Pet Medicine, the Newest & Latest at AAHA Conference


PHOENIX, AZ – The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) Conference, held here March 14-17, was an opportunity for over 2,100 veterinary professionals to learn the latest cutting edge news, and to advance their education. Presentations ranged from “Rapid Reversal of Fear and Aggression in Dogs and Cats” to “Infectious Disease Among Kittens in Multiple Cat Environments.”

Dr. Niels Pedersen, legendary University of California-Davis veterinarian, presented three talks on topics supported by the non-profit Winn Feline Foundation, which is dedicated to funding feline studies. He discussed the plight of many cats, particularly those landing in animal shelters. From 2000 to 2010, for example, 25 million cats in California shelters were euthanized – an average of 756 cats per day. It outrageous to think how many cats that is across the nation.

Another of Pedersen’s presentations focused specifically on infectious disease in cats. It’s unlikely anyone has studied feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) as long as Pedersen, who’s devoted much of his career to solve the mysteries of this fatal disease. He pointed out that everything about FIP is contradictory, even the name, since FIP itself isn’t truly infectious. It turns out at least one in 300 cats (mostly kittens) develops the disease, and he spoke about his own efforts to “Sock it to FIP.”

Dr. Al Legendre, of the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, Knoxville, spoke about a drug which seems to help extend life and improve quality of life for some cats with the dry form of FIP. The drug, Polyprenyl Immunostimulant, is actually labeled to treat rhinotracheitis (a common respiratory or pulmonary infection caused by the herpes virus), but veterinarians do have the option to use it for other purpose such as treating FIP.

In a talk about aggressive pets, Dr. Sophia Yin, of San Francisco, CA, said, behavior problems occur with 86 percent to 90 percent of all pets. About 30 percent of shelter relinquishments and euthanasias are due to behavior problems, she noted. Up to 80 percent of pets returned to shelters are relinquished due to behavior problems.

Aggression toward people is one of the most common reasons for seeing a veterinary behaviorist, Yin noted. Tips for dealing with aggressive dogs include: First, insure everyone is safe, a muzzle may be used; counter-conditioning (training for alternative desirable behaviors); food should be paired with the training visit and with all procedures to encourage the dogs to respond positively and so the pet associates good things with the training.

Yin added that animals should be referred to a behavior specialist in the following cases:

–A dog has repeatedly growled, snapped at, or bitten anyone in any setting.

–Owners are concerned about controlling their dog because the pet is too rambunctious, too big, or is chewing things or growling at them, or family members feel threatened by the dog.

–A cat has attacked the owner.


–AAHA is the only organization that accredits small animal hospitals throughout the U.S. and Canada. Over 3,500 AAHA-accredited hospitals are evaluated regularly on approximately 900 quality-of-care standards defining excellence in veterinary medicine. A contingent of veterinarians from Spain attended the conference, saying that their hope is to replicate the AAHA model.

The Spanish veterinarians explained that today pets Spain are suffering as a result of the failing economy and high unemployment. Owners are leaving pets behind in foreclosed homes or turning them in to shelters in record numbers. When offered lifesaving medical options, sometimes owners simply can’t afford to treat their beloved animals. However, the silver lining is that relatively inexpensive shelter adoptions are increasing.

–Aside from veterinary professionals celebrating all they learned, the city of Phoenix had reason to cheer. Mayor Greg Stanton appeared at the opening event and announced that the Phoenix Convention Center has now attracted $1.5 billion to the city, and honored the center’s one-millionth attendee, Dr. Monique Weldon, of Aurora, CO, a veterinarian attending the AAHA conference.

–AAHA presented awards to the following veterinary practices: Markham Veterinary Clinic, Ontario, Canada; Cleveland Park Animal Hospital, Greenville, SC; Gardner Animal Hospital, Gardner, MA. The big winner, Macungie Animal Hospital, Macungie, PA was named the 2012 AAHA Practice of the Year. North Star VETS in Robbinsville, NJ was awarded the AAHA Accredited Referral Practice of the Year.

©Steve Dale, Tribune Media Services