Approved drugs for veterinary patients are on a roll, y’all (why that’s got me in my feelings)

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Ellen Ratcliff, DVM
by Ellen Ratcliff, DVM

Veterinarians, LET’S CELEBRATE! 

Recently the pharmacy shelves in veterinary clinics got a little less sparse. The first week of May proved to be a pretty exciting time with new medications licensed by both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). 

Honestly, any time we get new medications labeled and approved for our patients, it’s a serious win for our profession. Having drugs on our shelves we can reach for, knowing they have thorough safety and effectiveness data, can change the confidence with which we practice and approach diseases. This is not something to take lightly or for granted.

Down memory lane: the new parvovirus treatment 

One approval really hit me squarely in the middle of my overly-abundant, enneagram Type Two feels (for the unfamiliar, Two is the “sentimental, interpersonal” type). Elanco announced on 2 May 2023 that they received conditional license for their canine parvovirus monoclonal antibody from the USDA. This is the news I’ve been waiting to hear for years now.

You see, as a veterinarian who moved from private mixed animal practice to clinical development in industry a few years ago, seeing a product you love and adore like your pharmacologic baby go all the way from inception to approval is an absolute freaking dream come true. 

In this way, the parvovirus monoclonal antibody is the newborn baby I’ve been itching to welcome to the world for so long. Knowing that a therapeutic you worked on, believed in, dreamt about, will get in the hands of practicing veterinarians was enough to make me happy dance – and I don’t mind telling you I used all my most fire dance moves and rug-cutting skills and did just that.

Having seen thousands of cases of canine parvovirus in practice (even worse, the resultant heart-wrenching depopulation of dog kennels and shelters), I’ve been obsessed with the belief that this monoclonal antibody against canine parvovirus would be nothing short of practice (life) changing for so many veterinarians and dog owners. Imagine it, one of the most common and devastating infectious diseases in dogs and we have heretofore had zero targeted therapies. And now, that has changed. Wow.

Other approvals to celebrate

We get accustomed to seeing some types of new drugs hit the market, like the constantly evolving flea and tick medications. But lately we’ve had a string of pretty awesome (pawsome, if you will?) novel medications for all new indications. In the same week as the canine parvovirus monoclonal antibody we also saw approval for the new anti-NGF monoclonal antibody to treat osteoarthritis pain in dogs. And conditional approval was granted for an oral suspension to treat nonregenerative anemia associated with chronic kidney disease in cats. 

I’d be happy to discuss with you the finer details of FDA versus USDA and the minutiae of full approval versus conditional approval, but for now the bottom line is that we are getting new and exciting drugs for dogs and cats. And boy oh boy, that’s got me thinking (uh-oh). 

Now what are you thinking, Ellen?

First of all, I applaud the companies developing these novel therapies. Being on the inside of this process and seeing how much early research and development, pre-clinical studies, just plain old time, energy, and money goes into getting these drugs developed?  It’s a wonder any drugs get approved at all.

Not to mention the real MVPs — the devoted vet practitioners who perform the clinical studies in their practices and actually perform the high integrity research that leads to approvals. They provide the real world data in the target populations we need to know our drugs are safe and effective. 

Second, I’ve been thinking about all the many questions that surface about novel therapies such as these. Will people trust it? Do veterinarians even want monoclonal antibodies? Do they see it as an unmet need as much as the drug developers do? Will people pay for a new treatment they don’t fully understand? Will the price points be affordable to our clients?

Addressing skepticism and unmet needs

As news of the license was released, I was legit surprised by the overt skepticism surrounding the parvovirus monoclonal antibody in some of the veterinary forums online. Sad panda. This product I have so much faith in, so much excitement about, and veterinarians seemed prematurely convinced that they didn’t necessarily even want this product. As a novel therapeutic for a horrific disease that has previously gone without a treatment, vets seemed skeptical. Painful to see, honestly. 

This is what really has my brain noodling about what we do here at Loyal. In our endeavor to save the dogs, save the world, we are working tirelessly to develop FDA-approved pharmaceutical interventions that lengthen lifespan and healthspan in dogs. I have to ask myself, is the market ready for aging drugs? Do other veterinarians agree that this is an unmet need? How many in our profession will be early adopters in treating aging? 

I believe dog owners want interventions against aging in their dogs (I darn sure do for my mop head dog). So I wonder, do we as a profession have the flexibility in our training and mindset to consider aging an intervenable risk factor to so many of the disease states that lead to euthanasia and death in our dog patients?

Veterinarian pals, what can you do?

Opinions are like belly buttons as my grandpa used to say – everyone’s got ‘em. I for sure have mine. So I’ll offer my opinions, as I think there are some things that you as an individual veterinarian can do:

  • Educate yourself! Be someone who researches new drugs, understands the pharmacology and learns how they might positively impact the way you practice and the options you have to provide top notch and innovative care to your patients. From my perspective today, you can start by joining our email list at  See what new things are coming your way in the dog aging space. Inform yourself and start thinking about how you might discuss this unmet need with your clients in the future. 
  • Be open-minded. Change can be hard. Just because you’ve been treating parvo dogs with some variation on the Colorado protocol for the last decade, doesn’t mean you can’t try something new. It might just work better, save more of your patients, and provide a better service for your clients. After all, you’ll never know if you don’t try. 
  • Recommend and buy newly approved drugs. These things go through the dang wringer to get on your shelves and give you more safe and effective options. Use them!
  • At least at some point in your career, participate in a clinical trial and do research at your clinic! You are a legit scientist and don’t let all the itchy dogs, stress colitis, and torn toenails in the world make you forget it. The world needs veterinarians who are willing to participate in doing clinical research. I would be so jazzed to discuss this with you; I’m absolutely serious — email me!

We’re actively recruiting veterinary practices across the country to partner with us on future clinical trials. To learn more, get in touch with our veterinary team today.

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Dr. Ellen Ratcliff, DVM, brings 17 years of mixed animal practice experience to Loyal as the Director of Clinical Development. She’s a Veterinary Corps Officer in the United States Army Reserve with a wealth of experience in public health and Military Working Dog care. Ellen previously managed clinical development at KindredBio, an animal pharmaceutical company. Ellen completed her DVM at the University of Missouri. She lives at home with her 3 beloved cats and her dog, Sormeh.

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