Apr 17, 2020

COVID-19 in Animals: What We Know So Far

Posted by Bob under COVID-19

As we all follow along with the updates regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to remember that this is an ever-changing situation. As experts continue to learn about this novel coronavirus, we must take special caution so as to not spread misinformation. In light of recent reports that a few animals have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes coronavirus disease or COVID-19), we think it is important to address the rising concerns of the general animal owning population and compile important and factual information regarding pets and COVID-19.

Reputable Sources

First, we must stress the importance of reputable sources. Organizations such as the CDC and AVMA are trusted sources that are providing up-to-date information regarding COVID-19. You can find information from the CDC regarding COVID-19 and animals here and information from the AVMA here. It is important to note that both sites make the following statement: There is no evidence to suggest that pets can spread COVID-19 to people or other pets.

So, what do we know so far regarding COVID-19 and animals? According to the AVMA and the CDC, there is a small number of pets who have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 outside of the U.S.

Confirmed Cases of SARS-CoV-2 in Pets Outside of U.S.

The first case of an animal testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 was a dog in Hong Kong. The dog’s owner was diagnosed with COVID-19 and had close contact with the dog. A second dog in the house tested negative and the positive 17-year-old dog with ongoing health issues, who died shortly after being released from quarantine, never showed signs of illness. The second reported case was also in Hong Kong. Like the first case, this dog lives with an owner who has COVID-19. A second dog in the house continues to test negative for SARS-CoV-2 and the infected dog has had no symptoms.

The third reported case was a cat in Belgium. Like the two dogs, this cat also lives with an owner who has been diagnosed with COVID-19. The cat was showing respiratory and digestive symptoms and both vomit and fecal matter tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. That being said, there are many unknowns surrounding this particular case. According to the AVMA, “Because other etiologic causes for the cat’s illness appear to have not been excluded and little is known about the samples in which viral material was detected, a clear link between the presence of viral material and clinical signs consistent with coronavirus infection cannot be established. The condition of the cat reportedly improved 9 days after onset of clinical signs.”

A second cat, located in Hong Kong, also tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. Like the previous pets, this cat also lives with an owner who has been diagnosed with COVID-19. The cat is in quarantine and is showing no symptoms of the disease.

Tiger Tests Positive for SARS-CoV-2 in New York

Perhaps most important to us in the U.S., is the recent news that a tiger at the Bronx Zoo tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. The tiger was tested after several big cats developed a dry cough. It is believed that the tiger contracted the virus from an animal caretaker that was asymptomatic but actively shedding the virus. According to the zoo spokesperson, the affected cats have experienced a decrease in appetite but are otherwise doing well and are expected to make a full recovery. At this time, there are no other reports of sick animals at the Bronx Zoo.

What does this mean for pet owners?

It is important to note that only 2 of the 5 animals listed above that tested positive for the virus after exposure from a human caregiver/owner with COVID-19 showed any symptoms of respiratory disease and none appear to be significant as it is in people. However, if you or a family member have tested positive for COVID-19, the CDC and AVMA recommend restricting contact with pets just like you would with other people. When possible, have a healthy family member care for your pets. If you must care for your animals while sick, the CDC recommends washing your hands before and after interacting with them. Avoid contact such as petting, snuggling, being kissed/licked, and sharing food.

We feel it is important to once again note that both the CDC and AVMA have reported that there is no evidence to suggest that pets can spread COVID-19 to people. This continues to be a rapidly developing situation, so we encourage you to check the CDC and AVMA websites frequently for updates.

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Apr 10, 2020

Zoo Animal Care During COVID-19 Pandemic

Posted by Bob under COVID-19

As you may know, VetStem has worked with several wild animal organizations over the years.  One example is Francis, a Sun Bear at the San Diego Zoo who received VetStem Cell Therapy.  Like dogs, cats, and horses, exotic animals are near and dear to us.  We previously posted a blog about caring for your dogs and cats during the COVID-19 pandemic but what about the zoo animals?

Due to the current stipulations in place regarding social distancing, zoos and aquariums across the United States have closed to the public.  While non-essential employees may be working from home, the animals still need care.  The animal care staff continues to provide routine care to the best of their ability.  Non-emergency procedures have been postponed, such as preventative care and routine vaccinations, in cases where the procedures require more than one person to work closely together.  But otherwise, the care continues.

Due to interruptions in supply chains, some food sources might become scarce or temporarily unavailable.  While this might sound scary, zoos and aquariums have safeguards in place to help prevent this from becoming a problem.  For instance, the platypuses, which are currently on display at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, are very picky eaters and prefer live crayfish.  Zookeepers are working with the animals to introduce various options into their diets, should live crayfish become unavailable.

While we continue to live in unprecedented and uncertain times, rest assured knowing the animals we love so much are being well cared for.  Zoos have said the animal caretakers are providing extra enrichment opportunities and exercises to help make up for the lack of interaction from visitors.  In fact, several zoos and aquariums have set up live broadcasts and videos showing various animals.  In one exceptionally cute video from the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, IL, the resident penguins take a trip to meet the beluga whales.  We encourage you to check your local zoo’s website or Facebook page for fun and interactive videos.  Or you can view some of the larger zoos’ videos such as the San Diego Zoo’s Live Cams or the Smithsonian’s National Zoo Webcams.

Francis
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Apr 3, 2020

How Animals Are Helping Humans During The COVID-19 Pandemic

Posted by Bob under COVID-19, Translational Medicine

In previous blogs, we have discussed the concept of translational medicine.  That is, when successes in one branch of medicine influence and translate into advances made in another branch of medicine.  We are a veterinary company with a sister human company, therefore we specifically focus on the way veterinary medicine translates to human medicine; a concept we refer to as “One Medicine.”  Recently, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen several instances in which the veterinary community has assisted human healthcare providers.

Veterinarians Helping Human Doctors

While the current climate in which we are living has tested many of us, we have also seen people come together in ways that are truly unprecedented.  There have been several news stories highlighting the ways in which veterinarians are helping human doctors.  According to one article, veterinary hospitals in several states have donated or lent vital equipment and supplies to help human doctors in the fight against COVID-19.  These supplies include ventilators, masks, and gowns, all of which are or may be in short supply.  

According to the American Veterinary Medical association (AVMA), conservation of personal protective equipment such as masks, gowns, and gloves is critical due to the increased demand and subsequent shortage.  The AVMA, CDC, and FDA have all provided strategies for conserving personal protective equipment and veterinarians have already implemented protocols to conserve these essential supplies.  For instance, several veterinary hospitals have restricted or completely ceased all elective surgical procedures and have taken steps to minimize contact with pet owners, thus reducing the need for personal protective equipment.

Use of Animal Data to Develop COVID-19 Vaccine

Translational medicine is not new, however it tends to stand out in trying times like these.  In a previous blog, we discussed the use of animal data when developing a new human drug or technology.  According to a press release from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), scientists have already begun a Phase 1 clinical trial to test a potential COVID-19 vaccine.  The vaccine being tested has shown promise in animal models and this is the first time it is being tested in humans.

One Medicine

In these unprecedented times, we are seeing communities and people come together to help one another in ways some of us never thought possible.  While veterinarians all over the U.S. are doing their part to assist in the fight against COVID-19, we at VetStem have also joined the fight.  In an effort to reduce person-to-person contact, several of our employees have been working from home.  It is important to note however that as a provider of critical medicines, our laboratory continues to operate and process all stem cell requests.  Feel free to contact us with any questions.

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Mar 27, 2020

Caring for Pets During Self-Isolation

Posted by Bob under COVID-19

With the current COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing measures being enacted, many of us find ourselves working from home and spending most, if not all, of our time indoors.  According to the most recent report from the AVMA, nearly 57% of all US households own a pet.  So, while some may be worried about maintaining a healthy lifestyle, what about our furry friends? 

Maintaining physical exercise is not only important for ourselves but for our pets as well.  In a previous blog, we discussed the potential benefits of regular walks for your dog.  Follow local ordinances regarding social distancing and use your best judgement when it comes to exercising your dog outside during the current pandemic.  If you find that you cannot continue your usual routine, consider additional ways to keep your pet active.

Playing games such as fetch and tug-of-war may be good ways to keep your dog both physically and mentally stimulated.  Toys that require your dog to chew or uncover treats can also help with mental stimulation.  Similarly, cats may also enjoy playing with toys as a form of physical and mental stimulation.  Additionally, there are many videos online that show how to teach your dog or cat new tricks.

It may also be a wise decision to consider an emergency kit for your pets.  Your kit can include food, treats, medications, toys, blanket or bed, and anything that you might need for your pet.  Many veterinary hospitals remain open however several have modified services and/or hours.  Check with your veterinarian to determine if they are still open and what their current operating protocol is so that you can plan accordingly.    

The good news is the CDC is currently reporting that there is no evidence that companion animals can spread, or are a source of, COVID-19.  See our recent blog for more information on COVID-19 and pets.  And as a reminder to our clients and potential clients, as a critical medicines provider, VetStem remains open to process all stem cell requests.  Click here to locate a VetStem provider in your area.

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Mar 19, 2020

Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Pets

Posted by Bob under COVID-19

Coronavirus has impacted the world, including veterinary clinics and pet owners.  With the current situation surrounding Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), there have been questions regarding the possible transmission of the virus from humans to pets (including horses) and vice versa.

I am not an expert on COVID-19, but I am a veterinarian, an epidemiologist, and I have been studying disease spread and animal health for over 35 years.  Our VetStem team has been gathering information from trusted sources.  The following are my opinions and also referenced opinions of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).  Use these resources to assist in guiding your actions relative to COVID-19 and your pets.

Though this continues to be a rapidly developing situation, the CDC is currently reporting that they have not received any reports of pets sick with COVID-19.  They also stated, “In the United States, there is no evidence to suggest that any animals, including pets, livestock, or wildlife, might be a source of COVID-19 infection at this time.”  The CDC recommends if you are not ill with COVID-19, you can interact with your pet as you normally would however do practice good hygiene during your interactions (wash hands before and after interacting).

CDC recommendations if you are sick with COVID-19:

  • “If you are sick with COVID-19 (either suspected or confirmed), you should restrict contact with pets and other animals, just like you would around other people. Although there have not been reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19, it is still recommended that people sick with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus. This can help ensure both you and your animals stay healthy.”
  • “When possible, have another member of your household care for your animals while you are sick. Avoid contact with your pet including, petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food. If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wash your hands before and after you interact with them.”

Stem Cell Treatment Availability

  • We want to assure veterinarians and pet owners that VetStem’s laboratory operations are up and running and we are processing samples and shipping out cell doses to veterinarians as per our normal operations. 
  • Veterinarians are critical to maintaining the health of our animals and VetStem is following the CDC guidelines to keep our dedicated staff healthy and working.  As you may know, our laboratories are maintained at a very high FDA-recommended level of sterility and our staff working in these laboratories are working in one of the cleanest and safest environments on the planet.  We have been working at this level for more than a decade.

We will be monitoring the CDC and the AVMA alerts and keep all of you up to date with any new or changed information regarding COVID-19 and veterinary medicine.

Reputable sources for information:

  • CDC information on animals and COVID-19 click here
  • CDC info on people with COVID-19 in home care with pets click here
  • AVMA resources on pets and COVID-19 click here

Be safe.

Bob Harman, DVM, MPVM

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Mar 13, 2020

Happy K9 Veterans Day!

Posted by Bob under Dog Arthritis, Dog Stem Cells

Today is National K9 Veterans Day, an unofficial holiday where we commemorate the service and sacrifices of all United States military and working dogs.  It was on March 13, 1942 that dogs first began training for the new War Dog program, and officially became a part of the U.S. Armed Forces.

VetStem has a bit of history with a famous K9 Veteran.  Though he is now deceased, Lex’s story was shared far and wide, a real tearjerker.  We have shared this story before, but we believe it deserves to be shared again. 

Lex was a bomb-sniffing German shepherd who served two tours in Iraq.  In 2007, Lex was on duty in Iraq with his handler and best friend, 20-year-old Corporal Dustin Lee.  On March 21, 2007, Cpl. Lee’s base was attacked, and a 73 mm rocket explosion killed Cpl. Lee.  Lex was also injured in the attack however was said to have laid upon Cpl. Lee in an attempt to protect him.  Later, it was said that Lex had to be pulled away from Cpl. Lee to allow medics to attend to him.  Unfortunately, Cpl. Dustin Lee succumbed to his injuries and passed away shortly after being taken to a nearby hospital.  This was just six weeks before Cpl. Lee was scheduled to return home.

Lex also sustained injuries in the attack.  His fur was burned and shrapnel was lodged in his back and spine.  After returning home and attending the funeral of his friend Cpl. Lee, Lex returned to duty at the Marine Corps base in Georgia.  Cpl. Lee’s family however lobbied for months to adopt Lex and in December 2007, Lex was officially discharged from the U.S. Marine Corps and taken home to his new family in Mississippi.

But Lex’s story doesn’t end there.  Due to his injuries and the shrapnel that was still lodged in his body, Lex developed degenerative joint disease.  His osteoarthritis became a problem, causing pain and mobility issues.  That’s where VetStem comes in.  Lex was taken to Dr. Lee Morgan of Georgetown Veterinary Hospital who recommended treatment with VetStem Cell Therapy.  In 2010, Lex received injections of his own stem cells in his left hip and knee as well as intravenously.  Lex initially had a great response to treatment and regained the ability go up stairs.

In addition to Lex, VetStem has provided stem cell therapy services for several law enforcement and search and rescue dogs.  Though their stories may not be as dramatic as Lex’s, working dogs face rigorous physical activity and the potential for injury while on the job or later down the line after years of wear and tear on their joints.  Just like their two-legged partners, they are willing to sacrifice it all for the safety of others.  And for that, we honor all K9 veterans and working dogs alike.

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Mar 6, 2020

Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Receives Stem Cells for Elbow OA

At just 14 weeks old, Trusty walked with a slight limp and had difficulty with stairs.  Even for a purebred Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, he was large for his breed.  As he grew, his limp continued to worsen, and it was obvious he was in pain.  This was especially problematic because Trusty lives on a 40-acre apple orchard in the Pacific Northwest with his human family and several other active dogs.

Trusty (back right) and his canine siblings on the apple orchard

Diagnosing Trusty’s leg issue proved to be very difficult.  After 10 travel appointments, X-rays, CT scans and ultrasounds, Trusty was eventually referred to veterinary surgeon Dr. Kristin Kirkby Shaw of Animal Surgical Clinic of Seattle.  After additional imaging and arthroscopy, Dr. Kirkby Shaw diagnosed Trusty with Fragmented Coronoid Process (FCP) and osteoarthritis of the left elbow.  She recommended surgery in addition to treatment with VetStem Regenerative Cell Therapy.  

In August 2019, Trusty received an injection of his own stem cells into his ailing left elbow.  According to his owner, Trusty recovered almost immediately from his surgery and was walking without a limp at two weeks post-surgery.  Approximately six weeks after the procedure, Trusty was feeling great and running around the property, playing with his dog siblings.  Trusty’s owner stated, “It’s really the first time in his life he has been able to run! We are very happy for him, thankful to Dr. Kirkby Shaw for her skills and knowledge and to VetStem Biopharma for providing us with this tremendous healing technology which we know has been a huge factor in Trusty’s recovery.”

Trusty

Trusty’s stem cell success story is reminiscent of Sheldon’s, who also received VetStem Cell Therapy for osteoarthritis related to FCP.  Unfortunately, this condition is not uncommon in large breed dogs such as Trusty and Sheldon.  If your dog has been diagnosed with FCP or osteoarthritis, speak to your veterinarian about the possibility of treating your dog with VetStem Cell Therapy.  Or contact us to receive a list of VetStem providers in your area.

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Feb 28, 2020

Collect Fat for Stem Cell Therapy During Spay/Neuter, or Dental

Posted by Bob under Dog Stem Cells

Did you know that February is both spay and neuter awareness month as well as pet dental health month?  These procedures all require that your dog go under general anesthesia.  Since collecting fat for stem cell therapy also requires anesthesia, why not combine the two?

If your dog is undergoing anesthesia for a routine surgical procedure such as a spay, neuter, or dental cleaning, you should consider asking your veterinarian to collect fat at the same time.  This fat can be used to provide stem cell treatment for your dog in approximately 48 hours or it can be stored for potential future use.

At VetStem, we provide a service called StemInsure.  We like to think of it as the “Stem Cell Insurance” for dogs.  For a StemInsure, your veterinarian will collect a small sample of fat tissue from your dog and will ship it to the VetStem laboratory.  VetStem lab technicians will process your dog’s fat to isolate the stem cells and cryopreserve them for potential future use.

This process can be beneficial for certain breeds of puppies who are likely to develop orthopedic conditions as they age.  Or it may be useful for dogs who have other health concerns and it is therefore ideal to minimize the number and length of anesthetic procedures.

Learn more about the canine StemInsure here or contact us for a list of VetStem providers in your area.

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Feb 21, 2020

Horse Receives Stem Cells for Tendon Injury

Jesse, a Spanish Arabian, was 11 years old when he suddenly went lame.  A bone scan and MRI revealed a severe injury to his right front deep digital flexor tendon.  The diagnosing veterinarian, Dr. Mark Martinelli of California Equine Orthopedics, recommended treatment with VetStem Cell Therapy and also referred Jesse to Dr. Sylvia Ouellette who specializes in equine lameness diagnosis and treatment.

Jesse and His Owner

Jesse began a long rehabilitation process with Dr. Ouellette.  During rehab he experienced another setback, after which Jesse’s owner pursued treatment with stem cells.  Jesse received one injection of his own stem cells into his injured tendon, but he wasn’t out of the woods yet.

Jesse continued with a rigorous rehabilitation schedule and experienced a few setbacks.  It was two years after his initial injury when Jesse’s owner finally received the good news that Jesse was sound.

Jesse was initially treated with VetStem Cell Therapy back in May 2006- almost 14 years ago!  Yet in a recent update from Jesse’s owner, Jesse is now 24 years old and his tendon has remained sound. Jesse’s owner stated, “Though he has other age-related health issues, the deep flexor tendon has stayed strong and has served him well all of these years.”   

Jesse is not the only horse to receive lasting effects from stem cell therapy.  Another horse, CP Merritt, was still competing at a champion level after receiving VetStem Cell Therapy 10 years prior.

If you think your horse may benefit from stem cell therapy, speak to your veterinarian or contact us to receive a list of VetStem providers in your area.

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Feb 14, 2020

Happy Valentine’s Day from VetStem!

Posted by Bob under VetStem Biopharma

Happy Valentine’s Day to our loyal readers!  We wanted to do something special for this love-filled day, so we thought we’d introduce you to some of our four-legged best friends.  Our pets bring so much love and joy into our lives, why not dedicate a blog to them?!  Read below to meet some of our furry friends!

“This is Bella.  She’s a 13-year-old Yorkie-Poo and she is the Queen of the house.  She greets us every day with the exuberance of a puppy and as if we’ve been gone forever.  We love her like crazy!” -Tracy, VetStem Buyer

“I know that no matter how bad of a day I have had, I can always count on one of my cats to come sit on my lap and make me feel needed and loved.” Kristi, Director of Commercial Operations

Pyewacket and Scarf (Super Doofus Oriental Shorthair)
Phini (Oriental Shorthair)

“Ben is not only my hiking companion, he also serves to alert me to the presence of rattlesnakes when on the trail.  He’s a great hiker and even carries all of his own supplies in his pack.” Dr. Bob Harman, CEO

Ben (Border Collie)

“These are my sweet 6-month-old kittens, Zipper and Buttons. They are two rowdy little boys who love to eat, sleep, and get into trouble. I love them because they take my stress away. They are there on good days and bad and always seem to have a way of making me smile, especially when they purr.” Madalene, Laboratory Manager

Zipper
Buttons

“Providing a safe area outside for Frankie, my Maine Coon, is one of the many ways I show him I love him.” Sue, Director of Clinical Development

“These three fuzzy creatures love unconditionally.  Willow is such a good guard dog and the cats just sleep and cuddle all day.  They are so good with our rowdy toddler, despite all of her poking and prodding and attempts to ‘ride’ them.  We loved them before she came, and we love them even more now for being the best big sisters/brother a baby could ask for!”  Ashley, Marketing Coordinator

Pius (orange and white) and Portia (tortie)
Willow (Chocolate Lab)

“This is Kodiak, a 10-year-old Australian Shepherd.  What is great about him is he’s constantly wanting to be active and always excited to play catch or go on a hike!” Jon, Laboratory Assistant

“Born about one month apart, these two boys are brothers from another mother.  Jasper makes the greatest faces.  Koda is a big lover – and totally food driven.” Carolyn, COO

Koda (white Lab), Jasper (light brown Lab)

“My five cats make my life better by providing affection and entertainment. I can’t imagine sitting on the couch and not being covered in cats.  We call our five dogs our herd of herders. There is never a dull moment at our house, as at least one of them is up to some sort of mischief at all times- except when they’re all sleeping!” Whitney, Customer Service Representative

Flynn (mini Aussie), Brogan (Aussie mix), Piper (Border Collie), Luca (Australian Shepherd), and Duncan (Mini Aussie)
Kolohe, Lilly, Squirrel, Keone, and Ali’I
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