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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Attacked! The Good And Bad

One of the hardest things we as veterinarians have to face is the enmity of our patients.  Most people probably don't realize the real danger veterinary staff are faced with on a daily basis.  Take today for example.  I saw around 20 pets, mostly dogs, and ff those pets I had five try to bite me.  Most of them made really serious attempts to the point that we had difficulty getting muzzles on them and one we had to give an intramuscular sedative to knock her out.  Though none were likely to truly maul me, several potentially could have ended me up at the emergency room for stitches.

This isn't a rare occurrence.  In fact, it's a rare day when I don't have a pet try to bite or scratch me.  It's one of the least favorite aspects of my job, especially on days like today.  I get really tired of having pets try and take a piece out of me, but it's not like I can put a sign out saying that I'll only see nice patients (tempting though it may be).  As long as I practice I'll be faced with situations like this.

What I much prefer is how I am "attacked" when I come home in the evening.  Once I walk in the door I'm greeted by our two dogs, Inara and Yvaine. They jump all around me and seek my attention.  Then they seem to suddenly notice that I have scents all over me and before I know it I have noses running up and down my legs.  Sometimes I have a hard time moving because their faces are pressed up against me and I have two 60 pound dogs curved around me.  I don't mind this kind of attack at all and wish my patients behaved more like this.


  1. I certainly don't want this comment to come across as arrogant, I mean it in a totally helpful, constructive way. I don't know how much control you have over your clinic, polices, etc at all.

    You might consider checking out Dr Sophia Yin's materials, both online and in print, as well as her clinic-calls (she will help you arrange your clinic to be as low-stress as possible) to try and reduce the number of fractious animals you see. The methods are solid and many are very cheap/easy to use. It's possible, of course, that your area just has a relatively high % of fractious animals and that you're already using all these techniques, but I wanted to suggest it in case it can help!

  2. Thank you for this post! It is so very true, and I don't think many people do realize the true occupational hazards that we do face. I have years of scratch scars, and 1 unnoticeable scar across my bottom lip from an unprompted bite by a Cocker Spaniel. However, on the flip side all the sweet animals we see more than make up for the small fraction of those who are less than happy with us. Great post!

  3. In general I do believe that an animal's behaviour has a lot to do with how its owner allows it to behave. Unfortunately for a vet - this makes dealing with a sick animal a hazardous experience. In addition, if a practice has very limited space for patients and their owners, a stressed animal can become overly anxious and by the time they are seen by the vet, can want to take a chunk out of him/her. The practice we visit, has wonderful, caring staff - both vets and nurses but, and this is a really important but, the size of the waiting room is tiny - it can take ten humans siting but if those ten have a large animal there is no way to keep one animal from another. It only takes one narky mutt to disrupt the whole place and these are inevitably on a long lead to which an incompetent human is attached issuing "oh now be nice" stupidities as their k9 creates havoc. I have been in the vet when a really stupid woman brought in her two out of control under 5 children plus one large, antisocial collie/alsation x with no lead or collar ("forgot in the rush to get the kids in the car"). The only other occupant of the waiting room was an elderly man with an old, quiet springer spaniel. Chaos set in and despite the sign saying "all animals to be under control and leashed" the woman and her brood (animal and kids made the waiting room a nightmare and poor spaniel came off worst - and he was minding his own business). Woman and kids should have been told to leave but weren't. Vet later told me that she had blamed the springer for "starting it". My point, some places are not designed for people to do as they please - if they don't abide by the rules - whether they are clients or not - they should be asked to leave. In confined space with anxious pets, any narky animal will cause upset to all. It is inevitable I suppose that when you are given an appointment time that you will wait perhaps some 20 minutes after that to be seen but sometimes it can take a lot longer - 40 minutes or more. If this is the case an animal can get even more stressed. Some dog groomers insist that narky pets be brought early, early for grooming so they don't disrupt everyone else and make the experience unpleasant for others who behave and enjoy the experience. Its a business afterall. Perhaps it would make sense to make mental note of the narky pets and only give them an appointment close to closing time. a narky pet is no use to him/herself - they limit their own life experiences wanting to yap and attack everything in sight and owners who pander to them are brainless. Were I a vet, if the animal - especially a dog (cats scratch if scared and not sure there is much you can do on this) were a narky sod - I would not treat him/her until his manners were in place otherwise he and owner could find somewhere else to go.

  4. Two of my three dogs do need to be muzzled for vet visits. So I take care to muzzle them before the vet gets near them. I am working on this, but sadly they had bad experiences in their first homes and I can't see it getting a lot better. I can't see why people don't just accept their dogs may bite and get the muzzles out!

    Yes it saves the vet being bitten, but I prefer to think of it as saving my dogs from being PTS for being dangerous!

  5. Linda
    at least you acknowledge that your dogs require muzzles and use them - too bad you inherited dogs others have caused to be problems. This cannot be pleasant for you, the vet surgery when you arrive (as an anxious muzzled dog makes others in waiting room anxious whether or not they can do any damage - their negative energy is enough). You are being a responsible pet owner and are to be commended - unfortunately many pet owners in similar circumstances don't bother. With time and an appropriate animal behaviourist you could eradicate your dogs' unacceptable behaviour; making the vet visit much more pleasant and less stressful for everyone. Someone here on this thread mentioned Dr Sophia Yin (vet and behaviouralist) - check out her video on the narky terrier - and others with dogs wanting to attack - with her intervention - these are different dogs and are now able to be social - much more civilised. Owning a narky dog cannot be pleasurable for anyone including the dog and its such a shame for them as they miss out on having great fun at the dog parks.

  6. I recently told a man that he had a dangerous weapon on his leash. He said his german shepherd was "hard headed" according to the dog trainer, but that he (un-neutered of course) was perfectly fine at home with his children.

    This dog would lunge and try to attack people that walk around our clinic (I am a vet at a Banfield which is in PetSmart where people routinely take their pets). This guy was actually smiling when his dog did this.

    This dog, even with a muzzle, attempted to attack me and then my technician. This guy would not pay for sedation for the exam and blamed me for attempting to touch the dog on top of his head, which sets him off. Too bad, jerk. Anyone can literally hit my dog over the head and she would not attempt to bite. His dog was dangerous from the time it was a puppy (treated for parvo because the dog didn't get his vaccines).

    So this dangerous weapon goes on to another vet. This guy will tell everyone that I do not know how to handle "nervous" or "hard headed" dogs. But the truth is that this dog is a loaded shot gun waiting to go off in someone's face. Just not mine, not anymore.


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