Saturday, January 15, 2011

California: CVMA to campaign against unlicensed services

VIN News posted an interesting story last month:
The California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) is preparing a crusade against unlicensed veterinary medical activities such as anesthesia-free teeth cleaning for dogs and cats, ultrasound pregnancy testing of livestock and physical rehabilitation for animals of all sorts.

The planned campaign aims to warn animal owners and producers of the dangers of unlicensed veterinary care, as well as clarify and toughen regulations and sanctions against those who practice veterinary medicine without a license.
The campaign will target activities which, according to the CVMA, have the potential to harm pets when not done in a proper veterinary setting or by licensed professionals.  

In practice, the state is historically unenthusiastic when it comes to addressing these activities:
In California, the veterinary medical board can issue cease-and-desist letters to known violators and issue fines up to $1,500 for unauthorized practice. That’s where it ends unless the state attorney general's office, serving as the CVMB's legal counsel, prosecutes the case — a rare occurrence in The Golden State.

In the past six months, for example, the CVMB issued five citations involving the practice of unlicensed veterinary medicine, but could not convince a district attorney to prosecute a single case.
One might wonder whether this is a case of the CVMA taking a stand to protect pets, or taking a stand to protect veterinary income.   Dental hygiene, in particular, seems to be a longstanding thorn in the paw for the CVMA. These procedures, as performed by vets, are both expensive and risky, yet many owners are reluctant to perform daily dental care on their pets.

The rationale for targeting these hygienic procedures seems to be that dental hygiene sessions are opportunities for vets to find and treat oral disease:

Dr. Ronald Kelpe, a veterinarian in Rancho Santa Margarita, has particular concerns about anethesia-free dental care. Under California law, hygienists are allowed to brush and floss teeth but cannot use any other instruments such as scaling devices in animals’ mouths.

“In the last month, I have seen two dogs who came in whose teeth were spit polished, but mobile and painful," he said. "We took radiographs of the mouth and teeth, and in both cases, more than 12 teeth had to be removed.”

The problem, said Kelpe, is that dental conditions aren't being detected or managed properly by those who aren't trained to practice veterinary medicine.

“People feel that they got a good deal because the dog’s mouth looks clean and the breath smells better,” Kelpe said. “The (cleaner) got the obvious calculus on the crown removed, but it’s what’s under the gum line where the problem starts and finishes.

But is it fair to suggest that a fundamentally hygienic procedure only be performed under the supervision of a trained veterinarian? Using that logic, couldn't the CVMA extend this campaign out to, say, groomers, targeting them because they are not trained to diagnose and treat diseases of the skin and nails that might be observable during a grooming session, or because they use sharp instruments which may gouge the skin or cut into the nail quick?

Exactly when does a hygienic procedure become a veterinary procedure? Should the public have the right to an alternative?  What do you think?

Read the full article here.

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