VMX 2019 takes on timely topics

NAVC's flagship conference again offers hundreds of hours of continuing education to thousands of attendees
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Osteoarthritis in overweight pets, the psychosocial effects of service dogs, and the Fear Free Certification Program were among the many subjects of discussion at the 2019 Veterinary Meeting & Expo, Jan. 19-23 in Orlando, Florida.

The North American Veterinary Community, a nonprofit that provides continuing education and other services, renamed its flagship conference as VMX starting in 2018. VMX 2019 offered more than 1,200 hours of CE and attracted about 17,000 attendees.

Speaker addressing VMX crowd
The 2019 Veterinary Meeting & Expo, Jan. 19-23 in Orlando, Florida, offered more than 1,200 hours of continuing education and attracted about 17,000 attendees. (Courtesy of NAVC)

Osteoarthritis in overweight pets

During the conference, Banfield Pet Hospital released its third annual Veterinary Emerging Topics Report, in partnership with the NAVC. The 2019 report examines the management of osteoarthritis in overweight and obese dogs and cats.

"As an industry, we face an uphill battle as excess weight becomes normalized and associated conditions like osteoarthritis are on the rise," said Dr. Daniel Aja, Banfield chief medical officer, in an announcement about the report.

"When Age is Not the Culprit" report coverApproximately one in three pets seen at Banfield clinics is overweight or obese, and the prevalence is increasing. Banfield found that 51 percent of dogs and 41 percent of cats newly diagnosed with osteoarthritis in 2017 also were considered overweight or obese. Key barriers preventing appropriate care for pets with osteoarthritis included the cost of diagnostic services and treatment, owner noncompliance, owners not recognizing that the pet is in pain, owners not accepting that the pet is overweight, and hospital time constraints.

Among the findings were the following:

  • Less than 30 percent of pets received radiographs when a diagnosis was made.
  • Only 50 percent of dogs and cats were sent home with pain medication at the time of initial diagnosis.
  • Less than 10 percent of pets were prescribed a veterinary diet for mobility or weight management.

The report identified the following opportunities to improve osteoarthritis management:

  • Dispensing pain medication for pets with osteoarthritis.
  • Incorporating existing tools for earlier identification.
  • Making a dietary recommendation every time.
  • Weight management.
  • Patient management as a veterinary team effort.

Psychosocial effects of service dogs

At VMX 2019, a lunchtime session featured the results of the study "The effects of service dogs on psychosocial health and wellbeing for individuals with physical disabilities or chronic conditions" from researchers at Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine. The study appeared online Jan. 11 in the journal Disability and Rehabilitation.

Service dog
A session at VMX 2019 featured the results of a study from Purdue University, which found that service dogs have positive effects on the psychosocial health of individuals with physical disabilities or chronic conditions. The study participants were recruited from Canine Assistants. (Photo by David Scott/Canine Assistants)

The study involved a survey of 154 individuals with physical disabilities or chronic conditions—97 individuals with a mobility or medical service dog and 57 on the waitlist. The researchers evaluated the effects of having a service dog on standardized measures of psychosocial health as well as anger, companionship, and sleep disturbance.

The results indicated that "individuals with a service dog exhibited significantly better psychosocial health including higher social, emotional, and work/school functioning. There was no significant effect of having a service dog on anger, companionship, or sleep disturbance," according to the abstract.

Leading the study were Kerri Rodriguez and Maggie O'Haire, PhD. In a Purdue announcement, Dr. O'Haire said, "These findings help shed light on the fact that having a service dog may impact some areas of life more than others."

"We are still unsure how having a service dog and a pet dog may differ," Rodriguez said. "Although these service dogs are extensively trained to provide medical or physical assistance, we know that their companionship and unconditional love are important factors in the relationship."

Fear Free Certification Program

Ahead of VMX 2019, the Fear Free Certification Program released results of a 2018 online survey of 960 participants. The program provides veterinary and pet professionals with tools, protocols, and knowledge to reduce fear, anxiety, and stress in patients and clients. Individual professionals and entire practices may earn certification. Participants who responded to the survey reported an increase in income, client visits, referrals, and new clients, plus improved patient care and work morale.

Fear Free offered a variety of sessions at VMX 2019. Dr. Marty Becker, founder of the program, was among the presenters. Sessions included a full-day track on the operational aspects of Fear Free and a full-day track on the science behind the program.

NAVC officers

The 2019-2020 NAVC officers are Dr. Cheryl Good, Dearborn, Michigan, president; veterinary technician Paige Allen, West Lafayette, Indiana, president-elect; veterinary technician Harold Davis, West Sacramento, California, vice president; Dr. Laurel Kaddatz, Pound Ridge, New York, treasurer; and Dr. K. Leann Kuebelbeck, Brandon, Florida, immediate past president.

Related JAVMA content:

In with the new at VMX 2018 (April 1, 2018)

Study finds service dogs contribute to owners' emotional well-being (April 15, 2017)