How to Avoid Animal Bites and Scratches at Your Veterinary Practice

It is often said that, “safety doesn’t happen by accident.” How many times have you been a part of or witnessed a workplace accident? Probably more than you’d care to admit. Even with the shifting landscape, our veterinary hospitals will never be without people, and where there’s people, there will always be accidents. 

Veterinary hospitals are eventful places filled with unexpected emergencies and distractions. Training employees on warning signs in animals and using appropriate restraint techniques can make the veterinary hospital a much safer place.

Utilizing low-stress handling and minimizing patient fear are essential tactics to keeping the team and clients safe. Proper training of handling and restraint techniques is critical to keep staff safe. When appropriate handling and restraint is not learned and applied, the risk of injury to staff and patient increases greatly. Assorted options of restraint include a physical one (muzzles, towels, cat bags or e-collar), chemical (sedatives or tranquilizers) and behavioral (distractions with treats). Clients should never be allowed to restrain their own pets.

Other important steps you can take to help prevent bites and scratches include: 

  1. Understanding Animal Behavior:

    • Educate staff on recognizing signs of stress, fear, or aggression in animals.
    • Be cautious when handling unfamiliar or anxious animals, and use extra care and patience.
  2. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE):

    • Wear suitable PPE such as gloves, goggles, and aprons when handling animals, especially during procedures that might provoke stress or discomfort.
  3. Communication and Warning Signs:

    • Implement clear signage indicating if an animal is known to be aggressive or anxious.
    • Encourage effective communication among staff regarding an animal's behavior or previous history.
  4. Avoiding Provocation:

    • Minimize sudden movements or loud noises that might startle animals.
    • Respect an animal's boundaries and avoid actions that may provoke fear or aggression.
  5. Team Approach:

    • Encourage a team approach when handling difficult or aggressive animals.
    • Have multiple team members available to assist when dealing with potentially challenging situations.
  6. Training and Awareness:

    • Conduct regular training sessions on animal behavior and safe handling techniques.
    • Foster awareness among employees to be cautious and alert while working with animals.

 If you or a colleague do get bitten or scratched, incident reporting must be conducted to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future. Prevention is the goal!