The dilemma: the bite



When a staff member receives a bite from a patient, this clinic evaluates its existing safety procedures and determines how to approach and prevent future similar incidents.

It is inevitable in the veterinary field: sooner or later, you risk being bitten. Lake Animal Hospital has always taken pride in putting the health and well-being of staff first. While the obvious concern over the past two years has been the pandemic, efforts to keep team members healthy also include diligent precautions instilled to avoid injury to staff when handling pets. When treating dozens of stressed and ailing animals, it is to be expected that some of these animals will go wild.

Recently, this is exactly what happened at Lake Animal Hospital. A 3-year-old German Shepherd named Prince, who had been seen several times without incident previously for routine checkups and vaccinations, now presented with a lameness in his left front paw. Veterinary technician Janet escorted Prince into the examination room and after taking the client’s history, the technician and client took the dog to the examination room lift table.

Janet then began taking Prince’s vital signs, and a turn of events quickly unfolded. As he was attempting to take his rectal temperature, the dog suddenly turned and bit the technician on the left forearm. The owner immediately checked the dog while the frightened technician left the examination room for medical assistance and clinic staff provided first aid and arranged for the injured technician to be transported to a medical center. local emergency.

The vet and another technician returned to the examination room and informed the owner of the affected animal of Technician Janet’s status. Prince, with the owner’s permission, was carefully muzzled and the tour was completed. It was now necessary for the practice to assess the existing safety procedures in place, what was wrong and how to prevent future incidents like this.

Lake Animal Hospital’s safety procedures clearly describe how to safely interact with concerned patients. They say pet owners should always be asked if their pet can become “nervous” when handled by strangers, and that it is standard procedure to note in the medical record if the animal has the condition. potential to be aggressive. Next, a behavioral assessment of the dog should be performed by the vet and technician once they enter the examination room. Staff members are always advised to err on the side of caution. Whenever there is an injury at the clinic, the injured staff member should be the priority, and then any injuries, however small, should be fully investigated to avoid future incidents and analyze if any safety rules have been violated.

In this case, it was determined that because the dog presented with a painful injury, a pre-examination restraint assessment should have been done. The dog’s initial behavior and the absence of historical indicators of aggression led to this assessment not being carried out. No blame was placed on technician Janet, and she was simply advised that such a situation is a warning, as a normally gentle dog can become a threat when in pain. As veterinary professionals, we know that injuries of this nature are never the dog’s fault. In addition to observing the precautions put in place by Lake Animal Hospital to minimize staff injury, it is important to never become complacent, as the reward of helping an animal in distress carries certain risks.

Dr. Rosenberg’s response

When you work with animals month after month and year after year, you feel very comfortable around them. You learn to judge very precisely the character of an animal. What you can’t predict is the unknown. Pain, loud noises, and rapid movements can quickly trigger aggressive behavior. No one is perfect, but if you follow the motto “Be Prepared”, the patient and caregiver will stay as safe as possible.


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