I was at the VMX (Veterinary Meeting & Expo) earlier this week, and today I’m sharing some of the highlights of what I saw there.
Appetites were definitely big news this year at VMX!
For cats with too-big appetites, there is a new cat feeder to help them slim down. The PortionPro RX will feed cats small portions of kibble six times a day, and it uses collar tags to detect the correct pet to allow to eat at the feeder. It closes if another cat in the house wearing a tag that identifies it as a food thief tries to sneak in, too.
I like that it encourages frequent, small meals, which is what we know is what cats are biologically designed to eat. I also liked that although the unit itself is made of plastic, the bowl portion where the food rests and the cat eats is ceramic. As an advocate of more moisture in a cat’s food, I’m not thrilled that the device encourages an all-kibble diet, but if a cat is already eating an all-kibble diet, it will help them eat it at a pace that encourages their metabolism to work it off.
The PortionPro RX is available by prescription from veterinarians only and ships directly to you. I’m also curious to know whether the device will be covered under any of the common pet insurance carriers, since it is a prescription-only item.
There’s a new appetite stimulant out for dogs. I rarely mention dogs-only products, but this one is already in the testing pipeline for cats with initial studies published last year. Named Entyce, it works by acting like the “hunger hormone” ghrelin. The medication is detected by certain receptors that send signals to the hypothalamus, which in turn signals hunger. It’s a different way to stimulate the appetite than we have seen in the past, and I think we’ll be hearing a lot about it for cats in the very near future.
In the meantime, a lot of vets turn to mirtazapine when a cat needs an appetite stimulant. Mirtazapine, which works through a cat’s serotonin receptors, is only FDA-approved for use in humans. All use in cats is off-label. One of the interesting developments I heard about was there is a mirtazapine transdermal ointment, Mirataz, under FDA review right now. The company hopes to have Mirataz on the market by first or second quarter of the year. I’m sure some of you are thinking that you already get a mirtazapine ointment, what’s the big deal? If you use an ointment now, it comes from a compounding pharmacy. Once this is available, you should be able to get this directly from your vet’s office, without having to go to a third party to mix it up for you.
You probably already heard about the Assisi Loop. It is a device that generates a target pulsed electromagnetic field to stimulate the body’s healing mechanisms, reducing pain and swelling. It is used for cats with pain caused by inflammation, such as arthritis, pancreatitis, post-surgical swelling, etc. The makers of the Assisi Loop have partnered with our friends at Sleepypod. At VMX, they previewed a Sleepypod mobile pet bed that had an Assisi Loop bed tucked away in the bottom of it, creating a mobile treatment bed. This special Sleepypod was redesigned to have no metal in it so it didn’t interfere with the function of the Assisi Loop, but it is still crash-safe like the regular Sleepypod mobile pet bed. Sleepypod is known for their beautiful designs, and the Assisi Loop Sleepypod is a beautiful, dark gray color.
Other Noteworthy Trends
There were more trends apparent at VMX, too:
- Things that were new technology a couple years ago are becoming more convenient and accessible. The IDEXX SDMA test which can detect declining kidney function much earlier than other tests previously required sending bloodwork away to a lab. It is now available as an in-house test that your vet can perform. It requires extra hardware, so this probably won’t be available at your vet tomorrow.
- The Fear Free movement is spreading. While there were plenty of booths selling muzzles and restraints, there was a lot more thoughtful focus on the emotional health and comfort of veterinary patients. I think this will pay off in the long run, since you can’t get help for your cat at the vet if your cat is so traumatized by the experience that you don’t want to put your cat — or yourself — through it.
- Consolidation continues in the veterinary industry. Individually-owned and operated clinics being bought up by larger corporations is a hot button issue that causes a lot of debate among both veterinarians and pet lovers. There is a new company, WellHaven, whose social media presence only goes back to November 2017 but has already bought over 25 practices. I should note that my cats’ vet is not owner operated, so I’m not against this model. It’s an interesting trend to watch.
Those were some quick highlights from VMX that may interest families with cats today. I learned lots more I plan to share in the upcoming weeks, so stay tuned!