June 15, 2011


 AAHA co-hosts historic conference with Canadian colleagues


Veterinary profession's anniversary celebrated, preparations made for the future

posted May 31, 2011
AAHA Executive Director Michael Cavanaugh
AAHA Executive Director Michael Cavanaugh says
the association's State of the Industry 2010 Review
indicates veterinarians need to improve their client
communication skills.


The American Animal Hospital Association traveled north of the border in March for the first joint AAHA/Ontario VMA conference, the largest international veterinary conference in Canadian history.

Held in Toronto March 24-27, the conference drew a total of 5,596 attendees, including 1,979 veterinarians, 292 practice managers, 590 veterinary technicians, 311 veterinary assistants and support staff, 301 veterinary and veterinary technician students, and others.

Confetti fell and balloons flew at the opening session of the conference in celebration of 2011 as World Veterinary Year—the 250th anniversary of the founding of the first veterinary school in Lyon, France, in 1761. Toronto Mayor Rob Ford dropped by to proclaim March 21-27 as "Veterinary Week" in the city.

"Two hundred and 50 years ago, veterinary medicine was in the Dark Ages. Look at where we are today," said outgoing AAHA President Gregg K. Takashima.

Ontario VMA President Ted Kilpatrick encouraged veterinary professionals to celebrate these advances as a reason to never grow complacent. "The world is changing, and we must change with it," Dr. Kilpatrick noted.

Also during the opening session, AAHA Executive Director Michael Cavanaugh shared findings of the association's State of the Industry 2010 Review, a survey of more than 3,800 U.S. companion animal practices encompassing data from more than 19 million pet records (see JAVMA, June 1, 2011, page 1368).

The good news, Dr. Cavanaugh announced, is the survey shows revenue grew 3.1 percent overall for practices in 2010, up from 1.4 percent in the previous year. However, new patient visits fell during that same period; dog visits dropped 0.6 percent, and cat visits were down 1.7 percent. Industry analysts say the decline is indicative of a years-long trend in decreasing numbers of veterinary client visits.

Dr. Cavanaugh encouraged veterinarians to do a better job of explaining to clients the value of their services and how regular wellness care for pets protects the human-animal bond.

Management and business-growth guru Steven Little closed out the event on an encouraging note.

Little says companion animal practices aren't like many businesses in that they have the potential to succeed even in tough economic times. What makes this possible is the robust number of pet-owning households in the United States, high public approval of the veterinary profession, and the multibillion-dollar market for pet products and services, according to Little.

That veterinarians are positioned to benefit in an environment where the human-animal bond is so strong has not gone unnoticed, Little observed. "People want to give you money," he said. "You're considered by the credit market as a safe bet and ranked with dentists in the top five safe business investments."

During the conference, Dr. Michael R. Moyer assumed the AAHA presidency (see profile, this page). The association honored a veterinary student and several AAHA-accredited practices and gave out its first referral practice award (seepage 1547).

At the conference, the AAHA board of directors voted to endorse the World Small Animal Veterinary Association's Global Nutritional Guidelines. The guidelines were developed to standardize five vital signs as part of the regular physical examination for small animals. The five signs are temperature, pulse, respiration, pain assessment, and nutritional assessment. The guidelines are posted online at www.wsava.org.

Dr. Cavanaugh provided members with progress reports on AAHA's 2010 initiatives as well as plans for the year ahead. The association remains strong, he noted, as membership in 2010 climbed to 5,603 hospitals—3,230 of them accredited members.

The association's campaign to raise public awareness about pain management, parasite control, wellness, and nutrition with ads on the Animal Planet channel garnered more than 130 million impressions in the United States and 23.2 million in Canada.

AAHA once again sponsored the popular Puppy Bowl, which aired during the Super Bowl in February, resulting in more than 9.2 million impressions in the U.S. and Canada.

The AAHA Accreditation Awareness Campaign—a long-term project to educate pet owners about the value of AAHA accreditation and how accreditation benefits pets—brought about a doubling of visits to HealthyPet.com, the association's consumer website. Usage of the site's hospital locator tool also increased.

Last year, the association published Diabetes Management Guidelines for Dogs and Cats and Nutritional Assessment Guidelines for Dogs and Cats. Due for publication in 2011 are the Canine Life Stage Guidelines, AAHA Anesthesia Guidelines for Dogs and Cats, and an update to the Canine Vaccine Guidelines.

In addition, the AAHA is forming the Veterinary Companion Animal Nutritional Consortium in support of the AAHA Nutritional Assessment Guidelines for Dogs and Cats. The goal of the consortium and guidelines is the advancement of awareness about the importance of nutrition in the health of pets throughout the world. Several organizations are participating in the consortium, including the AVMA.

The AAHA anticipates maintaining a focus on veterinary students in 2011. Student Speaker Programs, free to all veterinary students, bring experts to college campuses, where they provide insights on subjects ranging from understanding the difference between mentorships and internships and how to build a practice, to financial planning and interview skills.