How Veterinarians Handle Aggression in Pets

It may seem like relaxation is exactly the wrong approach to these events. In many ways it seems completely counter to No. 1. But, believe it or not, you can remain on your guard and exude tranquility with no trace of recklessness or stress whatsoever. The key — for me — is to breathe deeply before entering any exam room or initiating any human-animal interaction. (And do a lot of yoga.)

3. Be precautious.

Yes, that’s a word. It means we should take all kinds of traditional precautions, including using notes in the records to identify and describe aggressive or anxious pets, employing well-trained assistants and muzzles, and applying chemical restraint whenever absolutely necessary (and it’s often the best approach for everyone involved, especially the patient).

We should also employ less traditional means of relaxing our patients. Adopting low-stress handling techniques and making our hospitals more hospitable to our patients is a great place to start, but recommending training and at-home relaxation techniques (among other nonchemical alternatives) is important too.

4. Be willing to listen.

Paying attention to what the actual pet owner has to say is a big part of the safety process. But trusting in what the trained professionals (like veterinary technicians) who work for us have to say is sometimes even more important. In other words, “Doc, you gotta watch this one” is a warning that should never go unheeded.

5. Be legal.

Safety-based laws and regulations may seem onerous to us, but they’re there for a reason. Scofflaws flout them at the expense of their own skin — literally.

Despite these many fine paths to safety, it can be a rough-and-tumble career nonetheless.

But me? Frankly, I’m more scared of injuring my back picking up a pet or standing for hours on end in surgery than I am about getting clawed or bitten. But perhaps that’s as much a function of my age as it is of being mindful of the above five steps — along with the wisdom that inevitably comes from more years in practice than I care to confess to.

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