Animal Health Update: Issue 32

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Issue 32

Use Federal Dollars to Bolster Your Mixed or Large Animal Practice

Provide Your Feedback Today to Help Define Shortage Areas

Cows in Field

Michigan needs more veterinarians—especially in rural areas and in large animal medicine. These types of practices face a unique challenge as they may lack the ability to compete with sal­aries offered by clinics in more populous areas, which results in shortages.

To help solve this issue, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture offers programs such as the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP) and the Veterinary Services Grant Program (VSGP). These programs serve to financially support veterinarians working on food supply medicine within designated shortage areas, which are updated annually and informed by feedback.

The VMLRP is a loan repayment program designed to help any veterinarian who has qualifying educational loan debt and provides service in a designated high-priority shortage area. The program compensates veterinarians by providing DVM-related loan repayment of up to $25,000 per year, as long as 30% of their work is dedicated to food supply medicine in a designated shortage area for three years. While VMLRP primarily provides compensation for student loans, it also accommodates loans used for educational materials or housing during a veterinarian’s time of study.

The VSGP goes a step further. It is a competitive grant program expanding the government’s scope of financial assistance to veterinarians in designated shortage areas by funding solutions to combat the veterinarian shortage situation. With a budget of nearly $3 million, the VSGP offers Rural Practice Enhancement grants of up to $125,000 for project proposals from veterinarians that expand rural practices through new equipment and compensation for overhead costs, which can include salaries.

Your Feedback is Needed

To take full advantage of these funding opportunities, it is crucial for the designated shortage areas (the foundation of these federal programs) are accurately and appropriately identified.

In total, Michigan can nominate up to six shortage areas. Last year, the shortage areas included:

  • Type II Shortages: At least 30% of work hours per week should be attributed toward private practice food supply veterinary medicine in a rural area.
    • Shiawassee County
    • Baraga, Dickinson, Gogebic, Houghton, Iron, Keweenaw, Marquette, and Ontonagon counties
    • Arenac and Bay counties
    • Iosco and Ogemaw counties
  • Type III Shortage: At least 49% of weekly hours in public practice.
    • Public practice – Michigan State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, various disciplines

While these shortage areas can be re-nominated, your insights are needed to help refine these designations. Historically, very few Michigan veterinarians have applied for these federal funding opportunities. As an example, in the previous year, only two veterinarians applied. This year, we would like to see that change, and that change begins with feedback.

Please take a moment to fill out this brief survey on designated shortage areas or send an email directly to the State Veterinarian, Dr. Nora Wineland, by October 25, 2021.

Sharing your insights will be pivotal to strengthening the veterinary profession in Michigan’s rural communities.

Once all feedback has been collected and the shortage areas are finalized, we will share these results with you, so you can apply as well as help to spread the word to others about these federal programs.

FDA Issues a Statement Directly to Veterinarians 

Help Stop the Misuse of Animal Ivermectin


The Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine continues to be concerned that people are using animal ivermectin to prevent or treat COVID-19 in humans. As a result, they are asking for veterinarians to help share information on the dangerous consequences of misusing ivermectin.

For more information and resources, please refer to the FDA’s statement on the misuse of animal ivermectin to see how you can help.

Michigan’s Backyard Poultry Producers Need Veterinarians

Are You on MDARD’s Poultry Veterinarian List?

White chicken

With avian influenza circulating in many parts of the world, maintaining the health of Michigan’s poultry is crucial.

As part of a continuing effort to expand the resources available for backyard poultry producers, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) is again collecting information from Michigan veterinarians who are willing to provide poultry medical care and diagnostic services for small producers.

Please take our short survey to outline the services that you are willing to provide and to add your name to the list of veterinarians in Michigan who are willing to work with poultry if your name is not already included. 

Arbovirus Season Update

EEE and WNV Are Being Seen Again in Michigan


Arbovirus season is upon us. As of September 17, 2021, both Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) and West Nile virus (WNV) have been detected in the state of Michigan.

With these discoveries, it is important to take all precautions to protect animals from mosquito bites. For horses, there are highly effective vaccines available that are given yearly, which can protect horses from EEE and WNV. Also, for all animals, taking steps to eliminate standing water, using mosquito repellants that are approved for a species, and keeping animals indoors during peak mosquito hours can also help.

Funding is still available to test animals that are suspected to have a mosquito-borne disease. To take advantage of these funds, requests must be approved by MDARD and tested through Michigan State University’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.

For the latest information on the 2021 arbovirus season, please review the Weekly Summary posted to  

African Swine Fever in the Dominican Republic and Haiti

What the Discovery of ASF in the Western Hemisphere Means


With finding African swine fever (ASF) in the Dominican Republic and Haiti, animal health officials and producers (both nationally and locally) have intensified their focus on biosecurity in order to ensure the safety of domestic pigs in the United States.

ASF is a highly contagious viral disease affecting domestic and feral swine of all ages. The virus is hardy and can remain viable in feed ingredients or improperly cooked pork products for months. Since there is no vaccine or effective treatment for ASF, the disease would have a devastating impact on U.S. pork producers. Direct losses of infected animals and the immediate loss of the international trade market would cost producers billions of dollars in the first two years alone. For context, exports accounted for approximately 25% of 2020 pork production.

However, despite the threat to U.S. swine and their marketability, ASF is not a threat to human health, cannot be transmitted from pigs to humans, and does not pose a food safety risk.

Situational Overview

Prior to the first detection of the disease in the Dominican Republic, ASF had been spreading in other countries in Asia, Europe, and Africa since 2018. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been conducting surveillance in the Dominican Republic and tests samples quarterly. In July, some samples collected earlier in the spring revealed the presence of ASF. Currently, it is believed at least 2,200 pigs were affected by 24 outbreaks of ASF in the Dominican Republic since spring.

On September 21, the USDA announced the discovery of ASF in Haiti, which borders the Dominican Republic on the island of Hispaniola. The positive case was collected from a pig in a province that directly borders the Dominican Republic, and the sample was tested by the USDA's National Veterinary Services Laboratories through a cooperative testing program. While unfortunate, this detection is not unexpected due to the porous border between the two countries. 

These detections are the first discovery of ASF in the Western Hemisphere in nearly 40 years. Previously, when the disease was detected in the Caribbean, ASF was quickly eradicated. To date, ASF has never occurred in the United States.

Layers of Response

In order to further safeguard the United States from ASF, various interlocking layers of response are being strengthened and/or implemented.

USDA has ramped up testing in the Dominican Republic and is stepping up lab capacity there. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection has increased surveillance of cargo and travelers, including proper disposal of garbage from airplanes arriving from Hispaniola.

International travelers could unknowingly bring ASF to the U.S. Therefore, they should not visit farms, premises with pigs (including zoos), circuses, pet stores with pot-bellied pigs, or any other facility with pigs for at least five days after returning from travel. Travelers should also not bring pork or pork products to the United States from Hispaniola or any other region with ASF as it could carry the virus. All items brought from people’s travels should be declared when entering the U.S. Travelers should visit the APHIS traveler page to know what items can be brought into the United States.

In addition to these more national efforts, swine producers are encouraged to review their biosecurity plans and protocols, as they are the best preventative measures against ASF. Veterinarians should work with producers to assess biosecurity plans and make improvements as needed.

The Latest Precautions

On August 6, APHIS officials announced immediate restrictions on the importation of dogs from countries with ASF. Importers now need to:

  • Affirm dogs and shipping containers are free of dirt or other organic bedding
  • Dispose of all bedding traveling with the dogs at certain post-entry concentration points
  • Have dogs microchipped with International Organization for Standardization-compliant microchips, and those chips must be verified
  • Bathe dogs at the post-entry concentration points within two days of arrival in the U.S.

These restrictions are particularly notable in light of the earthquake in Haiti as rescuers might bring in dogs from that country to the U.S., which could potentially introduce ASF to the U.S.  

On August 26, 2021, USDA announced as part of its continuing efforts to respond to the detection of ASF, it is preparing to establish a Foreign Animal Disease protection zone in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. USDA is taking this additional action to further safeguard the U.S. swine herd and protect the interests and livelihoods of U.S. pork producers.

The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) provides for the establishment of a protection zone within an area free of disease, as a temporary measure in response to an increased risk from a neighboring country or zone of different animal health status. Once the OIE recognizes the protection zone for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, USDA will work to confirm that individual countries recognize and accept the zone. The recognition will ensure the continued flow of U.S. pork and live swine exports.

Stay Vigilant

Even with all these protections in place, it is critically important to remain vigilant. If you see increased mortality while on swine farms or pigs with symptoms of ASF (high fever; decreased appetite and weakness; red, blotchy skin or skin lesions; diarrhea and vomiting; and coughing and difficulty breathing), please contact MDARD at 800-292-3939 (daytime) or 517-373-0440 (after-hours) and be sure to speak to a staff member.

Also, please reach out to MDARD if you hear reports of pets or rescued animals that have travelled from the Dominican Republic or Haiti.