AVMA addresses pet obesity, opioid abuse

Board greenlights project between US, African clinics
Published on July 25, 2018

The AVMA Board of Directors met June 19-20 at Association headquarters to consider an agenda that included pet obesity, the opioid abuse epidemic, and a pilot program designed to promote mutual understanding between U.S. and foreign veterinary clinics.

During the meeting, chaired by Dr. Michael Whitehair, the Board approved, among other things, a proposal from the AVMA Future Leaders class of 2017-18 for the AVMA to endorse the Global Pet Obesity Initiative position statement.

Drs. Whitehair, Donlin, and Goldman
AVMA Board of Directors Chair Michael Whitehair (center) presides over the June Board meeting, flanked by AVMA CEO Janet Donlin and AVMA Treasurer Arnold Goldman.

The Future Leaders Program is a yearlong intensive experience that brings together 10 veterinarians from diverse professional backgrounds to build leadership skills and create an innovative project of value to the AVMA membership.

The current Future Leaders class was assigned the topic of pet obesity. Over the past year, members developed a pet obesity toolkit for AVMA members while collaborating with organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Global Pet Obesity Initiative. The latter organization has created a position statement that the Future Leaders saw as aligning with the goals laid out by their project.

The statement, unveiled at AVMA Convention 2018 in Denver and signed by all 10 Future Leaders, calls for a uniform definition of pet obesity and a universal body condition scoring system and to define pet obesity as a disease.

Board member Dr. Carlson adds to the discussion
AVMA Board of Directors member Dr. Rena Carlson weighs in during discussion of the twinning project with the African Small Companion Animal Network.

The AVMA's endorsement of the pet obesity statement will strengthen the toolkit's impact on the profession, according to the Future Leaders' recommendation to the Board.

Opioid policy

The Board also adopted a new AVMA policy, "The Veterinary Profession's Role in Addressing the Opioid Epidemic."

With concern mounting over the opioid abuse epidemic and increasing state and federal efforts to curb it, the AVMA Board of Directors, in 2017, formed a working group to consider the veterinary profession's responsibilities and appropriate responses to legislative activities seeking to include veterinarians in state prescription drug monitoring programs.

Quickly the working group realized that because of the complexity of existing state prescription drug monitoring programs, the speed with which programs are being adopted across the country, the differences among states' legislative approaches, and the impacts of a variety of other regulations to which veterinarians are subject, it would be difficult to formulate a single comprehensive approach to prescription drug monitoring programs that would be applicable for all states.

Dr. Cary updating AVMA Board of Directors
Dr. Mia Cary, chief of professional development and strategic alliances for the AVMA, updates the Board regarding the Association's Lead and Learn webinar series.

Instead, the group chose to direct its efforts toward two achievable goals: developing a policy that would articulate the position of the AVMA and creating resources that would serve as background and support for implementing the policy.

"The working group believes the policy recognizes that, as health care providers who prescribe and dispense opioids and other controlled substances, veterinarians have a responsibility to contribute to solutions to this crisis. It succinctly identifies those places where the profession might focus its efforts, but it also recognizes that, as prescribers and dispensers, veterinarians contribute in limited ways to the problem," according to the background to the recommendation.

"Accordingly, solutions that impact veterinarians should not create more burden than benefit. The policy provides the AVMA, its members, state VMAs, legislators, regulators, and other stakeholders a clear starting point for discussion on how veterinarians can help address the crisis. It also identifies areas within existing state and federal regulations where veterinarians' activities and the nature of their practices are inconsistent with existing PDMP provisions."

Twinning project

The AVMA Board approved a plan under which the AVMA would help manage a pilot program to launch a clinic-to-clinic twinning project between select companion animal veterinary clinics in three countries that are members of the African Small Companion Animal Network and select companion animal veterinary clinics led by AVMA-member veterinarians in the United States.

The AFSCAN is a global initiative of the World Small Animal Veterinary Association Foundation.

The goals of the twinning project are to promote sustained relationships and mutual learning that will help veterinary professionals—particularly those working with companion animals—better understand one another's perspectives, challenges, and needs; enhance companion animal health and welfare; and improve the understanding of disease surveillance and control, according to the background to the recommendation.

Related JAVMA content:

Frustration mounts over opioid shortage (July 1, 2018)

Banfield finds 1 in 3 dogs and cats is overweight (Aug. 1, 2017)

Work continues to improve veterinary education worldwide (Sept. 1, 2016)

Study: Over half of pet dogs and cats were overweight in 2015 (June 15, 2016)

The fat factor (Aug. 1, 2013)