Raising the bar in feline medicine

AAFP reaches out with Cat Friendly Practice program, continuing education, other resources
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More than 1,500 practices are now involved in the Cat Friendly Practice program from the American Association of Feline Practitioners.

Cat looking at the camera

The CFP program has grown tremendously since its launch in early 2012. As of Oct. 15, the AAFP had designated 888 practices as cat-friendly, and another 639 practices were in the process of earning that designation.

“This has been a very important program,” said Dr. Ilona Rodan, CFP co-chair. “It has helped the AAFP grow, but more so, it has helped veterinary practices do a much better job for cats.”

The AAFP offers the CFP program as a benefit of membership. For 2015, the association has 3,549 members, an increase of 85 percent over four years.

Along with the CFP program, the AAFP continues reaching out with continuing education and other resources to raise the bar in feline medicine. The annual conference, Oct. 1-4 in San Diego, focused on diagnostic imaging and oncology. New resources include a toolkit about working with cats for veterinary and veterinary technology students.

Cat Friendly Practice

Cat Friendly Practice logoDr. Elizabeth Colleran, CFP co-chair, said the CFP program is constantly being evaluated and updated. The core pieces of the program are a manual and checklist, and the AAFP has modified the checklist.

“The manual provides really the meat of what people need to think about,” Dr. Colleran said. “That manual really emphasizes things like understanding feline behavior and how to interact successfully with clients and with patients and the unique needs that feline patients have.”

The AAFP is responding to the needs of practices that are in the process of becoming cat-friendly. The association has created FAQs, educational webinars on feline medicine and practice skills, and videos for staff and client education.

Fliers offer case studies describing the CFP program in action at Care Animal Hospital in Arvada, Colorado; Oz Animal Hospital in Chicago; and West Towne Veterinary Center in Madison, Wisconsin. Another flier offers creative solutions to implement the program.

Drs. Colleran and Rodan emphasized that the CFP program is not a construction project. In particular, small animal practices do not need to build a separate reception room for cats. Other options include creatively dividing the space, taking cats immediately into an examination room, or designating certain hours just for cats.

Dr. Rodan believes the CFP program is improving medical care for feline patients. She has seen improvements in dental care, for example, and in veterinarians performing the physical examination in a way that allows owners to recognize the value of the examination and reduces stress on cats, owners, and the veterinary team.

The CFP program provides marketing materials for practices but also markets directly to cat owners. One component of the extensive consumer campaign is advertisements on websites such as the Martha Stewart and Family Circle sites. Dr. Rodan said the campaign is helping cat owners understand why cats need health care.

According to a 2014 survey, 95 percent of practices that have earned the CFP designation are satisfied with the designation. Forty-two percent believe that their practice has gained feline patients because of the designation, and 77 percent received positive feedback on the designation from feline clients. Half attributed their increase in revenue to implementing the program.

Continuing education

The AAFP annual conference attracted 845 attendees, comprising 660 veterinary professionals and 185 exhibitors and guests.

The association held the conference in partnership with the International Society of Feline Medicine as the third World Feline Veterinary Conference. The groups have held a world conference every other year since 2011, alternating between North America and Europe.

The pre-conference sessions were a lunch session on chronic kidney disease and the annual seminar that the AAFP holds in partnership with the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners. The general session offered updates from the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery and covered updated guidelines on pain management from the AAFP and American Animal Hospital Association.

The conference encompassed two tracks for veterinarians, one paraprofessional track, lunch sessions, and a CFP forum. Interactive labs, a new feature, focused on dental radiology and feline-friendly handling.

Dr. Susan Gogolski, chair of the AAFP conference task force, said the presenters on diagnostic imaging did an outstanding job in identifying pearls of wisdom to help practitioners read patients’ images. She said the oncology sessions provided a comprehensive review of common feline cancers along with information on less common ones.

Attendees listen to a lecture during the third World Feline Veterinary Conference. The American Association of Feline Practitioners held the conference Oct. 1-4 in San Diego in partnership with the International Society of Feline Medicine. (Courtesy of the AAFP)

“The field of veterinary oncology has exploded over the past few years,” Dr. Gogolski said. “Our feline patients are living longer, and their owners are dedicated to providing these family members the best quality of life possible.”

The AAFP continues to offer continuing education tracks at other veterinary conferences such as the North American Veterinary Community Conference and the AAHA annual conference. In March 2016, the association will hold a meeting on practice management, “Feline-Focused Business Strategies.”

Earlier this year, the AAFP launched a webinar portal with free, on-demand CE for members and nonmembers. Topics to date are vaccinology, the CFP program, diabetes mellitus, and evaluating study design. A webinar on feline-friendly handling is set to come out in January.

Other resources

Veterinary and veterinary technology students now have access to a new AAFP toolkit about working with cats.

The toolkit consists of several sections. The section on “Specific Feline Topics” covers feline behavior and understanding cats, feline-friendly handling, and the examination, medicine, and management. Each section contains AAFP resources such as practice guidelines, position statements, educational videos and webinars, and brochures for cat owners.

In addition, the toolkit gives advice to students on how to apply and share information from the toolkit after graduation.

The updated AAHA/AAFP Pain Management Guidelines for Dogs and Cats came out in the spring (see JAVMA, April 15, 2015, and Nov. 1, 2015). The new AAFP Guidelines for the Management of Feline Hyperthyroidism are set to come out in early 2016.

The AAFP website is here.

Related JAVMA content:

AAFP president has long devotion to cats (Dec. 1, 2015)

Cat Friendly Practice resounds (Nov. 15, 2014)

Cat-friendly message targets public (Nov. 15, 2013)

Herding Cat Owners (Sept. 1, 2013)

Solving the cat riddle (March 15, 2013)