Some of the top veterinary topics we’ll be covering in 2018 for veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and veterinary industry professionals.
2018 will kick off with discussions around veterinary telemedicine. In January 2018, the AVMA will convene in Chicago to discuss what constitutes a “veterinary-client-patient-relationship” (VCPR) and how this changing definition will affect telemedicine moving forward. You can bet we're going to hear a lot about apps and programs and websites that provide varying forms of veterinary care throughout the year.
Veterinary Student Debt
Escalating veterinary student debt may, incidentally, become one of the key drivers for telemedicine, as young veterinarians seek alternative ways to make additional income to pay educational loans. We've talked about the student debt crisis on this channel before, and I've conveyed my concerns about how student debt may actually delay future retirement of veterinarians, thus creating potential imbalances between veterinary supply and demand. You can bet we'll be talking about veterinary student debt throughout 2018 and beyond.
Veterinary Nurse Initiative
While we're talking about changes with veterinary professionals, I believe 2018 will be the year that the veterinary nurse initiative (VNI) will come to the forefront of our profession. Not only is this change in nomenclature from “veterinary technician” to “veterinary nurse” important, but it also serves to show the expanding role of veterinary technicians within our profession. Expect to hear a lot more about the VNI.
Cost of Veterinary Services
Pet owners will continue to complain about rising costs of veterinary care and ways to provide more affordable access to veterinary services. Pet insurance, wellness plans, and innovative monthly payment options will dominate the conversation around veterinary cost of care this year.
Non-profit Veterinary Service Providers
The veterinary profession needs to examine the expansion of veterinary services provided by nonprofits, individual clinics claiming non-profit status, and animal shelters and how that potentially affects the veterinary profession moving forward. In general, it’s important veterinary professionals engage in conversations with pet owners about the rising cost of veterinary care in 2018.
Pet Food Innovations
In 2018, Americans will spend an estimated $27 billion on pet food. This year, we'll see exciting advances in commercial raw and freeze-dried diets. Pet owners will also notice innovations in food distribution, especially home-delivery of dog and cat foods. I expect home-prepared pet meals continue to skyrocket in popularity as well the emergence of “restaurant-style” freshly-prepared pet foods delivered to your doorstep. 2018 will serve up a buffet of new pet food options for pet owners
Pet owners will also continue to have many questions around what really constitutes “human-grade” pet food ingredients, and how specific questions about how pet foods are manufactured, distributed, and precisely where ingredients are being sourced. All of these topics are incredibly important, and I'm looking forward to having these conversations in 2018.
When we talk about pet food, we also need to talk about environmental advocacy. Veterinarians need to have more open discussions about the impact that animals and pets have on our environment and our planet. Sustainable farming techniques and the humane treatment of livestock need to be talked about more openly within the veterinary profession. Pet owners and animal advocates are looking to veterinarians for guidance on these topics, and we need to deliver.
The national opioid epidemic will significantly impact the veterinary profession in 2018. In our weekly podcast, The Veterinary Viewfinder, we tackled this topic over a year ago, and, I must admit, I've been a little bit disappointed in my profession's response to the opioid crisis.
Instead of seeking ways to collaborate with medical healthcare professionals on ways to combat the opioid epidemic, the veterinary profession seems to have increasingly distanced itself and attempted to separate veterinarians from the majority of reporting measures enacted by Congress and state medical boards.
My belief is that if veterinarians want to be taken seriously as healthcare professionals, complete participation in these programs is simply part of our responsibility. The responsible use of opioids in my veterinary patients is my professional obligation, and one I take very seriously. I think we need to have more open discussions on how we, as veterinary professionals, can help in this national human healthcare crisis.
Cannabinoids in Veterinary Patients
While we're talking about drugs, 2018 will also be the year that more pet owners ask for cannabinoid treatments for their pets. In 2018, 29 U.S. states allow the medical usage of marijuana and eight states allow recreational use of marijuana.
All of this legalization leads to a lot of questions about pot and pets. “How can pot potentially help my dog or cat that’s dealing with a serious medical condition?” It's time the veterinary profession takes this issue seriously, and begins to conduct research where appropriate, and have updated answers for the pet owning public.
Alternative and Complementary Veterinary Medicine
Another area that pet owners are looking for answers about in 2018 is alternative and complimentary veterinary medicine. With mounting evidence supporting the use of treatments such as Class 4 laser therapy, veterinary acupuncture, omega 3 fatty acids and other nutritional supplements, rehabilitation services, nutritional counseling, and weight loss, veterinarians need to embrace these complementary modalities and make it a part of their everyday practice.
The business world will be buzzing with terms such as artificial intelligence (AI), synthetic intelligence, chatbots, and more. I fully expect that by the end of this year, most veterinary clinics will be able to employ some level of artificial intelligence on their social media accounts, in their business websites, or on their smartphone.
Pet Care by App
If we're talking about advances in technology, I need to mention something I call “Pet Care by App.” Younger pet owners are turning to their smartphones to assist them in the daily care of their dogs and cats. Apps like Rover, PetCoach by Petco, DogVacay, and MapMyDogWalk will continue to gain momentum in the pet care space and lead to improved iterations and innovations.
You'll also see new categories of apps and AI integrated into smart food and water bowls to aide busy pet owners provide better, healthier care for pets. I expect to see wearable activity monitors enhanced by synthetic intelligence with more meaningful biometrics over the next two years. All of this adding up to “Pet Care by App.”
I thought we’d see the expansion of the “Super Combo” parasiticides or extended duration parasiticides in 2017. Turns out, the FDA and drug companies had different ideas. Thankfully, it looks like this year we will finally see more, and arguably improved, extended duration products against heartworm disease, internal parasites, and fleas and ticks.
I'm also excited to see the advances in immunotherapy and targeted immunotherapy against cancer in veterinary practice. For many years, we've had a canine cancer vaccine against oral melanoma, but now we're seeing advanced technologies exported from human cancer research into veterinary patients. With the recent approval of the canine autologous cancer vaccine or the K9- ACV used to combat solid tumors like hemangioma sarcomas, I expect we’ll soon see more of these types of targeted therapies being used in veterinary medicine. 2018 may be the year that we truly turn the tide against pet cancer. I also expect to see advances in stem cell therapies and advances in antibiotics.
Pet DNA Tests Get Real
2018 will also be the year that pet DNA testing goes from simply “Who’s your granddoggy?” to pet disease detection.
I'm incredibly excited about recent advances in human and animal DNA technologies and how we can use these findings to better identify risk factors for our pet patients. We have more choices of better products promising higher precision and specificity than ever before.
In my opinion, DNA technology holds the promise of completely transforming the way we view medicine.
These are only a few of the topics I think we'll be talking about in veterinary medicine in 2018 and beyond. What do you think? What are some of the topics I might have missed and that you'd like to see us cover in the upcoming months?