Understand this: Veterinary professionals have a unique “outside looking in” view on how your animal behaves while at the clinic. Often we can see exactly what is lacking in the dynamic between you and your dog, or read your cat in order to see when they’ve had enough of us.
Having said that, we use this knowledge to help us decide on the best possible course of action to keep you, your pet, and us, safe. Some dogs are fearful, some are dominant, some couldn’t care less. Then there are those dogs that do things in the most unexpected of ways. These are the dogs you don’t see coming, and the ones that veterinary professionals have to be on guard for at all times.
I commonly experience owners who become offended or even get angry when we need to restrain their animal. What people need to understand is that no matter what, everyone’s safety is more important than your belief that Fluffy is going to be mad at you. Many people say, “Oh, Fluffy would never bite” or “Fluffy doesn’t need a muzzle”. Here’s a tip – if we are suggesting it, then yes, Fluffy does need what we call a “party hat”. The picture below depicts a tech or vet holding a dog in what we call “lateral”. We hold the down leg to prevent the dog from getting up. He can breathe and he is not in pain, he is just laying on his side and is being stopped from getting up. Mean? No. Useful? Yes.
Maybe your pet wouldn’t normally be one to bite, but now we have taken them out of their normal environment with their familiar people and schedule, and brought them to a stress-filled place with other animals and people they don’t know. Believe it or not, this changes things for your pet. Their normal behaviour doesn’t apply. By putting them in an exam room, we’ve taken the flight option away from them, and that leaves fight. In some cases I have even watched owners who refused a muzzle get bitten by their animal and think it’s completely normal and OK. Please understand me when I say this – your animal biting someone is NOT OK. Our job is to keep your animal healthy, not to scar up our bodies even more than they already are.
Just over three years into practice and I already have countless scars that will likely never fade. Some are there because we were not given permission to muzzle an animal. As an owner, do you think it’s alright for another person to have wounds and scars just because you find it offensive to put a painless muzzle on your animal? If your answer is yes, I suspect you may be a sociopath and you need to seek help.
Another point that I must be clear on is aimed at small breed dogs. Chihuahuas, Yorkies, Daschunds, Shih Tzus, and other dogs of this type. Often owners don’t treat these guys like dogs, they more treat them like small children. This means that they don’t always have the same grasp on basic obedience or “manners”. This can also mean that we can have a very angry dog once we start to do things like examine ears and teeth or trim nails. Now this dog, who is not accustomed to doing things it doesn’t want to, is being told to stand still and allow us to do what we need to do. As you can probably guess, there is probably going to be some attempts to bite, tantrums, and some high-pitched squealing, making it sound like we’re torturing the dog.
Here’s a newsflash to all of the owners who would be offended by us restraining your little dog at this point – pipe down. We are not torturing your dog. Fluffy has this all figured out since, at home, if he lets out that shrill scream you probably let go and Fluffy gets away scot-free. Here at the clinic, we don’t fall for this trick and that makes Fluffy miffed. THAT is why he’s making those sounds, not because we are hurting him. Either teach your dog that nail trims and exams are not a bad thing at an early age, or accept the fact that we don’t want to get bitten so we’re going to throw a muzzle on your landshark. Savvy?
Cats are a whole different ball game. One must read the body language carefully to try to anticipate aggression. Sometimes cats give you fair warning, sometimes they must think it hilarious to keep you guessing. One strategy commonly used with cats is scruffing. This seems to quiet many cats, and is a way to restrain them without causing them physical discomfort. Many revert back to kitten behaviour and go very still. This is not meant to make the cat in any way uncomfortable, it is merely done to make sure we have control over the bitey end. Whether we need to give a pill, an injection, or just inspect an issue more closely, the scruff allows us to do so safely. Pet owners should realize this is a very useful tool and in no way means we’re being mean to fluffy.
This may be shocking to you as an owner, but the vast majority of people who work on your pets for a living actually love animals. We probably have some of our own. Believe me, the last thing we want to do is cause your beloved animal pain. In fact, the whole reason you brought him to us was probably to relieve it, no? We aren’t mean, we are just trying to help without getting hurt in the process ourselves. Cut us some slack.
If you aren’t sure how to properly prepare your pet for their future vet visits, please contact your veterinarian for information or tips on how to help make the process as smooth as possible. There are many things you can do, like visit the clinic just to give Fluffy a treat and meet everyone, without anything invasive being done. Helping them to associate your clinic visit with positive things like treats and affection can go a long way. Another thing you can do is handle your puppy from a young age. Lift the lips and earls, handle the paws, even trim little pieces off just so they get used to the sensation. These things will only take a few minutes out of your day, but can really go a long way to making veterinary visits much easier.
As always, feel free to shoot me a message with any questions or comments!