Veterinary ethics and responsibility


24 responses to “Veterinary ethics and responsibility

  1. Hey Guys!

    Here are some sites… I know there are a lot, you don’t have to read them all! =]

  2. Veterinary Ethics #1
    The issue that has the most weight in the argument over veterinary ethics and responsibility is most noticeably the argument “animal welfare versus animal rights” and whether what we do to our animals is ethical. Many animal advocates are making the job of the veterinarians more and more difficult, with veterinarians having to question who they’re actually trying to help: the general population or the animal.
    Animal advocates, just like the PMU industry, have shed light on many inhumane animal practices such as tail docking and ear cropping in dogs, declawing in cats, and removing vocal chords in racing dogs to control sound levels. But some animal advocate extremists take it to a totally different level, stating that what veterinarians put animals through today is against the animal’s rights. But we’ve already expressed that animals don’t have rights like humans do; they have a right to shelter, food and vet care – but do they have the right to vote, hold a seat on senate, or a right to bear arms? Dr. Rollins in an AVMA article stated that many advocates are getting to much credit from the general public, [he] challenged the notion that veterinarians are the only reliable experts on animal welfare, noting how many leading welfare advocates are not veterinarians themselves” ( How can we give an organization that has no real basis of animal knowledge so much credit, when we have vets with a moral compass, who’ve studied the material in and out, and practice animal healthcare daily?? And what would happen if we gave animals rights? “If pets had rights, could they be neutered?” […] “Would it be OK to put your dog on a leash? Could pets be bought, sold, or exchanged? What about a pet clearly suffering from a terminal disease? Should it be euthanized?” ( And if we continue to look at it from the perspective that animals have rights just as humans, animal welfare will begin to suffer. In the same article, one doctor expressed, just like we have in class, that “‘pets do have certain rights’, Dr. Albers observed: ‘a right to food, shelter, veterinary care, love, and respect. Veterinarians support those rights by insisting on responsible pet ownership.’”
    I think that the problem with vet ethics does not lay with the vets themselves, but how the general public interprets it. We see animal euthanasia as a way to end our pet’s suffering but we struggle and wrestle with the idea of pulling the plug on a loved one. Hypocritical? Maybe. Inconsistent? Possibly. We don’t give our veterinarians enough credit for taking on the responsibility of what owners ask them to do for their pets yet we become furious when our pet’s health does not improve. Would we take it out on our doctor if a non-routine surgery when awry? Maybe but the general consensus on modern medicine is that it doesn’t work right every time – many forget that when it comes to modern veterinary medicine. The large majority of veterinarians realize the responsibility of taking care of and looking after the welfare of all the animals that step into their office and do their best to appease the owners.

  3. One of the definitions of ethics, according to is the “branch of philosophy dealing with values relating to human conduct, with respect to the rightness and wrongness of certain actions and to the goodness and badness of the motives and ends of such actions.” Although ethical dilemmas are commonplace in the veterinary world, I believe that these issues arise before a veterinarian even starts practicing. The AVMA’s policy regarding veterinary behavior states that “Veterinarians should first consider the needs of the patient: to relieve disease, suffering, or disability while minimizing pain or fear” ( In my opinion, it is hard to consider the needs of the patient when most of the hands-on learning you have received in vet school revolves around the exact opposite.
    I know that most vets out there really do go into the profession because they care about animals and want to find a better way to help them. But what I think is an underlying issue in all of the malpractice lawsuits is the fact that veterinary training promotes the “‘unwritten’ message… that harming and killing healthy animals is not only condoned, but is required, in order to become a veterinarian, and further, that animal welfare concerns are subservient to human interests of debatable merit,” all of which “remains commonplace within veterinary education worldwide” (Advancing animal welfare standards within the veterinary profession).

    I have always had a passion for animals and making sure that they were treated fairly. So naturally, as a child, I had dreams of becoming a veterinarian. When I began working part-time at the local vets office, I was shocked to see what real vets were like. To me, they seemed cold and uncompassionate as they left countless sobbing owners in the waiting room and then euthanized their dogs or cats, all the while making jokes and laughing. I wondered how anyone who claimed to care about animals could so easily separate themselves from such a situation. Now, I understand how they are able to do it. “Where harmful animal use is retained in the curriculum and animal welfare education is lacking, it is likely that
    graduating veterinarians will have a diminished appreciation of animal sentience and a diminished understanding of animal welfare science and animal welfare issues. These in turn will impede the veterinarians’ ability to guide their clients and the wider public appropriately in questions of animal use. (Concepts in Animal Welfare). “Such desensitization related phenomena are psychological adaptations that enable previously caring students to withstand what could otherwise be the intolerable psychological stresses that result from being required to harm and kill sentient creatures in the absence of overwhelming necessity” (Advancing animal welfare standards within the veterinary profession).

    I think the root of the ethical problem which many vets are facing can be traced back to their formal education. “The majority of veterinary students today receive minimal or no formal education in animal welfare issues or critical reasoning” (Advancing animal welfare standards within the veterinary profession). It is important that all veterinary students be aware of animal welfare issues and I think vet schools should require students to take courses which will expose students to such issues.

  4. Vet Ethics 1

    Ethics can be defined as a branch of philosophy concerned with the systematic study of human values. It involves the study of theories of conduct and goodness, and of the meanings of moral terms. ( In my opinion this is a very broad definition. What defines “goodness” and the meanings of “moral terms”? I feel that everyone has different human values and when it comes to ethics this could cause some issues with people who think on different lines.
    The AVMA has regulations that veterinarians are supposed to follow regarding their ethics. Veterinarians should first consider the needs of the patient: to relieve disease, suffering, or disability while minimizing pain or fear. ( I feel that this is the most important thing to start with and that most vets strive for this goal. When going for the best possible treatment in any certain situation, it involves legal, medical ethics from the vet to the owner. The vets are looking out for the best welfare of the animal.
    In the act of an emergency, veterinarians have an ethical responsibility to provide essential services for animals when necessary to save life or relieve suffering, subsequent to client agreement. ( In my opinion and my experiences, vets will do what is most necessary for your horses welfare at that given moment. If the horse has a good probable chance of surviving a treatment than the vet will do what ever is necessary to save that animal. On the other hand though if the animal has a very slim chance of surviving and is in extreme pain than that animal may have to be put down as the best possible solution with its’ welfare in mind.
    I found the article on animal rights and vet ethics very interesting. It brought me back to our discussion on whether animals have rights. This article said that Veterinarians’ concern should be for animals’ welfare, not their rights, he added. ( I agree with this statement. The vets should be concerned with the fact that they have food, water, and are not in pain or suffering. I do not think that vets should be concerned with their rights. The article said that zoos good places for animals that provide the best habitat possible without being in the wild. Zoos are trying to save the endangered species all around the world. If vets are going to worry about animals rights then how can we neuter animals, give them medication to alleviate pain, buy and sell them, or even put them on leashes and carry them around everywhere? Vets, in my opinion, should have only welfare responsibilities and not animal rights.

  5. Veterinary Ethics and Responsibility

    The definition of ethics and responsibility to me is very broad. Ethics involves the study of theories of conduct and goodness, and of the meanings of moral terms ( Responsibility is defined as moral, legal, or mental accountability ( To me, these definitions are very subjective and open to the opinion of the interpreter. What is moral, for example, can be based upon a number of things from personal morals to social or cultural morals. Due to this, to write about what is moral or responsible for a veterinarian is difficult for me because I may view things differently.
    To me, the most responsible thing that a veterinarian can do is make a decision with the client. The veterinarian must be open to discuss different options with a client about choices that may need to be made and the vet must inform the client of any and all options. In TheHorse it quotes, “For any veterinary care to be effective, an interactive veterinary-client-patient relationship (VCPR) is of paramount importance” ( When a vet does not share an option with a client because of either financial or emotional reason, I do view it as an unjust action on the veterinarian’s part. I almost feel as if the client is being taken advantage of because they put their trust in the vet.
    I also see it as an ethical responsibility for the veterinarian to do whatever it takes in order to make a horse comfortable and increase their welfare. It stated in one of our unwanted horse articles that a vet will sometimes refuse to euthanize a healthy, unwanted horse at an owners request because of “ethical” reasons. To me, if a horse is unwanted and a client is not going to be able to take care of it anymore, it is ethical to put the horse down since the horse may end up in a very unhealthy condition. A vet needs to be open minded to other people’s opinions and situations. At the same time, a veterinarian should not push their client one way or another on a decision because they think that it is best. They are in a very serious place of power and need to realize what they actually have control over, these are potentionally people’s livelihoods.
    I give a lot of credit to good veterinarians because of the issue over what each individual believes is moral or ethical. It must be tough to have to deal with everyone’s different opinions about what they think is the “right” thing to do. This is why I think that there are so many legal issues and lawsuits revolving around the ethical decisions of vets; everyone has their own interpretation. To think about the amount of responsibility that you take on as a veterinarian just stresses me out, I cannot imagine actually being in the situation. Malpractice happens and people make mistakes but I would not call a vet that thought they were doing the right thing unethical or irresponsible. I really liked the article that discussed what you were supposed to do if you suspected malpractice, I think it really put things into perspective ( I just think that the whole issue of vet ethics is miscommunication on the client and veterinarians part. If someone does not like their vet and the decisions that they are making then they should find another and if a vet cannot be open minded to a client then maybe they should re-think their position. Placing yourself in someone else’s shoes is a great tool.

  6. Veterinary Ethics #1

    A vets first priority when treating a horse is to “consider the needs of the patient: to relieve disease, suffering, or disability while minimizing pain or fear” ( The vet should be concerned with the well being of the animal and ensure that it is comfortable. I believe that animals do have certain rights that include a right to food, shelter, respect and veterinary care. A vet’s “responsibility to the animal, [is] to be its advocate when advising the owner on the best care for its health and welfare” ( They should also “prevent and relieve the suffering of animals with competence and compassion” ( A vet’s duty is to give different options for each animal and help the owner decide what they would like to do. I feel like there are many vets that are very detached from their work and forget why they became a vet in the first place. They forget to be compassionate to the animal and owner since they have become desensitized to many things while they were in school.

    One of the problems that I found while researching is that veterinarians give their clients drugs for their horses without a proper VCPR. Doing this is unethical and illegal. In order to receive any prescription drug from a vet, you need to have a VCPR. “This means the client has agreed to have a veterinary examination performed, seek a diagnosis, and follow a prescribed treatment plan to resolve the problem” ( Many of these horse owners or trainers compete in shows, which are very competitive. Many of these horses are not sound, making it difficult to place well or even compete. The dilemma that is occurring is that some vets are prescribing drugs to owners who have not had a proper VCPR. These owners or trainers will then use these drugs for their unsound horses so that they can show them and have the “ideal” horse. Veterinarians who participate in this are allowing their clients to use the drugs inappropriately and compromising the health and welfare of the horses.

    Overall, I think that vet’s really do have a lot to carry on their shoulders. The vets have to deal with the owner’s decision as to what they want to do with their horse. The vet may not agree with the decision that is being made, but ultimately it is not their choice. The vets also have a lot of responsibility to keep animals happy and healthy while being ethical at all times. While there are some vet’s that are unethical and don’t always have the horses welfare in their best interest, I know that there are many vets that do.

  7. Veterinary Ethics #2

    Veterinarians are expected to please many people and also be concerned with the welfare of the animals that they are treating. I think that this puts a lot of pressure on them, considering that not everyone will always agree with what they are doing. I think that the vet should be most concerned about the animals’ welfare. The reason why they are a vet is to make sure animals are healthy and to help make sure that they have a good quality of life. “Veterinarians should first consider the needs of the patient: to relieve disease, suffering, or disability while minimizing pain or fear” ( Although they are there to make the client happy, I don’t think that should necessarily be their first priority. Most owners take their animals to the vet to make sure that they are healthy or to get help to make them healthy and pain free. So, most of the time the animals’ best interest is already being considered by the owner. I feel like most of the time the vet will not have a problem with the owner making a decision on what is best for the horse because they are keeping the horses interest in mind. But there are also some situations where the owner really is not concerned with the horse, and that is when I think that the vet should either suggest something else or refuse to do what they are asking. There is a thin line of what is in the horses best interest, but I think that the vet should do what they feel is morally correct. For instance, when we brought up the situation of a divorced couple, and the ex husband wanted to euthanize the wife’s perfectly healthy horses, I thought that the vet should look into the situation a little more. I also think that since vets do many different procedures and perform euthanasia to animals while they are in vet school, they become desensitized to doing them. I think that this can affect their perspective on some things because it may not seem like such a big deal to them as it is to other people.

    In class we talked about the situation of the dressage rider that got suspended for her horse coming up positive for a drug, even though her veterinarian told her that the drug would be out of the horses system within six days. I think in a case like that, it is hard to tell who is at fault. I think that the owner should have researched the drug to see what the withdraw period is, but at the same time I think that they vet should have been accurate at telling her when the drug would leave the horses system. At first I thought that the owner should be at fault, but now that I have thought about it more, I think that the vet should be at fault since he gave the owner false information. One of the Code of Ethics used the code: “Veterinary technicians shall assume accountability for individual professional actions and judgments”, which would say that the vet would be held accountable for his lack of judgment on the withdraw period ( In the case that the vet had told the owner that the drug would still be in the horses system for 90 days, and the owner still wanted it administered, then the owner should definitely be the one that is blamed.

    Even though I think that veterinarians should focus the most on the welfare of the animal, I don’t think that they should disregard the owner or the public. They are both still very important and should be considered and listened to.

    • Lauren –
      Do you think that all veterinarians lose their moral and common sense compass while in vet school? I understand becoming desensitized to the idea of putting any animal down, but an equine, or large animal, veterinarian typically has an investment in the horses he or she looks after. So yes, there is some desensitization, but I feel that is with everything, such as sticking a horse with a needle for an IV or drawing blood – at first, I was nervous to administer shots and medications intramuscularly, but after practicing and having to apply the skill to work, it became easier for me to handle it mentally. So I don’t feel as though desensitization should be used as an excuse or a defense for veterinarians.

    • Lauren –

      You mentioned that vet school is desensitizing to students, and it was implied that this is a bad thing. As someone who has had to be involved with many cases that were painful, such as euthanasia, it is very very helpful, and probably better health-wise, to be able to remove yourself mentally from the situation. This does not mean that we do not care, because many of them do. But what clients need are support systems to lean on in difficult times, not a sobbing vet or technician who can barely keep it together. Also, if I took every case that was “sad” or “disturbing” home with me every night after work, I would be a disaster. You have to know how to let things go and separate yourself, otherwise you will become mentally exhausted and risk having a breakdown…

  8. Veterinary Ethics

    In class, we discussed veterinary responsibility in different cases. One issue that was brought up was a case where a top dressage rider gave her horse a medication that was banned in FEI competitions. Her vet administered the drug fourteen days prior to the competition, and told the client that the withdrawl period was about six days. The rider took her horse to a competition, and the horse tested positive for the drug, resulting in the pair’s disqualification and the rider’s suspension from competition. It became known that in the veterinary world, it was popular knowledge that the drug which was used could take up to ninety days for the horse to rid its system of it. In this case, I feel that responsibility is shared by the veterinarian and the rider. The veterinarian did give the client inaccurate information, however, as a responsible horse owner, you should be researching any and every thing medically that you do with your horse. Because of this, I feel that the rider was also responsible, as she failed to meet her duty of knowing what she was doing with her horse.
    Another issue we discussed in class were different ethical problems that arise in veterinary medicine. We talked about things such as cosmetic surgeries and convenience euthanasia. I feel that veterinarians have a lot of moral issues to deal with when doing things such as cosmetic surgeries. I feel that these are ok, if necessary to prevent injuries. For example, if someone has a draft horse that will be used for pulling, they should have their tails docked. Having their tails cut short prevents injuries related to pulling carts or equipment behind them, and also from other horses in a team from causing injuries to one another in that manner. However, if someone wanted to dock their horse’s tail just because they prefer the look, I feel that is unethical.
    Also, in regards to convenience euthanasia, I feel that also is a very gray area. I can see why a veterinarian may be torn between performing the service and refusing it. If the owner is euthanizing a horse because they cannot afford treatment for the horse and it is ill or injured, I feel that is not a bad thing. No one will want to take in a horse that needs extensive medical attention, and euthanazia may likely be the best solution. However, if an owner is moving or decides they can no longer care for an otherwise unhealthy horse, I feel that euthanasia is an unethical option for that case. I feel that either the owner or veterinarian should try to find another home for the horse, even if it means giving the horse away, especially in a slow market like there is today.
    Finally, in the case of whether veterinarians should be focusing on the welfare of the animal first and foremost, I feel that there needs to be a bit of a balance. As a professional in the veterinary field, I know that client compliance can, at times, be like pulling teeth, especially when it comes to any treatments or therapies (even vaccines) that cost them money. This is why I feel that the veterinarian needs to focus on the welfare of the animal, as well as balancing that with the client’s needs and abilities. That said, where society as a whole may become affected, like with a zoonotic or reportable disease, I feel that cases like that may warrant going around the owner’s wishes. Like Dr. Schmall always tells us in Systems IV, that even if a client refuses a necessary vaccine because they “do not want to pay for it” he gives it anyway, and hides the charge elsewhere in the client’s bill. I feel that veterinarians have a great moral and ethical struggle within themselves every day, and that they do the best they can given the situation and their knowledge.

    • I was thinking about your examples on docking tails and was wondering what you thought the line would be that we would have to draw? I feel that yes some things that we do may seem unfair, unethical, or cruel but like you said some can prevent injuries. I am not sure how we can say, yes, you can dock your horses tail becuase of this, but this other person can’t because they are doing it for pure looks. I think that would be hard but worth doing, if we could figure out how to tell an American what they can and cannot do.

    • Miranda-

      Veterinarian’s have a lot of moral issues that they have to deal with, and one of them that you talked about what convenience euthanasia. I think that vets can have very difficult decisions to make concerning this issue. I agree with you that if a horse is ill or injured, then the best thing for it may be euthanasia, especially if the owners don’t have the money to treat it. On the other end of the spectrum, if an owner just wants to euthanize a healthy horse because they don’t want it anymore, I think that a vet has a very difficult decision that they are going to have to make. I think that the best option for the horse is to try and find another home for it or give it away. But with the economy the way it is and the increasing numbers of unwanted horses, I think that it could be hard to find a home for some of these horses. It makes me wonder where the horse could possibly end up, since some unwanted horses end up in other countries at slaughter houses. I’m not saying that this would be the scenario for all of these horses, because many of them could probably find good homes to go to.

    • Miranda,

      I disagree with your statement that it is unethical for an owner to have alterations done to their animal, such as tail docking. Making such a statement, in my opinion, is something that will start the slippery slope. If you think it is wrong for humans to alter the way an animal looks just because they prefer that certain look, then is it wrong for us to clone or take part in selective breeding? In all cases, we are choosing to change the way nature may have intended a creature to look or act.
      Also, about convenience euthanasias… although I would not personally do this, I can see where an owner may be coming from by wanting to have their animal euthanized if they are sick or unable to care for it. No one can say what will happen to that animal once it leaves the owners care. Sure it would be nice if it went to another forever loving home. But the truth is, that animal could just as easily end up in an abuse situation or on its way to slaughter. When viewed that way, it almost seems more ethical to have the animal euthanized painlessly.

  9. Veterinary Ethics #2
    After class discussion, I still don’t feel like I’ve come to a full opinion on what a veterinarian’s responsibilities are, but I feel like I have a good idea.
    Veterinarians have it tougher, in my opinion, than most medical professionals. Most doctors have the ability to communicate with their patients on some sort of level, not including severe emergency situations. A veterinarian cannot ask a dog where he hurts like a doctor can ask a small child. A veterinarian can only go by the reaction of the animal in relation to what he is doing, leaving room for error or misinterpretation. We can tell our D.O.s or specialists “it hurts when I move this” or “I feel pain when completing this task”. Animals? Not so much. So when it comes to a veterinarian trying to treat a pet, I feel that pet owners should realize that there may be a trial and error period and that suing the vet for not being responsible is nonsensical.
    I do feel that veterinarians have an obligation to understand the inner workings of the drugs they are subscribing to horse owners, particularly if that horse is a competing athlete that needs to pass drug tests. The vet has a responsibility to the owner/trainer/rider to indicate how long the drug will appear in the horse’s system and what effects it may have on the horse’s performance. Not only that, but to be able to relay the information in a way that is understood by the owner/trainer/rider. I trust my doctor to prescribe a medication for me that will better my health, but I also expect her to be able to tell what the drug will do for me, what the possible side effects are, and what results I could expect – I would hope that my doctor would not blindly prescribe me medication.
    But with that, the owner/rider/trainer should not blindly trust the judgment or knowledge of a veterinarian. The owner/trainer/rider should take the time to research the horse’s condition and all that comes along with it to understand what and why it’s being treated. Ignorance may be bliss, but it can also cause serious problems. The owner/trainer/rider is around the horse much more than the veterinarian and he or she should be able to relay to the vet what behaviors and symptoms they are seeing on a daily basis. Much of the veterinarian’s treatment can be based around what the owner see when the vet isn’t there. We tell our doctors what we are experiencing when we go in to see them, whether we are ill or have an injury – obviously a horse cannot do that; there might be an important symptom or behavior that could change the diagnosis that the vet gives. Blaming a veterinarian entirely for a misdiagnosis is unfair; particularly when a vet is doing all they can, not only for the health of the horse, but to also please the owner.
    I think horse owners need to realize that their veterinarian is challenged with a guessing game every day – what other profession requires someone to read the mind and body of an ill horse? Many veterinarians have seen injuries that are common and have treated many prevalent horse illnesses, so many of their treatments are based on previous accounts, which is similar to traditional human medicine. And just like in humans, not every horse is alike. Some humans have medicine allergies, making their treatment a little different. So any horse owner should not fully expect that a treatment program will work completely, particularly if their horse is unique or has a different underlying condition. And they shouldn’t be so quick to sue or become upset with the veterinarian when the vet is doing what they can to please not only the owner, but also to remedy the horse.

    • Renee-

      I also wrote about the difficulty in the communicating of vets and animal. There is no verbal communication at all and people do need to realize that there is a trial and error time period. However, I would disagree with on whether or not their profession is easier or harder to deal with than other medical professions. Horses have pain where it hurts, however, in humans pain can be caused psychosomatically making a diagnosis just as difficult as in an animal. I do not think that it is fair to judge who has the most difficult job.

    • renee,

      I agree with you that it is often a guessing game for veterinarians and they are trying to please both owner and horse. I also think that in today’s society, it’s almost irresponsible for consumers not to do their own research, since we have so much more access to knowledge than we used to. I myself am very distrusting of doctors and vets (and mechanics.) because my experiences have shown me that I (and my pets) have often been viewed as just a number or a name on a chart. I often feel that vets and doctors are so concerned with getting through their day and seeing as many patients as possible, that they do not really take the time to sit down and think about a particular case. I think that some vets may have forgotten their moral compass and the reason they got into the profession in the first place.

  10. Ashley’s Vet Ethics 2

    I believe that a veterinarian has a lot of responsibilities when it
    comes to the welfare of the animal and with the owner. I think that
    first and foremost the vet should look at the animals’ welfare and
    then inform the owner of the options that are best suited for the
    certain animal. I feel that sometimes owners have no idea what to or
    what is going on and decide to do the wrong treatment. According to
    the AVMA, veterinarians are looking out for the horses’ welfare, and
    what is best for that animal. Euthanasia, in my eyes, is one of the
    more controversial situations because it involves our opinions on
    whether or not the animal should be put down or not. I feel that this
    is a situation where there should be more lines drawn because the vets
    are being thought of as responsible for euthanasia of an animal that
    may be a very healthy, happy animal that deserves a home. Euthanasia
    for no reason leads back to the unwanted horse or animal situation.
    All of these people that do not like the color or personality of their
    animal, or can’t afford it anymore end up putting it down. I do not
    agree with this, but the humane societies can only take so many
    animals and I feel that there should be some lines drawn as to when an
    animal can be put down and when it deserves to live. The situation
    the animal is in is very important too because if the horse is at a
    home that is killing it, why should it continue to live if no one can
    take care of it. The horses welfare is always on my mind and what the
    best possible situation can be for that certain animal. Veterinarians
    are also in many situations where they are trying to do their job as a
    vet but the owners are presenting them with rough situations.

    I believe that people who drug their horses before competitions should
    be responsible for what they had given their horse. I feel that
    owners should know what they are about to give their horse and what is
    legal and what is not legal. We discussed one rider in class, but
    there are many in this industry that go through the same system of
    giving a horse drugs that do not exit the horses system in time. I
    believe, especially at the Olympic level, that owners and riders
    should be more aware of the drug they are using so that when they
    administer the drug to their horse they should be held responsible.
    The veterinarians on the other hand should be responsible for
    administering the drug asked with giving specific and correct
    information on the drug being used. I do not think it is fair for a
    vet to be held completely responsible in a situation like drug
    testing, unless it is pretty obvious it was their fault and their
    fault only. Another situation of drugs that I do not agree with is
    the fact that horses are testing positive for some drugs that were not
    administered, such as a drug found in grass. I feel that it is very
    unfair to drug test someone that has not given their horse anything,
    but again where can someone draw that line?

  11. After our discussions in class, I am still sort of unsure about my opinions on veterinary ethics. I would have to agree with many of my classmates that one of the hardest ethical dilemmas faced by veterinarians is whether to do what an owner wants or to do what they feel is the best thing for the animal. Part of this dilemmas stems from the “inability to diagnose or treat a health problem because a pet owner is unwilling to comply with medical advice or is unable to pay for services to be rendered” (AAAS Symposium). However, the hardest decision that affects veterinarians is when “owners… elect to euthanize their pets for convenience sake” as this “places an enormous ethical burden on veterinarians. Although the Veterinarian’s Oath provides a framework within which to practice veterinary medicine, in dealing with such problems practitioners need to set their own moral compasses to provide ethical guidance as animal advocates (AAAS symposium).

    In class we talked about a situation where a horse owner was told that a certain drug would be out of her horse’s system within six days, although her horse tested positive for the drug and was suspended from competition. It is hard to say who is responsible here. On one hand, the vet was trusted by her client to have given accurate information. On the other hand, however, I think it is the job of all animal owners to be proactive about knowing what they are doing to their animals, and to do their own research. Although the horse owner should have done her own research, I think the vet is still at fault for having given the lady false information.

    One of the ethical problems I see with vets today is that there is often a blurred line between doing what the owner wants and doing what is right for the animal. I think that vets sometimes get caught up in satisfying the owner requests, and forget that their number one priority is to “first consider the needs of the patient: to relieve disease, suffering, or disability while minimizing pain or fear” ( I still attribute this problem to the training and education which veterinarians must complete before practicing. “Public attitudes toward animal welfare have improved with growing social affluence, and veterinarians are increasingly expected to be informed about animal welfare in a broader sense than health alone. However, animal welfare has not been a traditional component of the veterinary curriculum” (Advancing animal welfare standards within the veterinary profession). From the very start of their training, veterinarians are taught, and expected to learn by killing or practicing on often healthy animals. Those who cannot handle it will not survive to become vets. In my opinion, veterinarian students are trained to become detached and to see it as alright to cut open and perform surgery on an animal that does not need it. “There is a ‘hidden curriculum’ endorsing harmful animal use which remains commonplace within veterinary education worldwide (Advancing animal welfare standards within the veterinary profession). I strongly believe that this kind of education which predisposes veterinarians to making bad ethical decisions is something that could easily be avoided. Veterinarians should be required to take animal welfare and ethics classes as part of their education, and where possible, live animal practice should be replaced with computerized programs or animals that are already sick and dying.

    • You mentioned that you think there should be a requirement for vets to take animal welfare and ethics classes. I was wondering what your thoughts were on the vets that have been around for years and don’t care to take those classes? I feel that that a class like that might be good, but how are we going to make the vets who already have years of experience take something like that?
      I also agree that when people are studying that they should be using animals that are already unhealthy, but I can’t say that I agree with using compterized programs just because they are nothing like the real situations in my opinion. It would be a good place to start but I don’t think I would want a vet who has experience on a computer to treat my horse.

    • Kolleen-

      I agree with you that all veterinarians should have to take classes based upon veterinarian ethics and responsibility. I even think that experienced vets should have to take a class based upon ethics. A lot has changed since they first started their own practices and I would hope an ethics class could possibly open their eyes to situations that they may be opposed to because they are uninformed. I also agree with you about using computerized programs and already sick animals in order to train. The nursing students at Otterbein use computerized dummies in order to train and most of the simulations are quite correct to a real situation. Maybe they could make dummy animals just like that?

    • Kolleen –
      Though I do I agree with your discomfort of vets practicing on healthy animals, there is nothing that can replace hands-on, real-life situations. Sure, musculature can be drawn in books and diagramed, but what good is it for a veterinarian if she can’t see what it actually looks like, sans the artistic interpretation of the artist? If all you have is the artistic interpretation to see what tendons look like and where they attach to on the horse’s body, the real life application may not be as sure footed as a veterinarian that has practiced on an actual, once living, specimen. And I do agree that research ought to be practiced on sick or dying animals, but I see it like this: if all you ever see is dying organs over and over again, how will you know a healthy one when you see it? Sure, you’ll notice a difference but knowing why it’s different is extremely important.

    • Kolleen-

      I agree with you that vets are expected to use perfectly healthy animals to practice on while in school, which then makes them detached from these animals. I think that vets get used to practicing and performing surgery that is not necessary on animals. This then reflects on their work when they become vets because they are desensitized to performing surgery, ect on healthy animals. I think that it is a good idea to practice on animals that are already sick, so that there is a purpose to the surgery that they are performing. Where do you suggest that we get these sick animals from? I know that owners will bring in their pets that are sick, but sometimes they would rather have an experienced vet working on them, rather than a student who is still learning. I was just wondering what your thoughts are about this.

    • Kolleen –

      I do agree that vet school does require hands-on learning. Having said that, I have had to use hands-on learning, with real animals, to do certain technical skills. I have put healthy animals under anesthesia just to learn how to do it, and have done blood draws and other such invasive procedures to learn the skills. There is no replacement, when learning, for practical experience. And many of these “healthy” animals that all of these vet students supposedly kill, they are usually animals that were unable to be adopted out or were dnagerous and had to be euthanized. And due to the value of practical experience, would you want someone working on your dog or horse who had never had any experience on living, breathing animals before? My guess is no….

  12. Due to the ethics and responsibility of veterinarians, I feel that they may have one of the toughest jobs. Not only do they have to deal with diagnosing and treating a large, non-verbal patient, but they also have to deal with the human client who carries their own opinions about what may or may not be wrong. There is a very hazy line drawn between what is considered right and what is considered wrong in their field of work and their job is not getting any easier. An article that I read talked about the new questions that arise which challenge a veterinarian every day and make them question where they stand on the spectrum of ethics and responsibility. Within these new questions and ideas, the efforts to elevate the status of companion animals, importance of the human side of the human-animal bond, technological and medical advances, and the emergence of animal-welfare science and the role of food-farm and sport-animal practice are something that the veterinarian must consider before first determining what is ethical ( Just thinking about it now gives me a headache and I cannot imagine having to deal with thinking about all this under pressure. I do not think most clients are aware that veterinarians need to consider a lot of things before treating their horse.
    The discussion over where ethics and responsibility come into play in the situation of the veterinarian giving a horse a drug which ended up being in the horses system for longer than the veterinarian stated is a tough subject for me. On one hand, I believe that it was the veterinarian’s job to have known and expressed that the drug could possibly be in the horses system for up to ninety days. There is definitely a trust that clients have in veterinarians that vets should be careful about. On the other, however, I think that the client should have informed herself about the drug before it was administered and it is the client’s responsibility to have known, especially if it was a drug that could possibly remove her from a competition. I see this mistake as being a shared problem in which could have been stopped by either party involved but was not.
    Either way, that veterinarian and all vets need(ed) to keep in mind the welfare of the horse. Fundamentally, there are four guiding principles for all veterinarians: to pursue the work of his profession in the uprightness of conduct, to serve the community at the utmost of his ability, to constantly endeavor to ensure the welfare of animals committed to his care, and to seek no personal advantage at the expense of his professional colleagues ( As long as a veterinarian keeps to these four principles to the best of their ability, then that vet is being ethical and responsible. Yes, I feel that the four guiding principles are very open to interpretation, however, as long as a veterinarian stays consistent in their values and their interpretation of the principles, then that is all they can do. Everyone will have and can have their own opinion and as long as the best interest of the animal is being looked into, then I cannot complain. This is why people also need to choose a vet that they can communicate with, trust, and have a shared view on ethical and moral issues.

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