Dog bite prevention: Muzzling, teaching and talking it out

April 1, 2019

National Dog Bite Prevention Week is coming up, and that means its time to think about your role in veterinary practice in keeping you and your team safe from frightened, biting dogs. Plus, resources to educate clients about preventing dog bites in the wider world.

For some veterinarians, muzzling isn't a last-resort, but a first step with canine patients. (milanmarkovic78/ Dog Bite Prevention Week is April 8 to 12 in 2019, and it's a chance to talk to pet owners and your fellow team members about why bites happen in the clinic and in the wider world. What can you do to help?

Know your role

Every single team member, from the front door to the back door, has a hand in preventing dog bites in the veterinary hospital. It might be good to remind yourself what yours is and share this article with everyone to talk about whether your protocols allow for enough safety on everyone's part.

Muzzle patients?

So, a “muzzle every dog, every time” rule that Kevin Fitzgerald, DVM, DABVP, told us back in 2011 that he uses might be too extreme for you. You can read here how he talks to clients and colleagues about it. Could the prevention of dog bites and the decrease in team member stress balance out against clients' possible perception that you're not lovey-dovey enough with their fur baby? You decide.

Teach clients

Avoiding dog bites in the veterinary hospital is only a small part of preventing dog bites. Most of them will happen in homes, in a backyard, on a dog walk or at a park. And that means your biggest work preventing dog bites is client education. Consider taking basics tips and thoughtful advice like the tips here out into social media or peppering them into conversations in April (and beyond). If you want to go deeper with the learning, offer clients this handout that explains why dogs bite and what to watch out for.

Talk about it

When you spend your workdays around scared, painful animals with sharp teeth and claws, you are bound to get hurt. You are never 100 percent safe, and you can't prevent all injuries. It's good to remember that. Read about some of your colleagues' experiences and remember you're not alone if you've had a particularly frightening or painful injury.