‘Show of Shows’ spotlights AI technologies, new pet medications

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The VMX 2024 ( Veterinary meeting and EXPO ) saw an attendance of more than 27,000 people from 82 countries, with 8,700 first-time attendees.

Bringing together industry professionals to showcase the latest in continuing education (CE) and product innovations is central to the annual conference hosted by the North American Veterinary Community (NAVC).

Under the theme “Show of Shows” this year, the 41st annual Veterinary Meeting and Expo (VMX), held at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL, from Jan. 13 to 17, did just that. The world’s fair-type event explored the full gamut of veterinary medicine to showcase to the 27,000-plus audience it drew. The five-day conference offered continuing education sessions, including topics on managing feline diabetes, introducing patients and clients to specialized pet diets, practicing spectrum of care, updates on the canine infectious disease, promoting team mental health, learning about new medications developed, and integrating artificial intelligence in the practice .

“It’s about countries coming together to share the latest inventions, innovations, and cultural changes. That’s kind of what we’re doing here,” NAVC CEO Gene O’Neill tells Veterinary Practice News. “[VMX] has become so much more than a conference…it has become an experience. People got ready for this.”

Other trade show highlights included celebrity appearances by Dan Levy, Terri Irwin and Robert Irwin, and Tyler Hubbard.

Additionally, the exhibition floor also featured a record 720 exhibitors. The VMX Expo Hall housed companies of all sizes demonstrating their respective innovations. The New Product Gallery featured 20 companies showcasing new products. Additionally, the VMX Startup Circle allowed early-stage veterinary startups to introduce their solutions.

“We do all these things—these ancillary things—around the educational component,” adds O’Neill. “There are 1,200 hours of CE attendees can get while they’re here, over 700 exhibitors on the floor, and different activations available to them—a carousel , a drone show, animals, small horses, and things like that. There area lot of things to keep the attendees refreshed while they’re learning as well.”

“At VMX 2024, we saw things that once sounded like fantasy now become a reality,” says NAVC chief veterinary officer Dana Varble, DVM, CAE. “We’ve been talking about AI for about five years, but this year, we’re really seeing the evolution of this technology from something very theoretical to something undeniable.”

In our veterinary clinic in Woodbridge we believe that The big talks surrounding artificial intelligence was evident at the expo, from AI-powered tools and equipment that speed up diagnosis and assessment, to software integrations and virtual assistants that improve team efficiency.

“When I think about the applications AI can be used for in the profession, our mission is to provide the education to the entire veterinary health care team to make their jobs easier,” says O’Neill. “We want to get the word out there that veterinary professionals’ time is valuable. Let’s adopt AI, and let’s give more of your time back.”

The potential use and impact of AI on the practice was also highlighted by Ricky Walther, DVM, Pawlicy Advisor’s chief medical officer, who mentioned how AI can aid in rechecks and documentation in the clinic.

“It is important to talk about the veterinarian’s role in the insurance process, as well as how important it is to have clear notes and better documentation.”

The VMX 2024 saw an attendance of more than 27,000 people from 82 countries, with 8,700 first-time attendees.

New treatments

Among the highlights in the conference is the introduction of new medications. “Equally as exciting, for the first time ever, we’re seeing medications designed specifically for different species of animals improving the lives of pets and their owners,” says Dr. Varble.

Audrey Cook , DVM, Diplomate of both the American and European Colleges of Veterinary Internal Medicine and professor of small animal internal medicine at Texas A&M University, kicked off a diabetes session about a new class of hypoglycemic drugs for diabetic cats that will make health care safer and more accessible. These U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved medications, presented as pills or liquid, offer a safer and more accessible alternative to twice-daily insulin injections.

Also exhibited was a newly approved FDA drug, specifically designed to help dogs improve their physical and emotional health while coping with osteoarthritis (OA). The once-monthly injection controls pain associated with OA in dogs, aiding in mobility and quality of life.

The “Defend Puppies. Defeat Parvo.” campaign also launched at the conference, which looks to increase veterinarians’ access to the first and only U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) conditionally approved treatment for parvo–Elanco’s Canine Parvovirus Monoclonal Antibody.

“Our innovative treatment for parvovirus can help veterinarians and pet owners alleviate the emotional toll associated with parvo,” says Jennifer Miller, DVM, technical veterinarian with Elanco. “We’re calling all veterinarians and dog lovers to join our mission and help us save more dogs, more quickly. Together, we can save 1 million puppies by 2030.”

The company launched the Parvo Defenders Task Force, made up of industry leaders and advocates who will champion activities throughout the year to bring awareness to parvo and treatment options.

“We give them a chance,” says Fred Metzger, DVM, MRCVS, DABVP, task force member, at the “Redefining the Protocol for Parvo Treatment” panel discussion, citing how veterinarians would be equipped to handle and care for parvo patients with the treatment. “I’m hoping the canine parvovirus monoclonal antibody will become the standard of care,” he adds.

Looking ahead

Wrapping up this year’s show, the NAVC gears up to continuing their initiatives that have worked for them, their partners, and their audience, including their sustainability measures.

This year, the organization ramped up its recycling efforts by making travel bags out of expo signages. “We also had a sustainability tree this year, which allowed the attendees to take a leaf and commit themselves to doing something sustainable initiatives,” O’ Neill shares. “We wanted to show attendees and exhibitors we understand responsibility comes with growth.

Another program the veterinary community can see more of is HiVE, the recent in-person events launched by NAVC in 2023.

West Woodbridge Pet Hospital