A team of experts from the US is providing hands-on training to Indian veterinarians at the Delhi zoo on using gas anaesthesia so as to avoid drugs to sedate animals, which have numerous side-effects. Gas anaesthesia is primarily used for sedating cats and dogs, and the training, in which more than 30 vets are participating, is a step forward towards employing it for wildlife in Indian zoos, Delhi zoo director Renu Singh said. The training is being conducted by experts from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, Washington, DC.
Budhan S Pukazhenthi, reproductive physiologist at the institute, told PTI, “Sometimes if you can hold an animal safely, you can do the diagnostics without using any drugs. Gas anaesthesia is one such way of sedating animals by eliminating the need of medical drugs and the numerous side-effects that come with it.”
The physiologist said gas anaesthesia is rarely used in Indian zoos and veterinarians in the country lack adequate training in this method. “Though this technique is primarily used in cats and dogs field, we are trying to introduce it to the wildlife in the Indian zoos,” he said.
Besides ensuring the safety of animals, Pukazhenthi explained, using an inhaled (gas) anaesthetic device also gives more flexibility and confidence to the clinicians. The Delhi zoo director said the training will come handy for the staff in giving best care to the inmates. “As zoo keepers, we often face challenging situations in terms of various zoonotic diseases. Using gas anaesthesia will also help us minimise risks to animals,” she said.
Some animals may carry harmful germs which can infect people and cause illness which are known as zoonotic diseases or zoonoses. Tony Barthel, Curator, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, underlined the importance of anaesthesia in animal diagnosis, and how using injectable drugs for the same purpose could run many risks. “Gas anaesthesia is just another way of sedating animals, but it is a safer option as injectable drugs may interfere with the medication an animal is already on. A hand injection might also oppress breathing or blood circulation of animals,” he said.
He, however, said the veterinarian attending to the animals is the best judge of his patient’s diagnosis. “For instance, in case of bigger animals, using (inhaled or) gas anaesthesia can be tricky as you should be able to get the animals’ accurate weight and ready the equipment accordingly to monitor their movements,” he said. “But it is crucial for the clinicians to be armed with modern medical paraphernalia,” Barthel said.
Asked why gas anaesthesia is not widely used in India, a Delhi zoo official said the main reason was lack of infrastructure. “Most of the zoos cannot afford a gas anaesthesia machine. Besides, the veterinarians need to be trained in this discipline.”
The National Zoological Park, the official name for the Delhi zoo, recently procured its first gas anaesthesia machine.