AVMA convention brings discussion of pharmacies, raw food

Discussion about raw food for pets and other several animal welfare policies top the list of notable events happening at the August American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Convention.

The convention will run Aug. 3-7, 2012 in San Diego, Calif.

The AVMA House of Delegates (HOD) will hold its two-day summer meeting before the convention. During the meeting, the HOD will address its first policy on raw food diets for pets, and will discuss its pharmacies, animal fighting and animal restraint policies. The HOD will also vote on a proposal to eliminate the position of AVMA vice president.

Raw protein diets for pets have been controversial topics in the pet community.

In the raw protein diet proposal, the AVMA said that it "discourages the feeding to cats and dogs of any animal-source protein that has not first been subjected to a process to eliminate pathogens because of the risk of illness to cats and dogs as well as humans."

In a July 18, 2012 post on its website, the AVMA said its policies are based on a thorough review of scientific literature and are drafted by veterinarians with expertise in relevant fields.

"Our policies are intended to present the scientific facts," the AVMA said in its post. "In this case they are: 1) Scientific studies have shown that raw and undercooked protein can be sources of infection with Salmonella, Campylobacter, Clostridium, E. coli, Listeria monocytogenes, and enterotoxigenic Staphylococcus aureus. These infections can sicken pets and pet owners alike, and can be life-threatening; 2) unless a raw protein product has been subjected to a process that eliminates pathogens that can make pets and people ill, it poses a significant public health risk to both pets and pet owners."

It goes on to explain that cats and dogs can develop subclinical infections with these organisms but still pose a risk to livestock, other nonhuman animals, and humans, especially children, older persons and immunocompromised individuals.

The proposed policy has already generated a flurry of online comments and discussion from consumers attacking the association for its stance on the controversial topic. Many consumers have questioned the prudence of feeding commercial pet food in light of recalled pet foods that have sickened animals and humans alike.

The AVMA Executive Board and House Advisory Committee have both recommended the resolution proposing the policy be passed.

The HOD will also tackle the issue of non-veterinary pharmacies. The proposal would call on the AVMA to communicate with non-veterinary pharmacies to promote best practices in dispensing to pets.

The AVMA cites the increasing frequency of pharmacies filling veterinary drug prescriptions as a key reason for the proposal.

"The AVMA is concerned about the negative consequences to a pet’s health when prescription medications are inappropriately or inaccurately dispensed by a licensed pharmacist who is not adequately trained in veterinary pharmacology," the statement reads. "We want to ensure that licensed pharmacists understand their roles and responsibilities for counseling and educating clients when filling a veterinary prescription. These include verification with the prescribing veterinarian should the pharmacist have any question about the medication or dosage."

The AVMA also plans to strengthen its position against animal fighting.

First passed in 1979, the AVMA policy on animal fighting has actively supported laws against the use of animals in fights. The proposed policy revision will encourage veterinarians to "educate the public about the harm caused by animal fighting." The revision was first suggested by the AVMA’s Animal Welfare Committee in response to input gathered from AVMA members.

Another policy change to be considered at the HOD meeting is an addition to the AVMA policy on physical restraint of animals for the purposes of examination, vaccination and collection of samples.

The addition to the current policy, which encourages safe and humane restraint, states: "Every effort should be made to ensure adequate and ongoing training in animal handling and behavior by all parties involved, so distress and physical restraint are minimized."

The HOD will also vote on whether to eliminate the position of an AVMA vice president, replacing it instead with six regional veterinary schools liasions.