On-Job Injuries Take Toll on British Vets

78 percent reported bites delivered by small or exotic animals and 90 percent had been scratched.

Scratches and bites are common injuries suffered by British small animal veterinarians.

Cioli/I-5 Studio

Cat and dog doctors are hurting, too.

The British Veterinary Association has found that patients sank their teeth or claws into the vast majority of exotic and small animal practitioners over the previous 12 months. The survey of hundreds of BVA members discovered that 78 percent had been bitten and 9 in 10 had been scratched.

An earlier report on large animal veterinarians revealed that 85 percent had been on the receiving end of a kick and that 6 percent suffered a kick-related head injury.

The message for both groups is to be careful and work closely with animal owners on safety matters.

“Vets accept the daily risk of injury at work, but these figures highlight just how common injuries are for vets who care for pets,” said BVA President John Blackwell, BVSc, MRCVS. “Rather than simply accepting this as an occupational hazard, veterinary teams should ensure they are taking all appropriate measures to mitigate the risks of working with animals whenever possible.”

The organization suggested that more dogs be muzzled when brought into an examination room—an idea that doesn’t sit well with some pet owners.

“People are sometimes reluctant to let us muzzle their dogs, even if we feel that we or the owners may be at risk,” one practitioner responded in the survey.

Dr. Blackwell noted that clinics can be “a strange and unsettling place for animals and even the most usually placid pet can become nervous.”

“If a vet is taking precautions, such as muzzling, it is to protect everyone and to ensure the animal in their care receives the very best treatment possible in a safe environment,” he added.

For cats, restraints may be appropriate, BVA stated.

The second Voice of the Veterinary Profession report, released Aug. 21, also found that:

  • Nearly 17 percent of exotic and small animal veterinarians suffered cuts more serious than a scratch.
  • 11 percent had been bruised by a kick.
  • 17 percent characterized their worst injury as “severe” or “quite severe.” One veterinarian reported “multiple deep-penetrating dog bites” that required an emergency room visit, X-rays and antibiotics.
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