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Technicians Target Animal Suffering
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Many pet owners and veterinarians depend on trained veterinary technicians to identify animals needing pain relief.
Dr. Stephen Jaffee, a veterinary consultant with Fort Dodge Laboratories, said technicians are the "front line of pain management" for animals.
Jaffee recently addressed members of the Mississippi Association of Certified Veterinary Technicians. The association held its winter conference in conjunction with the Mississippi Veterinary Medical Association meeting in Starkville.
Carol Drake, association president, said veterinary technicians work hard to minimize the stress on sick animals or those recovering from surgical procedures.
"No one wants a loved one to suffer pain," Drake said.
Jaffee said animals experience pain just like people.
"Preventing pain should be the first priority. But it is impossible to avoid significant discomfort with some procedures," Jaffee said.
Uncontrolled pain can retard the healing process and cause additional problems with digestion, the immunity system, the heart and other aspects of the body.
"Managing pain is important ethically and financially. All veterinarians and vet techs follow oaths to ease animals' pain and suffering," he said. "Also, clients expect you to manage their pets' pain."
Identifying an animal in pain is difficult, even for medical professionals. Jaffee said the majority of hurting animals will not look like they are in pain.
Drake said animals have a natural tendency to look healthy as a defense mechanism.
"In the wild, animals that look sick or weak are the first to be attacked by predators. Some mothers abandon sick babies and devote survival efforts to healthier offspring," Drake said.
Jaffee said some possible signs of pain included dilated pupils, rapid respiration or heart rates, or erratic heart beats.
"Some signs of pain after a surgery include downward head possessions, nodding of the head, multiple posture changes, lying down without sleeping or inward directed expressions," Jaffee said.
Veterinary technicians perform duties similar to nurses in human medicine, but must be familiar with many more species and medical procedures. They cannot make a diagnosis, prescribe medicines or perform surgeries.
"Vet techs provide an extra pair of hands for veterinarians. They do lab work, administer medicines, prepare animals for surgery, serve as the anesthetist, sterilize equipment and other jobs necessary in caring for animals," Drake said.