Job risks for veterinary technicians include bite and scratch injuries. These are the most common injuries reported in the field. I always laugh to myself when the dog is giving me the eye, and the owner says, "Don't worry, he won't bite!" Famous last words.
This post includes some tips to remember in trying to prevent this type of injury from occurring.
1) If this is a current patient, look back in the record to see if there has been any history of “CAUTION” type behavior. If an animal has a history of aggressive or fear type behavior, this should be notated on the front of the chart.
2) If there is a history of aggressive behavior, go slow in the exam room. If indicated, use a muzzle. For cats, sometimes a towel can be handy to wrap them up and help control them. If they are really aggressive, gloves may be needed to restrain them. Less is usually more, however, don’t take any chances. While we don’t want to over-stress our patients, we also don’t want to get bitten or scratched.
3) Do not let the owner restrain their own pet. If a pet scratches or bites their owner during examination, responsibility is placed on the hospital. Pet and client safety are always the number one priority.
4) Be careful with pets that are painful. Even if the pet has no history of biting, sometimes they will bite or react to painful stimulation. This is not because they are aggressive, but rather the pain makes them react adversely.
5) When you approach an animal, approach slowly and calmly. Talk in a soft voice and in a non-threatening manner. Approach from the side if possible and get a feel for how the animal is going to react toward you. Ask the owner if the pet is friendly. You cannot always trust the owner’s judgment, but most owners will let you know if the pet has a history of bad behavior. Either way, don’t let your guard down.
6) If an animal is being restrained and begins to fight back, do not let go until everyone is prepared. If multiple people are restraining, it can be dangerous if one person lets go unexpectedly.
7) Animals that are waking from anesthesia are unpredictable. They are in an altered state, and even a dog that would not normally bite may bite unexpectedly due to fear and disorientation from the anesthetic drugs.
8) If an animal is becoming too stressed and physical restraint is dangerous to the patient or staff, ask the doctor for chemical restraint. Again, the goal is to keep everyone, including the patient, safe and healthy. It's no fun for anyone involved when the dog is gator rolling on the floor and urinating and defecating all over the place. This scenario can increase risk of injury to workers and the pets.
9) Even though it is tempting, do not place your face in the face of a cat or dog to give them a kiss or a hug. Leaning down toward them can cause them to feel threatened, especially if they feel protective of their owner nearby.
If you receive a bite or scratch on the job, notify your supervisor immediately. Thoroughly scrub the wound with antibacterial soap or surgical scrub. Apply pressure if needed and bandage the area. Fill out an accident report and seek medical care.