Dog Bite Prevention Week
Dog bites are a dangerous risk faced by veterinarians, their staff, and owners every day. Veterinarians play an important role in their own safety, the safety of their staff and clients, and the welfare of the dogs presented for care. However, while the risk of dog bites is high in veterinary practice, it is often dismissed as an expected aspect of the job. When implementing safety measures, these measures not only include the veterinarian and veterinary staff, but also the owner and other clients and patients in the clinic and its surrounding facilities, such as the parking lot.
Did you know there are 4.5 million dog bites reported every year in the United States? Even the nicest dogs can bite, making it particularly important for dog handlers to be aware of dog biting prevention techniques. Before learning these techniques, it’s important to first understand the motive behind their biting triggers.
Preventing injuries can only happen if the causes and contexts of biting are considered. By nature of clinical practice, we restrain, palpate, poke, and perform procedures that trigger fear and sometimes pain in our patients. Escape is impossible, so biting becomes a practical defense for some animals.
Biting triggers may include:
- Feels Frightened. Dogs that have been in a veterinary setting previously may have developed fear from the experience. Classical conditioning (think of Pavlov and his bell) often occurs; white coats, the smell of disinfectant, stethoscopes, and other innocuous stimuli become aversive or predict the possibility of an aversive event.
- Feeling Trapped. In many veterinary hospitals, the examination room is often a small space with only 1 access door. In addition, typically the dog and owner are the first to enter and wait. Defensiveness and anxiety can occur when the pet feels that there is no escape.
- Injured or Sick. Hip dysplasia, severe otitis, or any chronic injury can cause even the friendliest dog to bite.
- Bites by Accident. The dog may not have learned bite inhibition.
- Overly Excited. This likely stems from boredom or lack of stimulation. Redirect the dog’s high energy to keep it occupied and away from biting.
- Views You as Prey. This may occur when a person runs or screams while moving past the dog.
All dog bites can be prevented. With a better understanding of their behavior, you can employ techniques to reduce the likelihood of a dog biting you or someone else. Here are some prevention tips:
- Read Body Language. Pay attention to the dog’s body language for signs that it may be fearful, anxious, or ready to bite.
- Adjust Entry/Exit and Schedules. For dogs that may be potentially fearful or reactive, provide separate waiting and/or entry areas or schedule them for the first or last appointments of the day.
- Let the Dog Be Last. Allow the dog and owner to be the last individuals to enter the examination room.
- Postpone Greeting the Patient. Do not rush to greet the patient; instead, give the dog some time to decide about interacting and respect the dog’s space until the physical examination.
- Approach Sideways. Have the owner bring the dog to the center of the room and approach the dog from the side instead of the front.
- Feed Tidbits. Use food liberally throughout the visit to create a positive experience for the dog.
- Make Use of Muzzles. Use a basket-style muzzle on any dog with a history of biting.
- Write it All Down. Keep a medical record for each patient that includes a behavior score as well as specific information about the dog’s behavior.
- Protect the Client. Educate the client about safely medicating the dog at home or have the client board bring the dog to the clinic for medication administration.
- Keep Patients Happy. Make every effort to ensure that the dog’s visit to the clinic is as positive as possible; allow the pet to learn that visits include delicious food, consistent routine, and gentle handling.
Before a dog bite occurs in the workplace, make sure your business has insurance coverage specific to your unique risks. NIP Group provides a comprehensive PetPro insurance program and claims handling support that protects professionals who make a positive impact on the lives of animals every day.
To learn how PetPro insurance program can protect your animal care business from significant financial loss, visit us online at http://www.nipgroup.com/programs/petpro/.