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Gurame21

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Jul 26, 2011
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I've more or less decided to follow the path of veterinary medicine as opposed to human medicine. I've decided that my drive to care for and help animals surpasses my drive to help humans (don't get me wrong, I still want to help humans!) medically. The only problem I have is that I am very empathetic towards animals and therefore sensitive to seeing them in a injured or sick state. I think I've figured out that a big reason for this discomfort I feel is that currently, I do not and would not know what to do or how to help the animal, leaving me feeling powerless.One area of illness that makes me very sad is neurological disorders, especially terminal problems. However, I feel like after years of training in the treatment for these issues and learning what I can do to help combined with my strong passion towards animals will make me a great veterinarian. In an attempt to begin this process, I've been exposing myself to videos, pictures, and live examples of sick/injured animals (when I have the privelege of shadowing a vet) as a means of educating myself and building a kind of mental resistance to the over flow of emotions that could potentially hinder my abilities in the future. I can honestly say that I am essentially getting used to seeing animals in pain and am feeling more in control and more able to do something if I had to. Does anyone have tips on coping with the experience of hurt/injured animals so that you may better help them?
Thanks!
 

Abnerrs

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I've more or less decided to follow the path of veterinary medicine as opposed to human medicine. I've decided that my drive to care for and help animals surpasses my drive to help humans (don't get me wrong, I still want to help humans!) medically. The only problem I have is that I am very empathetic towards animals and therefore sensitive to seeing them in a injured or sick state. I think I've figured out that a big reason for this discomfort I feel is that currently, I do not and would not know what to do or how to help the animal, leaving me feeling powerless.One area of illness that makes me very sad is neurological disorders, especially terminal problems. However, I feel like after years of training in the treatment for these issues and learning what I can do to help combined with my strong passion towards animals will make me a great veterinarian. In an attempt to begin this process, I've been exposing myself to videos, pictures, and live examples of sick/injured animals (when I have the privelege of shadowing a vet) as a means of educating myself and building a kind of mental resistance to the over flow of emotions that could potentially hinder my abilities in the future. I can honestly say that I am essentially getting used to seeing animals in pain and am feeling more in control and more able to do something if I had to. Does anyone have tips on coping with the experience of hurt/injured animals so that you may better help them?
Thanks!
Honestly when I started I had a really rough time with this. And I would be useless for a bit after euthanasias. But after at time, even though I am still sad and hate to see them hurting, if I do not function (and I'm only the tech at this point) that animal suffers more because of it. If I can't keep myself together then that animal is not getting the care they need. And I always remind myself that you doing everything you can to help an animal (whether limited by medical options or money etc) and that is all you can do. And there are other animals to help so you can't lose your focus on one. It is a tough thing to deal with though. I usually allow myself time to grieve later.
Not sure how much this helps, just how I look at things. :oops:
 

PetPony

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Nov 22, 2010
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I thought I would have that problem, too, but it's happened twice now at the barn that there was a sick/really hurt horse and I was pretty much the only one there to help. Once you know that nobody else can take care of them (at least until the vet arrives), it's much easier to deal with it. I barely had any problem with it since then.

(One was a colic and one a horse that crashed through two fences and fell down a hill onto the road. Once I realized there wasn't anyone else to really help, it was much easier to get over that 'problem' and just do whatever I could to help.)
 
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bunnity

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I think you just need to get yourself as much experience as possible and see how it goes. Some people will never be okay with seeing that kind of thing, some people will go too far in the other direction and be too cut off / unfeeling, and most people will figure out a balance where you care but you don't let it eat you up.
 

equitate

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I think exposure to sick/injured animals desensitizes you (and I mean that in a helpful sort of way - not that it necessarily makes you "cold"), just like repeated exposure to anything else. Also thinking (and even saying it to the animal and/or the owner if they are present) "This is to help you"/"You're going to feel better"/etc. helps me, too. If I step back and think about how much pain the animal really is in, especially if they are struggling, of course it still bothers me - and it SHOULD. But in most cases, trying my best to help them coupled with the adrenaline and being quick and efficient is what makes me stay focused.
 

Emiloo4

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Aug 11, 2011
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The hardest part for me is when animals become frightened. They are rather stoic about pain, but when I see one in fear or panicking on top of being injured it makes me sad. I just want them to know I'm trying to help. That is the most frustrating part about vet med for me.
 

Minnerbelle

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The only problem I have is that I am very empathetic towards animals and therefore sensitive to seeing them in a injured or sick state. I think I've figured out that a big reason for this discomfort I feel is that currently, I do not and would not know what to do or how to help the animal, leaving me feeling powerless.One area of illness that makes me very sad is neurological disorders, especially terminal problems. However, I feel like after years of training in the treatment for these issues and learning what I can do to help combined with my strong passion towards animals will make me a great veterinarian.

I think you are very wise in thinking about this beforehand. Compassion fatigue is a very real phenomenon, and with conjecture about vet depression/suicide, it's something that you shouldn't take lightly. One thing I will say though, is that if you're banking on the fact that education and training will empower you to help these animals that you don't like seeing helpless now... then you're in the wrong field. This is a profession where euthanasia is the most feasible solution to taking pain away, and in many cases, it's not up to you to make that decision. Many of the sad terminal neuro cases will probably remain untreatable in our professional lifetime. And not only will you not be able to do anything about it, a lot of times you will have to watch some animals suffer as the owners are unwilling to euthanize. Once it gets to overt cruelty, you do have the choice of getting animal control involved, but that's not a pleasant situation to be in. Forcing police powers onto grieving owners into killing their own pets....

Definitely get more experience in the field. I'd stay away from videos and such, because it's really not the same as actually dealing with the real life situation and their outcomes . You never know if it's just that you're sensitive because you haven't been exposed enough, or that you're just a really empathetic and sensitive person who can't stop hurting when seeing animals in pain. There's nothing wrong with either of those, but a career in vet med can be amazing or a death sentence depending on which side of the pendulum you swing.
 

Diremonster

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Apr 6, 2012
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Aaaah emotions, I haven't had any veterinary experience really except for my own dogs and feral cats, however the thought of death and suffering DO make me very emotional. So much so I posted a blog about it awhile ago (sorry if it seems like I'm self-advertising but I'm not, I just thought the post I wrote summed up my feelings at the time more than I'm describing here!): http://bewildermunster.blogspot.com/2012/03/fear-itself.html
Animal suffering hits me hard, often times harder than human tragedy does. I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to handle veterinary medicine because of my emotions, however overall I'm confident that veterinary medicine is worth it in the end, and that I WILL learn to handle these situations. Of course most of the time when I think about vet med, I don't feel sad, I feel excited to help animals, but I am conscious of the dark side too.
Definitely get more experience in the field. I'd stay away from videos and such, because it's really not the same as actually dealing with the real life situation and their outcomes . You never know if it's just that you're sensitive because you haven't been exposed enough, or that you're just a really empathetic and sensitive person who can't stop hurting when seeing animals in pain. There's nothing wrong with either of those, but a career in vet med can be amazing or a death sentence depending on which side of the pendulum you swing.
I'm looking forward to getting (more) real experience! And I think that's a very realistic way to look at vet med.
 

orca2011

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I actually thought I would be a mess during my first euthanasia and I found that not be to be the case. When it's a scheduled euthanasia, I'm kind of prepared for it and appreciate the owners' actions and really believe they are doing the best thing for their animals. I'll get teary eyed for some cases, especially if there is a male in the room and their bawling their eyes out. If the owner doesn't want to witness it, I take comfort in knowing that there is still someone holding them, whether it's me or one of the other techs who cares for the animal and that they're not alone.

My most memorable and upsetting euthanasia happened right when I started interning this past summer. A pit bull came in that was hit by a car with a young male owner. He was probably like 25. She was going into shock and being a humane society, we definitely can't offer the best care to help her, but since he didn't have the money, he couldn't go else where and we did the best we could. When the owner came up to be present for her euthanasia he completely lost it and she started wagging her tail again when she saw him. It was the saddest thing ever. The one tech afterwards took me aside to make sure I was okay.

So, I guess I've found some are easier than others. I've heard of some vets who cry and others that don't. I think you just have to figure out your best way to handle it. I'm sure there will be instances where I completely lose it, especially if it's an animal I've known for a while. But it's definitely something you might want to experience first hand. Videos and what not really aren't the same.
 

Abnerrs

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So, I guess I've found some are easier than others. I've heard of some vets who cry and others that don't. I think you just have to figure out your best way to handle it. I'm sure there will be instances where I completely lose it, especially if it's an animal I've known for a while. But it's definitely something you might want to experience first hand. Videos and what not really aren't the same.
I totally agree. Some I can be pretty stoic but the ones I have an attachment to are always the hardest. But again I take comfort that they won't be hurting anymore.


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wildcatj

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Oct 7, 2011
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I actually thought I would be a mess during my first euthanasia and I found that not be to be the case. When it's a scheduled euthanasia, I'm kind of prepared for it and appreciate the owners' actions and really believe they are doing the best thing for their animals. I'll get teary eyed for some cases, especially if there is a male in the room and their bawling their eyes out. If the owner doesn't want to witness it, I take comfort in knowing that there is still someone holding them, whether it's me or one of the other techs who cares for the animal and that they're not alone.

That is the one time I get emotional during euthanasias. If men are crying it kills me. We had a really sad one the other day with an ancient lab who was still a really happy dog, eating no problem, wagging her tail, but she could barely walk at all her hips were so bad. The owner had been carrying her everywhere. It was just the husband that came and he was trying so hard to control himself but you could tell he was practically sobbing. And the dog just wagged her tail the whole time until she fell asleep. That one was sad.
 

orca2011

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That is the one time I get emotional during euthanasias. If men are crying it kills me. We had a really sad one the other day with an ancient lab who was still a really happy dog, eating no problem, wagging her tail, but she could barely walk at all her hips were so bad. The owner had been carrying her everywhere. It was just the husband that came and he was trying so hard to control himself but you could tell he was practically sobbing. And the dog just wagged her tail the whole time until she fell asleep. That one was sad.

We had one like that too. It was a lab with kidney failure and he was such a happy guy. His owner didn't want to witness it so I came in to take the dog to our tech room, and the guy was crying and not looking at his dog, while the dog was wouldn't leave it's owner and just keep wagging it's tail. It broke my heart.
 

bayarea15

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Oct 27, 2011
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i have actually coped much better than i thought i would, surprisingly. i have worked in both human and veterinary medical fields, and have seen some tough ****. i think when you know that all could be done, has been done, there is that pain still present of letting go, but also some relief.
 

orcagirl

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I have seen some vets get emotional and others are just respectfully quiet. It seems to depend on their relationship with the owners and the animals. There are a few animals I've been with during euthanasia that just seemed to have an impact on me and I wanted to cry. None were as bad as when I had to put my own dog down though. My family spent nearly three hours holding him and crying before we finally sad goodbye.
 

prevetdreamer

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Apr 30, 2012
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For me, I use the emotions I feel when I see an animal in pain as a kind of motivation to help the animal. It's like "I can see you don't feel good, but I know what to do to make you feel better!" It's always sad to see a hurt or sick animal, but the way I cope is knowing that I can help them. The hardest situations for me are euthenasias when the owner doesn't want to be present. I realize that some owners can't handle that situation and I totally respect that, but it always pulls on my heart strings. I always make sure to give them as much extra loves as I can. I think every animal should leave this world knowing they are loved.
 
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