In one word, the conference was refreshing. We spend so much time in school right now focused on disease processes, bacterial infections, cancer, etc etc etc that it isn't hard to believe that bodies were meant to break down and vets are meant to put them back together. The holistic point of view focuses less on how to fix what breaks, and more on how to help the body fix itself. Obviously that doesn't mean that a holistic-minded vet won't put a broken leg in a cast, or won't prescribe antibiotics for a bacterial infection- but it does mean that he'll also examine the root of the problem, and try to find ways to support the body's intrinsic healing mechanisms.
It was also great to hear such a heavy emphasis placed on nutrition without a corporate name attached to it. Sure, we had our Intro to Nutrition course last year- but any lunchtime seminars outside of our classes are things along the lines of "How do I choose the right food for Fluffy? Sponsored by Purina!" I can't think of any student club that's sponsored a nutrition-related talk recently, probably because it feels like a topic that's covered so often during lunch seminars. Speakers at AHVMA mentioned nutrition in almost every lecture I attended, regardless of whether the topic was nutritionally-oriented or not. It was nice to hear some educated ideas about raw feeding from Dr. Nancy Scanlan, and while I'm still not in the BARF camp, I feel more open to considering raw feeding as appropriate for some dogs. Homemade diets do wonders for some pets, but both homemade and BARF require some big commitments (time-wise and energy-wise) that just aren't practical for most people. Kibble works great for a lot of pets, but remember the importance of feeding whole, real food sometimes too. Rabbit people are good at this, but a lot of dog and cat owners still hold on to the idea that "people food" is bad for their pets. Winnie loves carrots, cheese, berries, yogurt, potatoes, eggs, and pretty much anything that comes off of a breakfast, lunch, or dinner plate. Dogs in particular usually love variety, so mix in some goodies every now and then to keep that kibble interesting and healthy. Want to make your pet's food at home? Use a resource like a veterinary nutritionist or BalanceIt.com to make sure your pet gets all the nutrients s/he needs- because there was also no shortage of horror stories of homemade diets gone wrong at the convention.
Hearing about alternative therapies is always stimulating, whether it be on the "no way, that stuff is ridiculous" side or the "holy crap, you did what with acupuncture?!" side. On my list of things to explore further are acupuncture, chiropractic, and herbal medicine. On my list of "eh, I dunno yet" is homeopathy. Equine people seem to be ahead of the curve with chiropractic in particular, which makes sense- not many other species place such a high demand on their musculoskeletal systems, and while a dog's lameness might go basically unnoticed if it isn't too severe, a rider knows every little bit about his horse's gait and when things are just a little off. Dr. Susan Wynn was quite inspiring with her introductory talk about herbal medicine, but all of the Veterinary Botanical Medicine Association talks were way over my head. Basically, pharmacology is all about getting pure compounds with very specific effects on the body, but herbology is about determining how the huge number of compounds that exist in a particular plant can have therapeutic effects on the body as well. Plants are so incredibly chemically complex that, as Dr. Wynn said, the active ingredient is the plant itself. You can't pick one thing out that's therapeutic, because often the therapeutic effect is dependent on interactions between the compounds rather than the action of one chemical in particular. Alas, it is a field without a ton of research to support it right now, but the body of research is growing. Dr. Wynn's Veterinary Herbal Medicine is the best text available right now for vets, but there are a lot of books in the human medicine field as well.
One of the highlights of the meeting was actually a dinner held after the talks were over. One of the vitamin companies paid for dinner for all of the vet students and techs who were attending, and it ended up being a nice little group of four vet students and four techs. We talked for over two hours about everything from how the techs were utilizing alternative modalities like T-Touch to how students in our class viewed techs. We talked a lot about how techs and vets need mutual respect to function successfully together, and learned about what exactly techs are looking for from their vets and what they think their responsibilities are to their vets. It was very enlightening, and I learned more during that dinner than I have in a year of Professional Skills about how to keep a clinic running smoothly and happily. I also learned that I'll definitely hire a practice manager should I ever own my own clinic. Oh, happy National Vet Tech Week everyone!
I'm sure there's a lot more about the conference that I could say, but I think this post is long enough for now. It was a great experience, and was a little hard to come back to school after it was all done. Hopefully I'll be able to go again next year... Reno 2008, here I come!