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Preventing Dog Bites

by Lori Hehn - May 22, 2013 at 12:19 PM
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Since this is National Dog Bite Prevention week, it is a good time to remind ourselves to be careful in the workplace and take the precautions needed to prevent injury from dog bites. It is also a good time to educate your children, family, and friends about how to avoid dog bite injury. More than 4.7 million people each year are bitten by dogs, and up to 1 million individuals seek medical treatment for dog bites.


This is a veterinarian friend of mine that received a dog bite to the face just last week. A Great Dane/Lab mix was on the radiology table and reached around and bit him on the face. It happened in the blink of an eye, and even though this dog has NEVER been aggressive or questionable in the past visits (she has been going to that clinic for years), something triggered her to react. It is a good reminder that any time you are taking x-rays, especially if the dog is painful, just put a muzzle on the dog. It often makes them more likely to hold still and prevents injury to others.

This video on dog bite prevention includes some good reminders.

In the veterinary profession, we must go a step further because we are working on a daily basis with a wide variety of animals and personalities, including injured, sick, and scared animals.

  • Remember that ANY dog can bite.
  • Approach each patient slowly and calmly and speak in a calm, quiet, and friendly voice.
  • Don't corner a dog in the exam room; have the owner bring the dog out and away from the corner or wall so you are not moving toward them but can approach from the side.
  • NEVER allow an owner to restrain their own dog; this puts both you and the owner both at risk for dog bite. Many pets are protective of their owners and if they are holding their own pet, the pet may perceive that you are a threat.
  • If you are concerned about the pet's behavior and the dog is giving signs that he is scared or aggressive, place a muzzle on the dog for the exam.
  • As a technician, if you are concerned that you cannot properly restrain an animal, make sure to inform the veterinarian of your concerns. Sometimes there are pets that need chemical restraint (sedation) for examination.
  • As tempting as it is to give those puppy kisses, avoid putting your face in an animal's face. If the veterinarian is performing a task close to the dog's face (such as an ophthalmic or otoscopic exam), make sure you have a good hold on the dog's head. If you ever have concern that you cannot appropriately restrain the dog or if you sense that the dog is starting to resist, place a muzzle.
  • If you are ever attacked by a dog or if a stray dog is approaching you, it is best to be perfectly still and "be a tree" or "be a rock". Curl your hands into a fist to prevent your fingers from being bitten. If you have time, curl into a ball on the ground to protect your face and neck. A dog is less likely to attack if you are not perceived as a threat. Never try to run or fight back; dogs are much faster than we are.
  • For more information on dog bite prevention and resources, visit the AVMA website at:

About Lori Hehn

Lori Hehn is a practicing veterinarian and a contributor and content manager with XPrep Learning Solutions. She has a drive for continual learning and enjoys interacting with veterinary and vet tech students. She also writes veterinary learning books for children.

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