The new AAHA-AVMA Canine and Feline Preventive Healthcare Guidelines can help veterinarians improve patient care and can provide a foundation for communicating with pet owners about the value and scope of regular preventive care.
That's according to Dr. Michael R. Moyer, president of the American Animal Hospital Association, speaking Jan. 16 at the North American Veterinary Conference in Orlando, Fla., during a session about the guidelines.
The Partnership for Preventive Pet Healthcare sponsored development of the guidelines, which first appeared in the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association and the JAVMA in September 2011. A poster version of the guidelines accompanies this issue of the JAVMA.
Dr. Moyer said the guidelines are specific without being overly prescriptive and concise enough to fit on a single page for dogs and a single page for cats.
"They are not a re-analysis of all the data that's out there," said Dr. Moyer, who was a member of the task force that developed the guidelines. "There are a lot of good guideline documents on different subjects. This is a distillation of many of those excellent sources of information."
The new guidelines recommend that dogs and cats have a veterinary examination at least annually. The other sections of the guidelines offer recommendations for the health evaluation; diagnostic, therapeutic, and prevention plans; follow-up plans; and documentation.
Dr. Moyer said the document provides a framework for consistent delivery of preventive care.
"It emphasizes the value, it emphasizes the expectation of the visit, so that it's clear to the practice team and hopefully clear to owners what is considered, discussed, and covered during that wellness or preventive care visit," Dr. Moyer said. "Hopefully, veterinarians can do a better job, using these tools, of communicating that value."
Dr. Ilona Rodan, a member of the guidelines task force and a past president of the American Association of Feline Practitioners, spoke about implementing the feline guidelines in practice.
"The cat is a special problem," said Dr. Rodan, who consults on cat-friendly practice.
Pet cats are more populous than pet dogs in the United States, Dr. Rodan said, yet U.S. veterinarians see more dogs than cats. She said the companion animal practices where she consults often estimate that cats make up 40 percent of their patients, but the proportion can be as low as 20 percent when they look at the numbers.
Dr. Rodan said practices can implement the Feline Preventive Healthcare Guidelines in a way that not only improves feline health care but also reduces the stress of veterinary visits for cats and cat owners.
"Preventive health care is key here, but it has to be in a feline-friendly way," Dr. Rodan said.
The stress of a feline veterinary visit starts with getting the cat into the carrier at home, Dr. Rodan said, so practices should educate cat owners about how to acclimate cats to carriers.
At the practice, the team member who takes the cat's history from the owner can first open the door to the carrier to give the cat the comfort and sense of control to leave the carrier independently if the animal so desires.
Dr. Rodan said the veterinarian then can examine the cat wherever it is comfortable, possibly on the floor or in the bottom half of a carrier with a removable top. During the examination, the veterinarian can verbalize the process for the owner.
"We need to talk about the value, the value to the client," Dr. Rodan said.
Dr. Rodan provided numerous additional tips on how to implement the guidelines in a feline-friendly way.
Sessions about the AAHA-AVMA Canine and Feline Preventive Healthcare Guidelines also are on the program for the AAHA annual conference in March and the AVMA Annual Convention in August.
A poster version of the AAHA-AVMA Canine and Feline Preventive Healthcare Guidelines accompanies this issue of the JAVMA. Printer-friendly versions of the canine and feline guidelines and other resources on preventive care are available at avma.org/animal_health/prevention.