A big part of safely managing an aggressive pet is knowing when it will bite. During a presentation as part of the CVC in Kansas City, Saturday, Aug. 25, Wayne Hunthausen, DVM, laid out several considerations and situations in which missteps can be hazardous:
- First and foremost, identify the specific behavior patterns and triggers for aggression.
- Determine whether the pet's behavior in these situations is consistent. For example, if touching the pet's head causes it to bite but not necessarily all of the time, danger may increase because people tend to let their guards down when a pet is not consistently aggressive.
- Understand that supposedly benign stimulation may cause the pet to be aggressive. Most people realize that a strong stimulus, such as kicking a dog, will likely cause aggression. On the other hand, many would not expect to be bitten if they calmly bend down, eye-to-eye to a dog and pat it on the head.
- Investigate whether the pet gives advanced warning. The absence of warning signals increases the risk of injury. And keep in mind the latency period between the beginning of the warning and the attack. It doesn't help the victim if the pet gives a warning but attacks a millisecond after the warning begins.
Dr. Hunthausen says that in situations in which the triggers for uninhibited, injurious bite behavior are completely unknown, it must be assumed that the pet could be aggressive at any time. Thus, no contact with people can be permitted.