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WSAVA Adds Animal Welfare Guidelines

WSAVA Adds Animal Welfare Guidelines
Shane Ryan is currently serving a two-year term as president of WSAVA. He outlined WSAVA’s future plans, which support the organization’s crucial mission — engaging the global veterinary community to improve the welfare and health of small companion animals. Photo Credit: Courtesy WSAVA.

As the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) prepares for its 44th annual WSAVA Congress in Toronto, July 16-19, the NAVC editorial team had a wide-ranging discussion with WSAVA president, Dr. Shane Ryan, BVSc, MVS, CVA, MChiroSc, about the organization’s ambitious efforts to enhance the clinical care and welfare of companion animals globally. WSAVA represents more than 200,000 veterinarians through its 110 member associations.

WSAVA has published guidelines on vaccination, nutrition, pain management and oral and dental disease, among others, and has now added guidelines on animal welfare. The animal welfare guidelines seek to raise standards of care and to ensure equal access to veterinary therapeutics globally.

The guidelines, first launched during WSAVA’s World Congress 2018 in Singapore, are focused on bridging the gaps between differing perceptions of welfare around the world and helping veterinarians to tackle the ethical questions and moral issues that impact welfare. They also offer guidance to ensure that, in addition to providing physical health advice and therapy to their patients, veterinarians can advocate for their psychological, social and environmental well-being.

“WSAVA’s commitment to global veterinary education is a core tenet,” says Dr. Ryan. “And our global guidelines are an integral part of our continuing education program. The WSAVA veterinary oath asks our members to affirm their commitment to the prevention and relief of animal suffering and to use their knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal welfare and health. The guidelines help companion animal veterinarians realize that commitment by setting minimum standards of care for conditions or issues and recommending best practices in the particular area of veterinary medicine.”

The guidelines contain recommendations, checklists and other tools to help veterinarians provide clear diagnostic and treatment advice.

“In the global nutrition guidelines, for instance, we have created a Global Nutrition Toolkit that contains a suite of tools for use in practice,” explains Dr. Ryan. “These include muscle condition scoring charts for dogs and cats – useful in assessing an animal’s muscle which can be affected by disease or aging. We have also created a feeding guide for hospitalized dogs and cats and a monitoring chart for hospitalized patients.”

The WSAVA checklist asks:

• Are you up to date with scientific advances in understanding and assessing animal welfare?
• Do you have a stated policy commitment to manage and promote animal welfare in your clinic?
• Do all your staff members understand the clinic’s commitment to manage and promote animal welfare?
• Have you communicated your commitment to animal welfare to your clients, community and others?

The last question is related to WSAVA’s goal of increasing welfare outside of the clinic through outreach activities.

“An enormous amount of preparation and work goes into the creation of each set of guidelines,” says Dr. Ryan. “Initially, any guidelines proposal or concept is validated by our Scientific Advisory Committee. Then, we pull together an expert committee of volunteers, bringing together expertise and skills from around the world. Each set of guidelines contains comprehensive information on the topic covered, together with top tips, recommendations and references for further reading. Typically, they can take two or more years to produce. We prepare them in English and then work with volunteers to translate them into other languages to make them as accessible as possible to our global membership.”

Up Next: Therapeutic Guidelines

The WSAVA has begun its work to develop therapeutic guidelines. These guidelines “will set out best practice for the selection and use of medicines including their quality, access and availability, and responsible use in companion animals,” says Dr. Ryan. “The difficulty veterinarians in many parts of the world face in accessing even some basic veterinary therapeutics is one of the most challenging problems for our profession globally – and we hope these new guidelines, combined with our advocacy efforts, will start to bring about meaningful change.”

Veterinary emotional and mental well-being, so prevalent in the news today, is another issue WSAVA is focusing on.

“We share the concerns raised by many on the stress working in our profession may place on our members,” Dr. Ryan says. “We aim to lead in the development of global solutions, and as a first step, our Professional Wellness Group has recently undertaken what we believe to be the first global veterinary study of veterinary wellness. Initial of results will be presented in Toronto and solutions debated with an expert panel, offering a global perspective on the issue.”

WSAVA Congress

WSAVA’s annual Congress will be held in Toronto from July 16-19.

“WSAVA truly is a global veterinary community and our Congress allows veterinarians a unique opportunity not only to learn, but to share and socialize with colleagues, and meet and make friends from all around the world,” says Dr. Ryan. “We hope to welcome many veterinarians from the USA this year. In addition to the main program, activities include the opportunity to participate in outreach projects and a packed pre-congress program — not the mention the opportunity to explore the marvelous city of Toronto.”

Learn More

Visit the Animal Welfare section on TVP’s website for related articles.