The relatively new Association of Charity Vets (ACV) are going from strength to strength, with the latest sold-out annual conference in Bristol on 1 and 2 February 2020. Vets, nurses, and students from around the UK, and indeed the world, joined us at the Bristol University campus. The attending delegates came from major rehoming charities, charity hospitals and general practices that provide care to shelters and pets of low-income clients. ACV had our first official AGM in 2018, is affiliated with BSAVA, and this year at our AGM we elected our first honorary members.
There was a busy program on Saturday starting with a talk by Brittany Watson from the University of Pennsylvania on High Quality, High Volume Spay/Neuter (HQHVSN) which is patient focused, evidence based and utilises protocols and checklists to minimise complications. This was followed by a Q&A panel considering the approach to neutering including great conversations around behaviour for all our companion species. Other topics covered included Neurology on a Shoestring and Pragmatic Reptile Care. Mike Targett’s neurology lecture provided a lively presentation in which he mentioned that you don’t necessarily need an MRI scan or other costly diagnostics to make appropriate decisions for animals affected by neurological conditions. Break out tutorial sessions included Transfusions in Charity Practice, Research in Practice, Containing Infectious Disease where delegates considered how to manage biosecurity in the shelter, Bouncing Back from Mistakes where Penny Barker shared a statement that resonated with many of the delegates ‘Don’t carry mistakes around with you, think of them as stepping stones’. The innovative ‘What’s New?’ session involved quickfire 5-minute presentations and is a way to showcase recent research that has been carried out in the field of shelter and charity medicine.
There was a big response to our first undergraduate poster prize, with lots of enthusiastic future members of our profession displaying their research projects relevant to charity and shelter practice. The winning poster by Alysia Empert-Gallegos from University of Glasgow highlighted an important area of client communication: examining the reasons why pet owners choose to feed a raw diet. A huge variety of topics were covered by the posters including dental disease in rabbits, impact of FIV status on rehoming and return to shelter, factors affecting rehoming rates, common conditions in dogs living with homeless owners, dermatophytosis in shelter small mammals, post thyroidectomy hypocalcaemia and clinical decision making. All the posters were of fantastic quality and served to illustrate the wide range of issues that are of so much relevance to vets in charity practice and the profession as a whole. Our student members are an essential part of our association, not least because Bristol students were invaluable help on the day. Our conference can be a great way to meet practitioners in our field, and student members can also have access to our newly launched EMS database of practices that do charity or shelter work.
On Sunday the challenges of clinical decision making and assessing welfare were addressed head on with interactive workshops. Delegates applied multiple quality of life tools to complex case scenarios, demonstrating the advantages, and limitations of these tools and generating excellent discussions about ethical dilemmas in both unowned and owned animals and how we deal with difficult euthanasia decisions.
As ever, the conference generated a big buzz between lectures, with plenty of time for coffee, cakes and conversation as veterinary professionals enthusiastic about pragmatic care got together and shared ideas. Increasingly we hear how vets are struggling when faced with clients who can’t afford the so called “gold standard”, which can leave vets concerned about how they can approach cases without being criticised, or worse. This can result in stress for vets and risks animals not getting treatments that could benefit them. We would argue that “gold standard” care is really about finding the best possible option that is within the client’s budget, without the need for a long list of tests or a definitive diagnosis. This conference showed that this approach is not only possible, but is completely in keeping with a high quality, evidence-based medicine approach. This can only be a benefit to animals and their owners.
Do join us next year for our tenth annual conference, which will be held in early February at Nottingham Vet School. Become a member and keep an eye on our website to find out registration is open!
If you want to find out more about the Association of Charity Vets, visit our website www.associationofcharityvets.org.uk twitter:@charityvets or join our Facebook page.