Today was my final day at the AVMA Convention, but I wish I could stay through the lectures tomorrow! If anyone has to stay in downtown Denver for work, or pleasure, I highly recommend the Hotel Teatro, a cute, unique, boutique style hotel. The Teatro is just two short blocks from the Convention Center and within easy walking distance of many restaurants and shops.
One of the best parts of attending a veterinary convention is the wacky titles of some of the lectures. With lectures like “Appropriate Grooming of Birds”, “Training Foals to be Good Patients”, and “Finfish Anatomy and Physiology”, who wouldn’t have a good time? In all honesty, the AVMA Convention draws so many attendees because of the diversity of their conference offerings. This is a circumstance where I wish I could be in two, three, or four places at the same time, because that would allow me to attend more than one lecture at once!
I hopped around a bit between different topics today. This morning, I attended back-to-back lectures about hypotension (low blood pressure) under anesthesia and how to provide complete, multi-modal surgical analgesia (pain relief.) Hypotension is common under anesthesia, but can be managed once identified. Reducing the amount of anesthetic gas used, or increasing the intravenous fluid rate are simple ways to bring the blood pressure up. In the analgesia talk, the lecturer emphasized the benefits of local anesthesia for surgical patients. I’ve done local anesthetic blocks in my patients before, primarily for cats being declawed. Today, I learned about providing (sorry, gentlemen) intra-testicular local anesthesia before neuters, and intra-peritoneal (or abdominal) “splash” blocks before spays. Pain management has always been the area of most interest to me, so I seek out lectures on this topic! This afternoon, I attended a talk on NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory) safety in dogs and cats. NSAID’s are the most common analgesic medications prescribed for dogs with pain, so most practitioners have a lot of familiarity with these drugs. This lecture talked about the high safety index for these drugs, if used in the right patients.
As the dutiful daughter of a gastroenterologist, I couldn’t go another day without attending a GI lecture. Before lunch, I had a refresher course in canine inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). IBD is a very common diagnosis in cats and dogs; it often manifests as chronic diarrhea, weight loss, and/or vomiting. A variety of treatment options are available to treat IBD (including special diets) and most patients do well once treated. Thanks to today’s lecture, I added a few more IBD treatments to my formulary, which will benefit a few of my patients at Newtown Square Veterinary Hospital, I hope!
The final lecture I attended today was, to my glee, about the basics of backyard chickens. The lecture was standing-room only, which speaks to the increasingly popularity of chickens and the increasing need for veterinarians to care for all those hens and roosters! Many of you know that the Dr D Household will be adding to our mini zoo with a few chicks, hopefully this upcoming spring. Chickens are now just of personal interest to me (yay fresh eggs!), but I also will need to provide their medical care, so maybe someday they will also be of professional interest, too. Dr. D VMD, Poultry Vet Extraordinaire? We’ll see about that!
Well, friends, I’m lucky enough to be spending several days in Denver, Colorado attending the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) annual conference. The AVMA is the largest veterinary organization, and thus they host the largest continuing education conference for our profession. This is the third AVMA conference I’ve attended, and I have been consistently impressed with the quality of the speakers, the depth and breadth of the lecture offerings, and just how darn organized everything is. (This year, we even have our own iPhone app to help us track which lectures we attend, and for the AVMA to notify attendees about room and schedule changes. Technology at its best!)
This morning, I chose to attend a series of lectures on thoracic radiography. I absolutely love radiology, and can never learn enough about something I do every day in practice. Today’s lectures focused on how to radiographically identify specific diseases associated with acute respiratory distress (think: congestive heart failure, asthma, and pneumonia). We also had a lecture on how to avoid “over-interpreting” thoracic radiographs, thereby accidentally diagnosing normal anatomic structures as abnormal. For instance, if the patient’s sternum is a bit over-rotated when laying on the x-ray table (meaning, the dog is crooked), this can cause the false appearance of enlarged lymph nodes along the sternum on a radiograph. Positioning is important, but can be a challenge in an exuberant Labrador or stressed-out kitty!
This afternoon, I was thrilled to attend a lecture by one of my professional heroes, Dr. Temple Grandin. Dr. Grandin has been a longstanding advocate for the humane treatment of animals raised for food production, and has published a large body of research on reducing stress in domestic and farm animals. She has worked with McDonald’s and other large food corporations to redesign the slaughter process for food animals, making it more humane. Today, Dr. Grandin spoke about how we can help reduce stress in our veterinary patients; she cited a study where cortisol (stress hormone) levels were determined to be dramatically lower in shelter dogs who had 45 minutes of play and human interaction a day, versus those who had little to no stimulation and human contact. Simple things such as turning down bright lights and reducing noise exposure for hospitalized patients can go a long way to reducing their stress levels, and improving their healing.
The final lecture I attended today was about osteosarcoma, the most common bone tumor diagnosed in dogs. Osteosarcoma is a horrible and painful disease, in dogs and in humans. Much research has been done on this cancer in canines, but at this time our ability to treat it is very limited. Dogs who undergo amputation of the affected limb with no other treatment have only a 5-month median survival; dogs treated with amputation and a combination of chemotherapy and/or radiation can have up to one year of survival, before metastatic disease becomes too significant. There are some interesting new treatments being tested right now, including a class of drugs known as bisphosphonates (human drugs such as Boniva and Fosamax); these medications inhibit bone destruction, thereby reducing pain and further bone damage. However, no new treatments have been found to extend the survival time for patients with this disease.
Yesterday, I was treated to a rainbow outside my hotel window (see my photo, left). Tonight, I’m in search of some excellent Denver Mexican food and maybe a margarita! Tomorrow, I look forward to a day of lectures about anesthesia and analgesia; yes, I’m a nerd, but I love to learn.
Most clients know that NSVH offers microchipping for all pets. I am a huge advocate for microchips. Just last week, I had clients bring in a young, male stray cat who wandered into their yard. They intended to adopt the little guy, assuming he wasn’t owned by anyone. As is standard protocol for all lost or stray animals brought to us, we scanned the stray for a microchip, and sure enough he had a chip! I called the microchip company and provided his chip number. Unfortunately, the microchip had not been registered by the kitty’s owner, so I could not immediately obtain the owner’s contact information. The microchip company, however, was able to provide me with the name and phone number of the veterinarian who implanted the chip; when I called the veterinary hospital responsible for chipping the cat, they were able to look up the microchip number in their computer system. The owner’s phone number was given to me, and I was able to call and reunite a very worried gentleman with his recently lost cat. What a great reunion story!
It may be time for lazy beach days and summer BBQ’s, but many of us in veterinary medicine have pumpkin on the brain. Once available only in autumn, canned pumpkin is now available year-round in grocery stores. Why is pumpkin so important to veterinarians? Pumpkin is widely used as a source of dietary fiber for our canine and feline patients suffering from various gastrointestinal illnesses. Fiber-responsive diarrhea is a common syndrome identified in kittens and puppies. While Fluffy and Fido would turn their noses up at most other sources of fiber (Metamucil, bran flakes, psyllium husk), pumpkin has the advantage of being highly palatable. Most of our canine, and many of our feline, patients actually enjoy the taste! Many will eat pumpkin straight, but in some cases owners find better success in mixing pumpkin with food.