AVMA update: Didnt make it to Indianapolis? Here are the highlights


Pot for pets. Telemedicine. Service animal fraud. These topics and more were on the agenda at the associations annual convention in July.

The Indiana Convention Center, site of the 2017 AVMA Convention. Photo courtesy of Indiana Convention Center & Lucas Oil Stadium.If practice life was hectic and you couldn't get away, if Indianapolis was not your idea of a dream destination, or if you were saving your CE pennies for CVC, here's a recap of the 2017 AVMA Convention, which took place July 21-24 in surprisingly lovely downtown Indy.

Pot for pets

With a number of tricky legal and ethical issues surrounding the use of therapies derived from marijuana and related plant species in pets (see our clinical overview here), a number of veterinarians are hoping their national association can provide some guidance. To that end, the AVMA House of Delegates officially asked the Board of Directors to consider creating and disseminating information on the current legal status of cannabis as it applies to veterinary practitioners, consistent definitions of cannabis and its derivatives, current available research, and clinical signs and treatment of cannabis toxicosis in pets for both practitioners and clients.

The house also recommended that the board look for ways to work with other stakeholder groups to reclassify cannabis from a schedule 1 to schedule 2 substance. This would help researchers investigate potential uses in veterinary and human medicine more easily, advocates say.


Another hot topic at the conference was telemedicine or, more broadly, telehealth. (FYI, “telehealth” refers to all forms of electronic exchange of health-related information, including general education, while “telemedicine” is the exchange of specific medical information in relation to an individual patient's health status.) The House of Delegates passed a resolution establishing a new policy: In essence, the policy states that telemedicine involving diagnosis, treatment or the prescribing of drugs should not occur in the absence of a veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR), except in cases of emergency.

In a panel discussion on the subject, Board of Directors member Lori Teller, DVM, DABVP, of Houston, Texas, noted that the AVMA is preparing a toolkit with resources on telemedicine for veterinarians. Phase one is to be released this month, with the entire toolkit expected to be available in June 2018.

Audience members also discussed whether the definition of the VCPR might change in the future-specifically, whether a physical exam is necessary to establish a VCPR. Human medicine no longer requires an in-person visit to establish a doctor-patient relationship, and some veterinary groups in Canada may be relaxing this requirement as well, panelists and attendees noted.

Service animal stickiness

Veterinarians are increasingly finding themselves in the awkward position of being asked to provide a letter stating that a person-usually a client-has a legitimate need for an emotional support animal. While these practitioners recognize that this is a job for a mental health professional, not a veterinarian, clients are not so clear on the issue-if a lively discussion on the topic during AVMA is any indication.

During its annual meeting, the House of Delegates passed a resolution clarifying the veterinarian's role in regard to service animals. This role involves “assisting their clients in selecting the right animal for the right task, recommending that the animal receive appropriate training for its intended role, and ensuring that the health and welfare of that animal is addressed,” the resolution states. In addition, the AVMA has developed a white paper with additional guidance on the subject: “Assistance Animals: Rights of Access and the Problem of Fraud.” It can be downloaded at avma.org/kb/policies.


Michael J. Topper, DVM, PhD, DACVP, who was elected AVMA president-elect last year, was installed as president of the AVMA during this year's convention. He recently retired after 12 years as director of clinical pathology at Merck Research Laboratories in West Point, Pennsylvania. Speaking before the House of Delegates, he stressed the importance of veterinary leadership, the federal veterinary workforce and the One Health movement.

“Ultimately, people and animals rely on the environment for their nourishment and survival, and it's these interconnections that make the practice of One Health so critically important for each of us,” said Topper, according to a release from the AVMA. “As veterinary professionals, we must uphold our duty to promote the health of all species and the varied places in which they live.”

John de Jong, DVM, of Weston, Massachusetts, was chosen as AVMA president-elect during the House of Delegates meeting, meaning he will take over as president in 2018. Dr. de Jong owns the Boston Mobile Veterinary Clinic and Newton Animal Hospital. He has served as AVMA Board of Directors chairman and president of the Massachusetts and New England Veterinary Medical Associations, according to an AVMA release.

Angela Demaree, DVM, an Indiana veterinarian and a major in the U.S. Army Reserves, and John Howe, DVM, a Minnesota mixed-animal practitioner, have announced that they're running for president-elect of the AVMA in the 2018 election, the AVMA reports.

Awards and honors

The AVMA named Johann (Hans) F. Coetzee, BVSc, Cert CHP, PhD, DACVCP, recipient of its 2017 Animal Welfare Award. Dr. Coetzee was recognized for his commitment to the welfare of livestock animals and achievements in developing pain assessment models and pain management techniques for cattle.

“Dr. Coetzee ... has brought about enormous change in the livestock industry regarding awareness of pain and concern for managing painful procedures,” said Dr. Tom Meyer, AVMA president, during a recognition ceremony. “His research and leadership have been instrumental in transforming the attitudes and practices of veterinarians, farmers and food animal practitioners.”

Dr. Coetzee is a professor and department head in Kansas State University's Department of Anatomy and Physiology.

Also honored was Joan Miller, who received the AVMA's 2017 Humane Award for her contributions to feline welfare. Miller served as the Winn Feline Foundation's president for 16 years and on the advisory boards of the Cornell Feline Health Center and the UC-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

Related Videos
Co-founders of AAVMP
Stéphie-Anne Dulièpre
© 2023 MJH Life Sciences

All rights reserved.