VMX 2023 draws a crowd for 40th anniversary

Companies unveil research results, announce access-to-care funding

New research on the fecal microbiome of domestic cats, results of a survey on awareness of canine osteoarthritis, and a report on big data in veterinary medicine were announced during the 2023 Veterinary Meeting & Expo, held Jan. 14-18 in Orlando, Florida.

In addition, the Association of Shelter Veterinarians released an updated version of its Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters at the conference, which includes additional references, expanded research, and new sections addressing forensics and disaster response. Hill’s Pet Nutrition unveiled a therapeutic diet for pets with cancer. And PetSmart Charities announced a $100 million, five-year commitment to improve access to veterinary care.

VMX is hosted annually by the nonprofit North American Veterinary Community, and VMX 2023 offered more than 1,300 hours of continuing education in both virtual and on-site sessions.

This year’s conference drew a record 28,000 attendees, who took advantage of the 40% reduction in conference registration fees in recognition of the 40th anniversary of VMX, including more than 9,500 newcomers. NAVC CEO Gene O’Neill announced the anniversary fee would be extended to VMX 2024.

Advances in veterinary products and services were on display in the Expo Hall at the 2023 Veterinary Meeting & Expo, held Jan. 14-18 in Orlando, Florida. (Photos courtesy of VMX 2023)

Feline gut biome

AnimalBiome, a company researching the gut microbiome of cats and dogs, released a study on fecal microbiota transplantation in cats with chronic digestive issues, along with a second report on the efficacy of fecal microbiota transplantation in cats.

The company detailed its application of oral FMT capsules in 68 cats reported to have chronic vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation.

The company’s research, published Jan. 10 in Preprints, found a 77% success rate in improving these clinical signs when using FMT through an oral capsule. The study also found that beneficial bacteria from healthy donor cats were successfully transferred to the ailing cats.

The fecal microbiomes of cats who received the capsules made small but significant improvements in the composition of bacteria, particularly in cats that had previously been reported to experience diarrhea or to have taken antibiotics.

Additionally, cats fed a wet or raw diet had a larger microbiome response than cats fed a dry diet.

The second study, “The kitty microbiome project: defining the healthy fecal ‘core microbiome’ in pet domestic cats,” published in November in Veterinary Sciences, was led by Dr. Holly Ganz, chief science officer for AnimalBiome.

The research identified more than 300 different kinds of bacteria in the fecal microbiome of pet cats. From these, 30 different bacterial groups were found in most healthy cats that represent the core healthy microbiome.

The study also found that bacterial composition depended on the diet of the cat, the cat’s age, and whether the cat lived in a private home or a shelter.

Awareness of canine osteoarthritis

Also presented at VMX 2023 was new research from American Regent Animal Health indicating dog owners are frequently not receiving proactive arthritis information from their veterinarian. American Regent makes Adequan Canine, a disease-modifying osteoarthritis drug for dogs.

The study involved interviews with nearly 600 dog owners to determine how much they knew about canine osteoarthritis and what their veterinarian had discussed with them.

More than half (51%) of dog owners who participated in the study said their veterinarian had never talked to them about arthritis or other joint problems in their dog. Of those who had discussed joint issues with their veterinarian, 59% said they brought up the subject themselves.

Additional results from the study include the following:

  • Forty-three percent of dog owners said they knew “nothing” or “just a little bit” about canine osteoarthritis and joint problems.
  • Eleven percent of dog owners said their veterinarian had educated them about joint problems proactively, when their dog seemed healthy.
  • Twenty-one percent of those surveyed reported owning a breed known to be at high risk for OA: Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Bulldogs or Rottweilers.
  • Fifty-nine percent of dog owners said they were unfamiliar with disease-modifying osteoarthritis drugs, while just 13% said the same about nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

Veterinary Emerging Topics Report

Banfield Pet Hospital and the NAVC released their annual Veterinary Emerging Topics Report, focusing this year on the impact of big data in veterinary medicine.

The report presented the following examples of how Banfield uses data to impact veterinary health care for the entire profession:

  • Identifying risk factors for anesthesia-related mortality led to the development of medical quality standards to make anesthetic procedures safer for pets.
  • Modeling renal disease enabled the identification of at-risk pets, facilitating early detection and increasing time for intervention.
  • Analyzing rare adverse reactions to vaccines helped recognize risk factors so teams can tailor their care to minimize each pet’s risk.
  • Comparing antimicrobial usage with new industry guidelines showed where veterinary health care providers can modify practices to ensure the future efficacy of these agents.

The report detailed how the company built models for predicting the risk of developing chronic kidney disease in cats and in dogs using data from about 910,000 cats and 6.5 million dogs that visited Banfield locations during a 22-year period. Four risk factors useful in predicting feline CKD were creatinine, blood urea nitrogen, urine specific gravity, and age. Six risk factors useful in predicting canine CKD were those four categories along with urine protein and weight.

“One year prior to the diagnosis of chronic kidney disease, the feline model had a sensitivity of 63% while the canine model showed sensitivity of 68%,” according to the report. “Each model had strong rule out capabilities with a specificity of 99% and negative predictive value of 99% respectively.”

Breaking down barriers

PetSmart Charities has pledged $100 million over the next five years to “overcome geographic, cultural, language and financial barriers that prevent pets from receiving veterinary care,” according to the announcement.

The nonprofit expects the funding will help veterinarians, pet owners, pets, and the industry at large in several ways. One initiative involves funding solutions across veterinary care—from investing in new and more affordable types of clinics to working directly with providers to help them overcome challenges in delivery of care. Another focus will be on access to care by developing community-based models and expanding access to lower-cost veterinary care through sustainable nonprofit clinics, for example.

Petsmart also plans to award scholarships to veterinary students pursuing community-based practices.

Middle school students from central Florida learn about veterinary surgery during the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service event hosted by Blendvet, a veterinary hospital certification program in diversity, equity, and inclusion.

NAVC news

During VMX, the NAVC joined Blendvet, which offers a certification program for veterinary hospitals in diversity, equity, and inclusion, to host more than 20 central Florida middle school students on Martin Luther King Jr. The event was designed to expose minority youth to veterinary medicine.

NAVC CEO Gene O’Neill announced a sustainability initiative for NAVC to reduce its carbon footprint. Starting with VMX 2023, NAVC officials will be engaging people in the veterinary industry, trade show industry, and its home base in Orlando to help create and implement sustainability programs to offset the carbon impact of VMX and all NAVC events.

Launching in 2023, NAVC will be hosting a community-based program that focuses on topics and trends of interest in local veterinary communities across the country. These in-person pop-up events aim to address the different needs of the veterinary industry, including patient treatment and the needs of specific members of the veterinary team.

The 2023-24 NAVC officers are Dr. Bob Lester, Vancouver, Washington, president; Dr. Karen Kline, Clackamas, Oregon, president-elect; Dr. Sally Haddock, New York City, vice president; Dr. Christine Navarre, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, treasurer; and veterinary technician Harold Davis Jr., West Sacramento, California, immediate past president.