,000 cats, which will be used to improve diagnostic and treatment methods for pets.

Preventative care is a key focus of the study. Pets typically aren’t diagnosed or treated until they show symptoms of illness. The Biobank aims to change that by giving veterinarians the information they need to detect disease before it strikes.

Dogs older than 6 months and younger than 10 years are eligible to participate in the study, as long as they’re being treated at a VCA Animal Hospital or Banfield Pet Hospital. Dogs of all breeds and health backgrounds are eligible.

Enrollment is currently open for dogs and will open for cats later in 2022. Participants will receive:

  • a gift card after their first visit to a participating clinic
  • free annual routine check-ups
  • a Wisdom Panel DNA test kit
  • a Whistle Fit activity monitor (for dogs only)

If you’d like to learn more or enroll your pet in this groundbreaking study, visit marspetcarebiobank.com.

orange cat being held by a veterinarian wearing a surgical mask, stethoscope, and blue scrubs

Cats and COVID-19: new findings

In March 2021, a 7-month old cat living in Turkey went to the vet with respiratory symptoms, including coughing, wheezing, and fever. The cat — who lived with 3 people who’d tested positive for COVID-19 three weeks prior — was found to be infected with SARS-CoV-2.

Tragically, after a 20-day hospitalization, the cat passed away. A post-mortem exam revealed COVID-19 antibodies in the cat’s system, but no other genetic markers of the disease. Additionally, the cat tested positive for feline parvovirus.

A July 2022 study reviewed the cat’s case to determine whether COVID-19 was the cause of death. Researchers concluded that the cause of death was unclear due to the absence of specific genetic markers, as well as the presence of parvovirus, which can be fatal on its own.

“A potential SARS-CoV-2 infection combined with a feline parvovirus infection may have been the cause of the cat’s death; the viral infections may have worsened the cat’s general health status.”

SARS-CoV-2 is an RNA virus, which basically means its genetic material is encoded in RNA. (Unlike humans, whose genetic material is encoded in DNA.) SARS-CoV-2 RNA markers were not present in this cat, but COVID-19 antibodies were. This indicated that the cat may have been in a later stage of the disease at the time of testing.

Although researchers couldn’t definitively conclude whether this cat died from COVID-19, the study highlights a need for further research on treating and preventing COVID-19 in our feline friends. The researchers also encourage pet parents to seek veterinary treatment immediately if their cat is experiencing respiratory symptoms.

two veterinarians in blue scrubs standing next to a white dog on an examination table

New quality of life assessment provides a complete picture of pet health

Our pets are pretty good at hiding pain and other symptoms, which can make detecting and treating disease a challenge. To help solve this problem, Mars Petcare released a new quality of life assessment that provides a complete overview of a dog’s health, behavior, and wellbeing.

Announced in July 2022, this 32-question survey allows pet parents to more accurately report their dog’s health and behavior, leading to faster diagnoses and more effective treatments. Researchers developed the questionnaire using data from more than 2,800 dogs in partnership with Banfield Pet Hospital and Waltham Petcare Science Institute.

To determine whether the new questionnaire will help veterinarians more accurately diagnose and treat various conditions, researchers compared pet parents’ survey responses to Banfield health records. Check out some of the findings:

  • Dogs with osteoarthritis have less energy and mobility.
  • Dogs with chronic disease have lower sociability and happiness compared to healthy dogs.
  • Dogs with chronic dental disease often suffer from reduced appetite.

Pending further research, Mars Petcare plans to distribute the survey on a large scale. The assessment, which takes 3 to 5 minutes to complete, can be integrated with a range of websites and apps, making it easier than ever for pet parents and veterinarians to collaborate.

To learn more about this new assessment, check out the full paper.

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