Pharmacology and Toxicology

Some schools continue to use live animals to demonstrate principles of drug actions – normal or toxic – on cardiovascular, neural and other systems. The animals are often mutilated in the process to expose various tissues or organs (albeit under anesthesia) and are killed at the end. There is no evidence, however, that such demonstrations improve the students’ grasp of the principles involved compared with reading about the effects. If it is believed that a visual demonstration is beneficial, this can be accomplished by existing audiovisual media or by using animals (human or non-human) in a non-harmful manner. For toxic effects, filming of patients who have been brought in for treatment can be a suitable and effective alternative.

If you are aware of other examples you believe to be important to include here, please send the information to HEVM for consideration.

  • Companion animals or students
    • For some of the normal drug demonstrations, there is no reason why the companion animals of students or staff or the students themselves could not be used. For example, the effects of adrenergic (such as epinephrine) or anticholinergic (such as tropicamide) drugs can be demonstrated using the eye (changes in pupil size or reactivity) as the target. Due consideration for predisposition to ocular hypertension would be necessary, but this would be a very rare – and transient – complication in most situations.
  • Patients
    • There are various visual media demonstrating the toxic effects of various materials on animals. Some of these resulted from purposefully intoxicating animals and should be used with circumspection concerning the morality of the situation. These should be replaced as time goes on with similar media developed using patients who were brought in for treatment. All schools should be prepared to film such patients and share this resource with others.
  • Cardiovascular & Autonomic Pharmacology
    • This is an advanced pharmacology program for human medical students at the University of Washington School of Medicine. It is based on the reactions of a virtual dog.
  • Emergency treatment of dogs and cats poisoned by convulsing pesticides
    • This is a videotape produced by W. Eugene Lloyd and Tom Carson, published in 1979. I have no information on how this was produced, whether animals were purposefully intoxicated or whether patients were used.
    • It was published by Iowa State University, College of Veterinary Medicine. You can contact them to see if it is available for purchase or loan.
  • KinetiClass
  • Poisonous Plants: A veterinary guide to toxic syndromes
    • This is a CD-ROM by Murray E. Fowler, Don Preisler and Rick Hayes at the University of California, School of Veterinary Medicine. It was published by the Iowa State University Press in 1998. Although much of it is of photographs, there are also video segments showing clinical signs. I have no information on how this was produced, whether animals were purposefully intoxicated or whether patients were used.
    • You can contact University of Iowa Press (new source) to see about its availability.
  • Strychnine toxicosis in the dog
    • This is a videotape produced by W. Eugene Lloyd and Thomas L. Carson, published in 1983. I have no information on how this was produced, whether animals were purposefully intoxicated or whether patients were used.
    • It was published by Iowa State University, College of Veterinary Medicine. You can contact them to see if it is available for purchase or loan.
  • Urea and NPN toxicosis in ruminants
    • This is a videotape produced by Gary D. Osweiler, published possibly in 1974. I have no information on how this was produced, whether animals were purposefully intoxicated or whether patients were used. The abbreviation “NPN” is for “non-protein nitrogen”.
    • It was published by Iowa State University, College of Veterinary Medicine. You can contact them to see if it is available for purchase or loan.

The following includes literature cited above or which is relevant to the issue of pharmacology or toxicology education. The titles are linked either to a publicly available copy of the document or to a digital object identifier. In the latter case, information is provided about how to obtain a copy from other sources or from HEVM if to be used only for educational purposes.


Updated 2017-12-02