They’re converging in Las Vegas from all over the world. But the idea is that what they learn in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas. More than 15,000 veterinary professionals will be attending the 78th Annual Western Veterinary Conference, February 19-23 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center.
The Western Vet Conference is the largest in the world. “Size is impressive, but far more important isn’t that we’re the largest, but that we’re the best in the world,” says Dr. Stephen Crane, executive director of the conference. “The idea is that we offer practical advice that matters to veterinarians in private practices to take back to their corners of the world so they can make an impact.”
One emerging issue is canine influenza – a flu bug that dogs get – which was discovered in 2005. Dr. Cynda Crawford, assistant scientist and immunologist at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, Gainesville is going to present her most recent findings at the conference.
In people, those who suffer the most from the flu are most likely to be the elderly, very young or immune compromised. Those who die from the flu are most likely to fall into those categories. It turns out, that’s not the case in dogs. In fact, the overwhelming majority dogs who have succumbed to canine influenza were one to five years old, and considered healthy.
While Crawford says veterinary medicine needs to learn more about the canine flu, it’s not like dogs are dropping in the streets. “Some reports have been exaggerated,” she says. “Word that spreads on the Internet isn’t always accurate.”
That’s why public relations professional Lea-Ann Germinder will be talking to veterinarians about how to deal with clients who are more educated than ever before. You name the disease ” there are reams of information available on the web. “The problem is that all the information may not be from a credible source,” she says.
Germinder, of Kansas City, Mo and New York, NY, is the president of her own pr agency, Germinder & Associates, and operates the website www.goodnewsforpets.com, and has worked in the veterinary industry for many years. She says, “Veterinarians are excellent caregivers, but they’re not professional marketers. They care about communicating accurate information to their clients, and we’ll talk (at the conference) about how to better achieve that.”
Crane adds, “It’s imperative that veterinarians wake up to what’s going on around them.”
Germinder agrees and will also discuss the importance of veterinarians becoming involved in their communities. “It’s difficult when you’re busy running a practice, and dealing with life and death issues. But it’s important – the public is increasingly only getting one side of stories, and veterinarians need to speak up so their voices and the voices of the animals are heard.”
As an example, Germinder says that people assume breed specific legislation (supporting bans of pit bulls, Rottweilers, etc.) is something veterinarians agree with. In truth, the opposite is typically true.
Communication doesn’t have to be about anything that’s especially controversial. One example is one of the talks veterinary behaviorist Dr. Ellen Lindell of Pleasant Valley, NY will be giving, called “Is it Medical or Behavioral.”
Lindell explains, “The good news is that pet owners now understand the importance of behavioral problems. But people don’t always make the correct assumption. For example, if a cat misses the box, it’s not necessarily behavioral. You can give that cat all the (psychopharmacological) drugs in the world, but it’s not going to help one bit if the cat has a lower urinary tract problem. If a dog bites, maybe it’s because you rubbed the dog’s ear first, and there’s a serious ear infection. It hurt, so the dog bit. Of course, it may not excuse the dog biting, but at least now you understand why the dog bit.”
Lindell’s bottom line advice: Even when you assume the problem is behavioral, call your veterinarian first.
Another example may be an elderly cat that misses the litter box. The problem might be arthritis; the cat not being able to climb stairs to get to the box, or even to climb into the box itself. For the eighth consecutive year, Dr. Kathy Gloyd has organized and will moderate a senior care symposium. “Veterinary medicine used to refer to old pets as geriatric, but research showed pet owners didn’t like their beloved pets being called geriatric.”
Some of the issues discussed will be pain management, hospice care and controlling blood sugar in diabetic pets.
Gloyd, who is based in Wilmington, DE, says hypertension (high blood pressure) in cats is a hot issue. “Truly, we’re learning more and more that in cats, hypertension is very much related to hyperthyroidism, kidney disease and general health.”
One issue is understanding what exactly a normal blood pressure reading is. A second issue is getting a normal reading in the setting of a veterinary clinic, where many cats are incredibly stressed out.
Veterinary behaviorist Dr. Kersti Seksel of Seaforth, New South Wales Australia presents a talk about socializing kittens in classes, which are like puppy classes for kittens. “Kittens deserve an education too,” she says. “If we can have a well-socialized cat who doesn’t mind going into the car for the car ride to the veterinary office, and then actually enjoys being examined on a cold exam table, that kitten will be getting a better exam.” Seksel’s been teaching these classes down under for about a decade.
Editor’s Note: To learn more about cat behavior and the signs of sickness in cats, visit The Great Cat Watch, For Wellness Sake! web site at www.catwellness.org. Media representatives may request an interview with Dr. Jim Richards, director of the Cornell Feline Health Center by emailing Lea-Ann Germinder at [email protected].