From Diets to Genetics

Is your Parakeet looking a little puny? Does your Doberman seem depressed? Is your Persian passive aggressive? Veterinarians from across the country will be bringing their clients new ideas on treating these and many other animal ailments following the 138th Annual Convention of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), which concluded on July 18 in Boston, Mass.

Nearly 8,000 veterinarians, technicians, students, practice staff and family members attended the meeting. The annual event is one of the largest gatherings of veterinary professionals in the nation.

Programs including “Weight Loss of Undetermined Origin In Pet Birds,” “Update on Behavioral Drugs” and “Diagnosis and Treatment of Intercat Aggression” were among the more than 750 continuing education sessions available to attendees. And, veterinarians were getting up early participate in the new 7 a.m. sessions on topics including critical care, cardiology and pain management according to Sharon Curtis Granskog, the AVMA’s assistant director of public information. “These early sessions were very well received,” she said. “Most were near or at capacity.”

Granskog noted some of the hot topics from this year’s meeting. “There is a continuing interest in alternative therapies,” she said. “And, there was a lot of talk about Food and Mouth Disease and the West Nile Virus because of recent outbreaks around the world.”

Granskog also pointed to genetics as a “big issue” for the veterinary community. “It’s more than cloning,” she noted. “Veterinary medicine is looking at genetics to help address a variety of diseases and other issues.”

In his session, “Practical Applications of Modern Genetics for General Practitioners,” Dr. Jerold S. Bell of the Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine noted, “Modern Genetics encompasses more than just the new genetic tests. It includes our improved understanding of the expression of genetic traits…Predictability is the hallmark of genetic disease. Genetic disorders differ from other medical and surgical conditions in the ability to predict morbidity or mortality prior to the onset of clinical signs.”

Dr. Bell discussed the importance of genetics in breeding programs and encouraged veterinarians to work closely with their breeder-clients. “Owners look to us for objective information concerning their breeding stock. Our inclination is to downplay bad news when we see it, so as not to disappoint our clients. When breeding animals have verifiable risk of carrying defective genes and producing affected offspring, our clients depend on us for objective guidance. We can empathize with bad news from genetic tests, but should not downplay the importance of selection for healthier individuals with each breeding generation.”

On the subject of cloning, however, one vendor that received considerable attention on the exhibit floor was a company that offers cryogenic storage of cells and DNA from animals for possible cloning in the future.

The release in the June issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) of the recommendations of the AVMA task force on dog bite prevention focused considerable attention on this subject as well. “The model has been very well received by communities across the country,” Granskog said. “This is an example of the AVMA responding to the request of communities and public health officials to provide ideas for dealing with this important issue and the response has been very positive.”

A note of controversy was introduced by a group who oppose the declawing of cats. They contend that declawing leads to behavioral and other problems. According to their literature, “Seventy percent of cats turned into pounds and shelters for behavior problems are declawed cats.”

News releases from the AVMA convention are featured in this edition of and additional information on the meeting is available at The AVMA’s 139th Annual Convention is scheduled for July 13-17, 2002 in Nashville, Tenn.


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