COVID-19 and Your Pet

Updated March 20, 2020

How to Best Protect Your Pet

  • Stay home and follow social distancing orders from authorities. Studies show COVID-19 is often spread by those who are not yet showing symptoms of disease. Consider yourself infected and take the proper precautions to protect your community.
  • DO NOT take your pet to a veterinary clinic for wellness visits, vaccinations, or elective procedures (such as spay/neuter) that may be safely delayed for a few months.
  • If you are concerned with your pet’s health issue, CALL YOUR VET. Many vets are practicing telemedicine with their established clients and patients, and will be able to make a tentative diagnosis and prescribe medication over the phone or after an online consult.
  • If you are diagnosed with COVID-19 but do not need to be hospitalized, you can still safely care for your pet. Practice good hygiene practices by washing your hands before and after interacting with your pet, not kissing or sharing food with your pet, and avoiding close contact (hugging, sleeping together). If possible, wear a facemask to reduce your spread of virus particles.

Make a Plan for Your Pet

  • You should identify a family member or friend who can care for your pets if you need to be hospitalized.
  • Have an appropriate carrier/crate for each pet, and enough food, medication, and supplies for at least two weeks.
  • Ensure all medications are documented with dosages and administering directions. Including the prescription from your veterinarian is ideal.
  • Pets should have identification: Collar with ID tag and microchip.

COVID-19 and Pets

  • Infectious disease experts and multiple international and domestic human and animal health organizations agree there is no evidence at this point to indicate that pets become ill with COVID-19 or that they spread it to other animals, including people.
  • If you are not ill with COVID-19, you can interact with your pet as you normally would, including walking, feeding, and playing. You should continue to practice good hygiene during those interactions (e.g., wash hands before and after interacting with your pet; ensure your pet is kept well-groomed; regularly clean your pet’s food and water bowls, bedding material, and toys).
  • Out of an abundance of caution, it is recommended that those ill with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus. Have another member of your household take care of walking, feeding, and playing with your pet. If you have a service animal or must care for your pet, wear a facemask if possible; don’t share food, kiss, or hug them; and wash your hands before and after any contact with them.

General information about COVID-19:

  • The betacoronavirus that causes COVID-19 is SARS-CoV-2 (formerly 2019-nCoV).
  • Person-to-person and community spread has been reported in numerous countries, including the United States.
  • Transmission primarily occurs when there is contact with an infected person’s bodily secretions, such as saliva or mucus droplets in a cough or sneeze. Transmission via touching a contaminated surface or object (i.e., a fomite) and then touching the mouth, nose, or possibly eyes is also possible, but appears to be a secondary route. Smooth (non-porous) surfaces (e.g., countertops, door knobs) transmit viruses better than porous materials (e.g., paper money, pet fur) because porous, especially fibrous, materials absorb and trap the pathogen (virus), making it harder to contract through simple touch.
  • There are currently no antiviral drugs recommended or licensed by FDA to treat COVID-19, and there is no immunization available. 
  • Cases of COVID-19 and community spread are being reported in most states.
  • The best way to avoid becoming ill is to avoid exposure to the virus. Taking typical preventive actions is key.

Have Any Pets Been Infected with COVID-19?

Dog in Hong Kong: On Thursday, February 27, Hong Kong’s Agriculture, Fisheries, and Conservation Department (AFCD) reported that samples obtained on February 26 from the nasal and oral cavities of a pet dog (a 17-year-old Pomeranian whose owner had been diagnosed with COVID-19) had tested “weak positive” for SARS-CoV-2, using a real time reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT PCR) test. A fecal sample was negative. The RT PCR test is sensitive, specific, and does not cross-react with other coronaviruses of dogs or cats. A “weak positive” result suggests a small quantity of SARS-CoV-2 RNA was present in the samples, but does not distinguish between RNA detected from intact virus and fragments of RNA. PCR testing was repeated on February 28, March 2, 3, 5, and 10 with continued “weak positive” results. In addition, gene sequencing of the SARS-CoV-2 virus from the dog and its close human contacts was completed on March 12 and the viral sequences were very similar. A virus isolation test conducted on March 12 was negative. Experts from the School of Public Health of the University of Hong Kong and the College of Veterinary Medicine and Life Sciences of the City University of Hong Kong believe the consistency and persistence of the results suggest the virus may have spread from the infected people to the dog in this particular case. Testing was conducted by the laboratories of the AFCD and the School of Public Health of the University of Hong Kong. The latter is an accredited reference laboratory for the WHO for the testing of SARS-COV-2. This pet dog was one of two pet dogs under quarantine. The second pet dog had negative results of tests for the virus. Neither dog showed any signs of being ill with COVID-19. Unfortunately, the dog that tested positive passed away on March 16. The dog was 17 years old and had ongoing health issues that were likely responsible for the death of this dog, rather than COVID-19. We are told the second pet dog has been released from quarantine. On March 19, the AFCD reported that a third dog, a German Shepherd Dog living with an owner testing positive for COVID-19, had also tested positive. Another mixed-breed dog from the same residence tested negative. Neither dog has shown signs of disease. Both dogs are in quarantine and are continuing to be monitored and tested.

Testing of companion animals: To date, there have not been any reports of pets or other animals becoming ill, and there is no evidence that domestic animals, including pets, can spread SARS-CoV-2. Because the situation is ever-evolving, public and animal health officials may decide to test certain animals out of an abundance of caution. The decision to test will be made collaboratively between local, state, and federal animal and public health officials.

After the decision is made to test, state animal health officials will designate a state-appointed veterinarian, USDA-accredited veterinarian, or foreign animal disease diagnostician to collect the sample using appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and sample collection methods.

Again, current expert understanding is that COVID-19 is primarily transmitted person-to-person. This supports a recommendation against testing of pets for SARS-CoV-2, except by official order. If dogs or cats present with respiratory signs, veterinarians should test for more common respiratory pathogens.

Pets in homes with owners with COVID-19: Although there have not been reports of pets becoming sick with COVID-19, out of an abundance of caution, it is recommended that those ill with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus. If you are ill with COVID-19 have another member of your household take care of walking, feeding, and playing with your pet. If you have a service animal or you must care for your pet, then wear a facemask; don’t share food, kiss, or hug them; and wash your hands before and after any contact with your pet or service animal. You should not share dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, or bedding with other people or pets in your home. Additional guidance on managing pets in homes where people are sick with COVID-19 is available from the CDC.

Keeping pets safe: For responsible pet owners, preparing in advance is key. Make sure you have an emergency kit prepared, with at least two weeks’ worth of your pet’s food and any needed medications. Usually we think about emergency kits like this in terms of what might be needed for an evacuation, but it’s also good to have one prepared in the case of quarantine or self-isolation when you cannot leave your home.

While we are recommending these as good practices, it is important to remember that, to date, there have not been any reports of pets or other animals becoming ill with SARS-CoV-2, and there is currently no evidence that pets can spread COVID-19 to other animals, including people.

COVID-19 RESOURCES

Updated 3/26/2020

Quick Links to COVID-19 Resources:

AVMA COVID-19 webpage
AVMA Webinar: “COVID-19: What Veterinarians Need to Know”
Infection Control in Veterinary Practices
Utilizing Telemedicine
Conserving Mask and Gown Resources
Hawaii State Updates on COVID-19

US Government Resources:

Coronavirus Response Business Toolkit
Disaster Assistance Loans from the SBA
Disaster Help Desk for Small Businesses

Join the Discussion

https://www.facebook.com/groups/808COVIDvets/

COVID-19 Vet Resource Survey

Please help Hawaii better understand our veterinary resources (PPE, ventilator equipment, staff) by filling out our survey.

Essential vs. Non-Essential Services

HVMA and AVMA are working to educate our state and local governments on the essential services that veterinarians provide. We strongly discourage veterinarians from offering non-essential services during this period as this undermines our efforts. Continuing to offer or promote non-essential services during this period of government-mandated social distancing increases the risk of virus transmission to our staff, our clients, and our communities at large. Additionally, continuing to perform non-essential procedures and surgeries uses up limited resources that are in short supply and may be necessary for essential procedures and surgeries in the near future. Please consider the serious consequences of continuing practice as usual in the face of the rapid and undetected spread of COVID-19. Below are several guidelines to help you determine which services are essential.

Update on Telemedicine

FDA announced today that they are taking steps to temporarily suspend enforcement of certain federal VCPR requirements as it relates to allowing veterinary telemedicine during this period of social distancing. This change only affects regulations regarding extralabel drug use in animals and veterinary feed directives. Read press announcement here.

Please consider using telemedicine as a way to continue to help your clients/patients and generate revenue, but minimize the spreading of COVID-19 during this critical time. The State of Hawaii Board of Veterinary Medicine follows the policies and guidelines of the AVMA. AVMA has laid out specific guidance on Telemedicine.

Many questions are arising on establishing a VCPR, and the limits on legal telemedicine practice. Here are some highlights from AVMA:

  • “A Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship cannot be established solely by telephonic or other electronic means.”
  • “Veterinary telemedicine should only be conducted within an existing VCPR. An exception may be made for advice given in an emergency situation until a patient can be seen by a veterinarian.”
  • “Without an established VCPR – The veterinarian may provide general advice but must specifically stay clear of diagnosing, prognosing, or treating patients. Advice should not be specific to an individual animal, diagnosis or treatment. Non-client electronic communications should be in the non-clinical realms of general advice, mHealth, web content, and other generalized messaging.”

Both TeleAdvice and TeleTriage are legal without establishment of a VCPR:

TeleAdvice
is “the provision of any health information, opinion, guidance or recommendation concerning prudent future actions that are not specific to a particular patient’s health, illness or injury, and that is not intended to diagnose, prognose, treat, correct, change, alleviate, or prevent animal disease, illness, pain, deformity, defect, injury, or other physical, dental, or mental conditions.”

TeleTriage is “the safe, appropriate, and timely assessment and management (immediate referral to a veterinarian or not) of animal patients via electronic consultation with their owners. The assessor determines urgency and the need for immediate referral to a veterinarian, based on the owner’s  (or responsible party’s) report of history and clinical signs, sometimes supplemented by visual (e.g., photographs, video) information. A diagnosis is not rendered.”

We are currently awaiting guidance from the state on whether veterinary clinics in Hawaii will be allowed to establish a VCPR electronically during the emergency response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Statewide Stay-At-Home Order 3/25 – 4/30

Effective March 25 through April 30, 2020, everyone in the State of Hawai‘i is required to stay at home or in their place of residence. This supplement to Governor David Ige’s emergency proclamation was announced on March 23, 2020. Read more here.

Under the proclamation, individuals may leave their home or place of residence only for essential activities, to engage in essential businesses and operations, and only if their work cannot be conducted through remote technology from home.

Veterinarians are currently considered essential businesses. Please continue to refrain from offering non-essential services during this period so we can maintain this status. Offering or promoting non-essential services uses up limited resources that are in short supply and may be necessary for essential procedures and surgeries in the near future. Additionally, encouraging clients to come into public spaces during this period of government-mandated social distancing increases the risk of virus transmission to our staff, clients, and communities at large.

Self-Quarantine for Travelers Arriving After 3/26

Effective, Thursday, March 26, 2020, all persons entering the State of Hawai‘i must self-quarantine for 14 days or for the duration of their stay in Hawai‘i, whichever is shorter. Residents returning to Hawaii must also self-quarantine in a designated location in their residence. If you are assisting with pet travel into the state of Hawaii, please notify pet owners of the self-quarantine requirement.

The Rabies Quarantine Station in Halawa Valley is currently closed to visitors. Pets may be released from quarantine as soon as the mandatory quarantine period is completed.
Details on self-quarantine procedures (pdf)

State and Federal Tax Relief

Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and State of Hawaii Department of Taxation have postponed the due dates for payment and filing of 2019 Federal and State income tax returns to July 2020. Additional action is not needed by Income taxpayers to participate in this tax relief program.
IRS Website
State of Hawaii Department of Taxation Website
State of Hawaii Department of Taxation Announcement 2020-01 (pdf)

Am I Doing the Right Thing?

During this time of undetected spread of COVID-19, please protect your staff, your clients, and your community. If you or one of your staff becomes ill or is known to be exposed to COVID-19, in addition to concerns about your and their wellbeing, there is the possibility that you will be asked by public health officials to temporarily close your practice for personnel isolation and facility cleaning.

With this risk in mind, veterinarians should work to reschedule all nonessential appointments so as to limit public exposure. This includes wellness visits for vaccinations, spay/neuter procedures, routine dental procedures, and anything that can be safely delayed for a few weeks to months.

Veterinary staff members who have symptoms of acute respiratory illness should stay at home and should not return to work until they are free of fever (fever is defined as a temperature of 100.4F or higher, using an oral thermometer), signs of a fever, and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicine (e.g., cough suppressants).

In addition, veterinary clinics should be aware that the limit on statewide gatherings of 10 people applies to activity in their clinics.

Telemedicine and emergency teletriage within the context of an existing VCPR can be extremely helpful in limiting your staff’s exposure, and enable you to support and monitor the health of your patients and conform to local requirements, while preventing the potential spread of COVID-19. Conducting pre-visit triage can help protect you and your staff as you prioritize and determine which patients need to be seen at the clinic.

Please do the right thing to limit the spread of this disease in our community.

COVID-19 and Pets

  • Infectious disease experts and multiple international and domestic human and animal health organizations agree there is no evidence at this point to indicate that pets become ill with COVID-19 or that they spread it to other animals, including people.
  • If you are not ill with COVID-19, you can interact with your pet as you normally would, including walking, feeding, and playing. You should continue to practice good hygiene during those interactions (e.g., wash hands before and after interacting with your pet; ensure your pet is kept well-groomed; regularly clean your pet’s food and water bowls, bedding material, and toys).
  • Out of an abundance of caution, it is recommended that those ill with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus. Have another member of your household take care of walking, feeding, and playing with your pet. If you have a service animal or you must care for your pet, then wear a facemask; don’t share food, kiss, or hug them; and wash your hands before and after any contact with them.

Managing Veterinary Practice in a Pandemic:

Multiple universities and practices have implemented the following practices to protect the health of their employees, clients, and surrounding communities:

  • Limit patient care to acutely ill animals and/or emergencies. Animals that are sick or injured should receive veterinary attention.
  • Reschedule existing new and recheck appointments that are considered non-essential (unlikely to experience significant harm if treatment is not administered in a timely manner).
  • Reschedule elective procedures.
  • Utilize telemedicine to assess patient condition and needs.
  • If an animal needs to be seen in person, a healthy family member or friend should bring their sick animal to a veterinary hospital or clinic.
  • Have clients drop off their animal and remain in their cars during appointments.
  • When meeting clients, veterinary team members should wear appropriate PPE.
  • In light of limited supply, be strategic in the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), including masks, gowns, and gloves.
  • If a mobile or house call veterinarian must examine an animal in a home where someone is ill with COVID-19 and no other options are available, consult with local public health officials for guidance. Appropriate PPE and access to handwashing and disinfection materials should be considered in all cases.

Keeping Your Veterinary Team Healthy:

  • Veterinary healthcare team members who have symptoms of acute respiratory illness should stay at home and should not return to work until they are free of fever (100.4F or higher, using an oral thermometer) and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicine (e.g., cough suppressants).
  • Communicate about COVID-19 with your team. Flexible sick leave policies are important and team members should be made aware of these policies. Team members who appear to have symptoms of acute respiratory illness upon arrival at work or who become sick during the day should be separated from other team members and sent home immediately.
  • If a team member is confirmed to have COVID-19, the veterinary practice owner should inform other team members of their possible exposure to COVID-19, but maintain confidentiality as required by law. Team members who are exposed to another employee with confirmed COVID-19 should contact their physician or local health department to determine how best to proceed. 
  • Surfaces in the veterinary clinic/hospital that are touched frequently, such as workstations, keyboards, doorknobs, countertops, and stethoscopes, should be cleaned often and wiped down by employees with disposable wipes between cleanings.
  • Provide no-touch disposal receptacles.
  • Place hand sanitizers in multiple locations, including in exam rooms, offices, and conference rooms to encourage hand hygiene.
  • Team members should avoid close contact (within approximately 6 feet) with other people who are ill.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after coughing, sneezing, going to the bathroom, and before eating.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

Families First Coronavirus Response Act:

On March 18, 2020, the President signed into law the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201). 

The final bill included some significant policy changes from the original proposals that were intended to address both the impacts on small businesses and individuals. We expect lawmakers to continue to address economic measures for small businesses and individuals through future legislative packages.

Lawmakers and the Administration remain engaged in ongoing negotiations to produce additional measures, and AVMA continues to ensure the concerns of the profession are heard as this dynamic situation unfolds.

The final bill includes:

  1. FMLA COVID-19 benefit – This benefit provides up to 12 weeks of family and medical leave benefits related to the coronavirus to be paid at 2/3 of regular pay rates after the first 10 days, which are unpaid. The leave is only available for child care in the event of school closure or if the employee’s child care provider is unavailable due to the public health emergency.
  2. COVID-19 sick leave – This benefit applies up to 80 hours of additional paid sick leave for employees related to the coronavirus. There are daily and aggregate caps on the sick leave benefit of either $511 per day and $5,110 in the aggregate if the employee is sick or quarantined, and $200 per day and $2,000 in aggregate if the employee is caring for someone else.
  3. Potential exemption – There is language granting authority to the Department of Labor to create regulations that can exempt small businesses with fewer than 50 employees from the leave requirements when the imposition of the requirements would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern.
  4. Tax credits – There are tax credits for employers intended to mitigate the impacts of the expanded leave provisions; and
  5. COVID-19 testing – It provides for free testing for the coronavirus during the emergency.

Read more about the bill here.

3/24/2020 – The Department of Labor just released Frequently Asked Questions documents on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act:

1) DOL FAQ
2) DOL Fact Sheet for Employers
3) DOL Fact Sheet for Employees

  • Significantly, the FAQ DOL indicates the effective date for the Families First Coronavirus Response Act is April 1, 2020, and applies to leave taken between April 1, 2020, and December 31, 2020. 
  • For the exemption for business with fewer than 50 employees when providing the leave under the act would jeopardize the viability of the business, DOL advises that for now employers should document why they believe this to be the case.  DOL then indicates that more detail will be forthcoming in regulations.

Panleukopenia Cases on Oahu

In recent weeks, several veterinary practices on O’ahu have reported seeing a number of feline panleukopenia cases. Below is a link to a summary on Feline Panleukopenia provided on the AVMA website for review. Veterinarians who have had patients suspected of dying from panleukopenia can contact Dr. Aleisha Swartz for information on further confirmatory testing including necropsy and PCR at president@hawaiivetmed.org.

AVMA article on feline panleukopenia.

Article on sanitation procedures.

Legislative Update – Jan 2020

HVMA has introduced HB 2528 and SB 2985 in the 2020 legislative session. These bills modify Hawaii’s veterinary practice act to 1) provide immunity in the absence of gross negligence to veterinarians who provide emergency care to an animal, and 2) clarify that the duty of a veterinarian includes reporting to law enforcement any cases of animal injury or death where there is reasonable cause to believe that it relates to dog fighting or animal abuse, while granting veterinarians immunity from any civil liability for such reporting. These additions to our veterinary practice act would put Hawaii in line with much of the rest of the United States. A big mahalo to Representative Hashem and Senator Baker for sponsoring the introduction of these bills to the legislature. Please thank them, particularly if you are from their districts!

1/28 Update: First round of SUPPORT testimony needed on this measure by Thursday 1/30! Submit online testimony here. Contact us if you have questions or comments on this measure, or if you are able to go down to the capitol and testify in person.

Veterinarian Compliance with DEA and SUPPORT Act

Recently, DEA announced the launch of the Suspicious Orders Report System (SORS) Online, a new centralized database [https://deadiversion.usdoj.gov/sors/index.html], where DEA registrants, including veterinarians, must report suspicious orders of controlled substances. Reporting by practitioner registrants and creation of the database by DEA was required when Congress passed the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment for Patients and Communities Act (SUPPORT Act) last year. The DEA indicates that reporting a suspicious order to SORS Online constitutes compliance with the reporting requirement.

  • The reporting requirement applies to all DEA registrants, including veterinarians.  This is why veterinarians who are DEA registrants have been receiving communication from the DEA on the SUPPORT Act.
  • The circumstances under which it will impact veterinarians should be extremely limited, but the Act does apply to them.
  • All DEA registrants, including veterinarians, are required to design and operate a system to identify suspicious orders for the registrant and to report suspicious orders to the DEA.  The DEA advised that the plan should be in writing and could be requested during an inspection. 
    • Suspicious orders are defined as including requests for controlled substances of unusual size, deviating substantially from a normal pattern and orders of unusual frequency.
    • The DEA also said the definition is not inclusive and a veterinarian should report anytime there is something that makes the veterinarian suspicious. 
    • The AVMA is looking to develop a brief model plan that can be utilized.
  • The reporting requirement applies anytime a registrant, including a veterinarian, is requested to distribute/provide a controlled substance to another registrant under circumstances identified by the registrant as suspicious.  The example provided by DEA was where a veterinarian at one clinic asks to obtain a controlled substance from another veterinarian at a different clinic, such as seeking to obtain ketamine from a nearby clinic due to low inventory.  A veterinarian who receives a request to provide a controlled substance to another practitioner must be aware of the requirement to report the ‘order’ if the circumstances raise any suspicion to believe that the controlled substance will go for an illegal or diversionary purpose.
  • The reporting requirement and SORS Online database are solely for reporting transfers of a controlled substance from one DEA registrant to another DEA registrant that seem suspicious. Veterinarians are not to report to the SORS Online reporting system anything related to the administration, prescribing or dispensing of controlled substances that occur in the ordinary course of veterinary practice.  The SORS Online database is also not to be used for reporting suspicious or drug-seeking behavior of clients. 
  • If a veterinarian believes a request from another practitioner is suspicious, the veterinarian should not supply the controlled substance.  The veterinarian should register for the program on the DEA website and report the order to the electronic database (SORS Online).  A veterinarian only needs to register for the database at the time of the need to file a report of a suspicious order.
  • The DEA will be promulgating rules that will be published in the Federal Register. AVMA will review the rules and respond as appropriate.

Download the AVMA guidance and draft “system” for veterinarians here.

In Remembrance – Patrick Leadbeater

Patrick Leadbeater, DVM

The Hawaiian veterinary community has lost a familiar face and long time veterinarian in November 2019.

Dr. Patrick Leadbeater was born in 1943 in Sussex, England.  He was active in the Boy Scouts and loved the outdoors throughout his life. He graduated from the University of Guelph, Ontario Veterinary College of Veterinary College in 1974.  His first position was working with Dr. Robert Knowles in Miami, Florida. Dr. Knowles was instrumental in shaping Dr. Leadbeater’s practice.

He moved to Honolulu and worked at the the Animal Emergency Clinic which was located near the current Yanagi Sushi on Kapiolani Blvd.  He also worked as a staff veterinarian at the Honolulu Zoo.  In 1983, he opened the Veterinary Center of the Pacific on Koapaka Street near the Honolulu International Airport and continued working part-time at the Zoo.  In 1991, he purchased the Kahala Pet Hospital from Dr. Wayne Steckelberg and continued his veterinary career until late 2019.

Dr. Leadbeater was instrumental in advancing veterinary medical care in Hawaii.   He took on medical and surgical cases that other veterinarians referred to him.  This included  kidney transplants in cats, pacemaker implantation, TPLO, Total Hip Replacement surgery, and portal caval shunt implants, etc.

Submitted by Richard Fujie, DVM

Veterinary Leadership Conference 2020 Report

David Gans, DVM
Hawaii Kai Veterinary Clinic

This year’s Veterinary Leadership Conference (VLC) was a great experience that I would recommend to all veterinarians of any experience or position in Hawaii. The VLC is organized in a way to help “rising leaders, presiding leaders, and experienced leaders” in private practice and professional organizations such as the HVMA.

A big focus on the leadership presentations this year was on personal wellness. A growing concern that the AVMA is trying to address by spreading awareness, providing resources for outreach and management of mental health conditions/concerns, and education in techniques for prevention and risk reduction.

The HVMA’s generous support was a great experience and I would encourage any newer veterinarians to reach out for the 2021 VLC for the opportunity to attend with support. The AVMA and HVMA both are bending over backwards to support our amazing profession and it’s our role to reach out and use all of their resources.

David Gans, DVM

AVMA Update – Jan 2020

The AVMA House of Delegates (HOD) conducted association business, considered policies, discussed topics of interest to members, deliberated and presented action items at the winter session held January 10-11 in Chicago. The Winter session for the House of Delegates was held at the same time as the Veterinary Leadership Conference.

The Volunteer Leaders are committed to representing member interests with this years passionate discussion around AVMA’s Resolution: Policy on Declawing of Domestic Cats. The revised policy states that declawing should not be considered a routine procedure and emphasizes the importance of professional judgment and client education in making decisions that best protect the health and welfare of the patient: “The AVMA discourages the declawing (onychectomy) of cats as an elective procedure and supports non-surgical alternatives to the procedure. The AVMA respects the veterinarian’s right to use professional judgment when deciding how to best protect their individual patients’ health and welfare. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the veterinarian to counsel the owner about the natural scratching behavior of cats, the alternatives to surgery, as well as the details of the procedure itself and subsequent potential complications. Onychectomy is a surgical amputation and if performed, multi-modal perioperative pain management must be utilized.”

Other Resolutions discussed and were approved by the HOD:
Resolution 1: AVMA Policy on Use of Technology in Veterinary Medicine, which states, in part: “The AVMA affirms and encourages the responsible and ethical development and use of technology for a variety of applications in veterinary medicine that can benefit and protect public health, animal health and welfare, and environmental health.”
Resolution 2: AVMA Policy on Cribbing in Horses, which states, in part: “The AVMA condemns the use of hog rings or other devices placed around the teeth to prevent cribbing in horses. These devices are detrimental to the welfare and health of the horse due to the potential to cause persistent pain, damage to the gingiva, periodontal disease and abrasive wear to adjacent teeth. The AVMA encourages research to understand and address the underlying causes of cribbing.”
Resolution 4: Revised Policy on Microchips, which states, in part: “The AVMA endorses the implantation of electronic identification in companion animals and equids and supports standardization in materials, procedures, equipment, and registries. Veterinary healthcare teams are thereby encouraged to recommend the implantation of electronic identification of animals to their clients.”

Membership

The AVMA membership is stronger than ever, with the association’s membership at more than 95,300. Three out of every four veterinarians are members of the AVMA. HOD members also heard updates on the AVMA’s member-focused initiatives: digital education platform, AVMA Axon; our Direct Connect practice resource; our wellbeing and recent graduate initiatives; and efforts related to advocacy and public policy.

The Veterinary Information Forum

Three topics were discussed during the HOD’s Veterinary Information Forum:
Student extern/practice volunteer: Veterinary work experience prior to and during clinical time in colleges of veterinary medicine is valuable. These experiences are part of the non-academic evaluation; give an understanding of our profession; provide to the students and volunteers a degree of comfort with animals in the clinical setting; and provide some basic technical skills and insight into the veterinary working world. These experiences come with the concern of risk, particularly in the case of injury and determination of liability. The action item for this topic is the AVMA Board of Directors develop a toolkit, including potential forms and an awareness campaign, for the protection of practitioners, students and other
members of the veterinary health care team.
Telehealth: An update on AVMA activities in 2019 included support for state veterinary medical associations to engage with regulators; communication and collaboration with industry; and further development of member-focused resources, including continuing education and online resources. The AVMA will continue its work to develop guidelines on telehealth and
connected care.
Cannabis and cannabis-derived products: While the House made no specific recommendations related to cannabis, the AVMA remains committed in 2020 to advocacy for regulatory clarity and the development of additional member-focused resources and education.

Other topics discussed during the Veterinary Information Forum were updates on sexual harassment in the workplace and the utilization of veterinary technicians. During the 2019 annual meeting a resolution was passed recognizing that sexual harassment in the workplace is a serious issue and asked the AVMA Board of Directors to develop supporting resources and report back to the House. The AVMA will work in 2020 to update the AVMA web site to include additional resources on the prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace, as well as include sexual harassment education in AVMA continuing education programs. In addition, the AVMA will explore identifying specific workplace harassment training programs to recommend to veterinary practices.

The AVMA Task Force on Veterinary Technician Utilization report was also shared with House members. The focus of the report was on veterinary technician education, licensing and regulation, economics, supply and attrition, and wellness.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program

The AVMA continues to advocate to protect and enhance the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, which has been under scrutiny due to the incredibly low acceptance rate to date and concerns about overall costs. The AVMA’s past efforts include:
– Leading 127 animal health organizations in sending a letter to Congress underscoring the program’s importance to the industry and asking lawmakers to protect Public Service Loan Forgiveness.
– Joining a broad coalition of organizations in sending a letter to Education Department officials expressing concern about the loan forgiveness denials.
– The AVMA is continuing to communicate members’ concerns about the program’s administration to Congress and the U.S. Department of Education.

If you were denied forgiveness through PSLF or have experienced issues with the program, please share your story using the AVMA’s online advocacy tools.

Leianne Lee Loy, Hawaii Delegate
Carolyn Naun, Hawaii Alternate Delegate

Letter from the President – Jan 2020

Aleisha Swartz, DVM
Aleisha Swartz, DVM
HVMA President

Hau‵oli Makahiki Hou!

Our 66th annual conference was a great success. Thank you to all who attended and those present in spirit. It was a time to catch up with old friends, meet new colleagues and learn in our ever-changing field. The connections with one another are a large part of our “why” as the HVMA and we are fortunate to have such a connected community. If you want to learn more about finding your “why” I highly recommend watching Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk on the subject, or even better, read the book Start with Why. If you have suggestions for future speaker topics, entertainment or anything you think would make the conference even more incredible in the future, please let us know.

Membership renewal is now open and I encourage you to renew early and encourage your colleagues to do so as well. Don’t forget that new graduates are eligible for waived or reduced fees depending on your graduation year! Your dues enable us to host great CE in addition to our other efforts including providing scholarships for veterinary and veterinary technician students, advocate on behalf of the veterinary profession in Hawaii, and give back to our community.

Some of the activities we are working on this winter are monitoring the state legislative session, participating in the AVMA HOD January meeting, judging at the upcoming 63rd Hawaii State Science and Engineering Fair (HSSEF), and reviewing our wellness committee functions. If you are interested in participating in any of these functions, please let us know as we can always use more volunteers!

On behalf of the board I wish you good health and well-being in the upcoming decade and I hope to hear more from you on what we can do to support you as a Hawaii veterinarian.

Aloha,
Aleisha Swartz