AVMA Convention Highlight Includes Panel Discussion on Pet Food Recall


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            Washington D. C. Here are a pawful of highlights from the Convention of the American Veterinary Medical Association, July 14 though 18, attended by over 5,000 veterinary professionals.

            Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention in Atlanta, GA delivered the keynote address.

            Following the events of the pet food recall still on the minds of attendees, and both veterinarians and pet owners criticizing the Food and Drug Administration for a slow response, Gerberding said, “People expect flawless performance and complete transparency, and the CDC must deliver information at the speed of the Internet rather than the speed of government.”

            She spoke about her respect for veterinarians, particularly their compassion. She says she grew up across the street from a veterinarian. She said the role of veterinarians increasingly will spill over into the public health arena.  She said, “The CDC must work with the AVMA to improve the health of humans and animals.” She noted the interactions between human and animal health in the realm of food safety and in the relationship between people and animals. Since 2001, Gerberding added, many of the CDC’s challenges have been zoonotic diseases (illness capable of being shared by animals and people) —including anthrax, monkeypox, SARS, and avian influenza. In fact, 13 of the last 14 emerging diseases have been zoonotic. Many of these challenges are global.

            That’s the same topic Dr. Roger Mahr of St. Charles, IL, outgoing president of the AVMA has been speaking about for the past year, an initiative he calls “One World, One Health.” Accepting the position as new AVMA president Dr. Gregory Hammer of Dover, DE said he’ll continue that theme.

            Hammer said, “I’m pleased with how efficiently the AVMA dealt with the pet food recall. We were a player for the public and the professionals seeking the latest factual information.”

            When introducing an expert panel of experts to discuss the pet food recall, moderator Dr. Kimberly May, assistant director of professional and public affairs at the AVMA said, “I’m sure we made mistakes, we all did. The intent of this panel is to determine how we can handle a crisis better.”

            Dr. Stephen Sundlof, director of the Center for Veterinary Medicine at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said, “We tried to be as forthcoming as we could. But at times, the public and the press didn’t realize we also could only offer so much information while we were in the midst of investigations.”

            In spite of everything, Duane Ekedahl, executive director Pet Food Institute maintained most consumers haven’t lost faith in pet foods. When asked if manufacturers can be more specific on labels indicating where ingredients are imported from. And whether U.S. pet makers should stop importing ingredients from China all together? “I don’t believe that those ideas (are) practical, not in our world economy.”

            Barbara Powers, president of the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians said that more lab work could have been completed and more expeditiously – if there was only a way to pay it. She suggested either a fund be created for just this purpose – to find lab results quickly in an emergency – or that the government offers a back-up to finance such lab work.

            Other members of the panel were Dr. Saundra Willis of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine, Dr. Robert Poppenga of the California Food Safety Laboratory, Washington Post reporter Rick Weiss, attorney Marc Ullman, (and this reporter).

            More AVMA Conference Kibble:

  • Dr. Alice Villalobos of Hermosa Beach CA and author of “Canine and Feline Geriatric Oncology: Honoring the Human-Animal Bond” (with Laurie Kaplan) spoke about what she feels is a trend by veterinarians to over-treat, particularly for cancers in older animals when the outcome is destined to be terminal. “I’m grateful for pet owners willing to do anything for their animals, but sometimes that’s just unfair to the animal,” she said. “It may be in the pet’s best interest to insure what time there is left is the best quality of life possible.”
  • The American College of Veterinary Behaviorists and the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior teamed up to present papers and talks on topics including how nutritional supplements may improve learning in older dogs, common causes of dog aggression to children and does pre-adoption counseling increase the likelihood that a dog will remain in the family?

© Steve Dale, Tribune Media Services