What do alligators, Japanese veterinarians and a fabulous view of the Las Vegas strip from the Foundation Room at the top of the MandalayBay have in common? They all were somewhat intertwined this week at the 2010 82nd Annual Western Veterinary Conference. (Read to read tips from food animal sessions).

The alligators in the trade show (that had well over 400 exhibits) were from Gator World and sponsored by Bayer Animal Health. And if you’ve never held a 15 lb. alligator, it’s an odd sensation! Hard on top, soft underneath. It was a bit of a contrast from January’s NCBA where the live animals consisted of Beefmaster bulls and Watusi cattle!

The food animal sessions were outstanding. Everything from the latest information in cattle pain management and assessment  from Kansas State’s Dr. Hans Coetzee, to Texas A&M’s Dr. Allen Roussel getting back to the basics on physical examination of cattle. In all, there were 56 hours of food animal medicine provided.

Having grown up around the conference due to my dad’s many years of involvement there, I have had the privilege in being involved in some interesting things. I lent a hand and toured a group of Japanese veterinarians to a couple of small animal practices and WVC’s Oquendo Center for Clinical Education (now in its second year) that houses all of the hands-on labs during the conference and also during the year. What was interesting to me was the differences between Japanese and American veterinary practices and education. They were fascinated, for instance, at the technicians who were performing various dental procedures at the practices as Japan has no licensing system for technicians.

Where our U.S. veterinary education is typically four years of undergrad and four of veterinary school, the Japanese system is six years total. One of the veterinarians told me because of that, certain areas in veterinary school are bit limited, such as endocrinology, and that was where he was focusing his time during the conference in attending sessions that centered on endocrinology issues. They were also surprised that there would be a magazine (Bovine Veterinarian) targeted solely to bovine practitioners as they are few and far between in Japan. I enjoyed visiting with these veterinarians and gaining a bit of perspective on another country’s veterinary system.

I did hate to leave the 70 degree Las Vegas weather and come back to cold, rainy and snowy Kansas City, but as always, it’s good to be home.