DoveLewis Safety Manager Coby Richter answers some common questions about dog bite prevention. She discusses important precautions that all of our staff members take and how our policy regarding muzzling was developed.
What precautions have we taken at DoveLewis to help prevent dog bites?
Communication between team members is the foundation of our bite prevention strategy. Front desk staff are trained and encouraged to ask the right questions of clients to help identify dogs that may be a challenge before the patient even meets a triage technician. The front desk staff then pass that information on to the medical staff in verbal, visual (stickers on paperwork, clear signs on cages), and digital (pop up warnings in patient records). That expectation of hospital staff sharing information before a bite happens is a HUGE part of awareness and prevention.
Can you explain why we don’t ask owners to muzzle their own dogs when they come into DoveLewis?
This one is simple to answer; we had a client sustain a serious bite while muzzling their dog in the exam room. The owner brought their own dog muzzle and they were familiar with its use, but still it ended with an emergency trip for the owner to their doctor’s office. Our staff wasn’t even in the exam room when it happened, so we cannot say for certain what went wrong. Since that day we are now 100% compliant with not allowing owners to muzzle or help restrain the pet while in our hospital. We are happy to use a (functional) muzzle that a client brings with them to the visit, but we insist on being the ones to put it on the animal.
If a client questions this policy, we take the time to explain about how our goal is to prevent injury. We mean any injury, and that includes to the pet, the client and our staff. Our hospital staff is comfortable with animal restraint as well as reading animal behavior. We know what measures we can use and when to use them (or when not to). Owners may also be well educated and experienced, but then again, they might not. Our default is to count on our staff’s training and experience.
What prevention measure or measures do you think are the most effective at DL?
I think the use of a clear plastic (hard) Elizabethan collar is a great intermediate step for many dogs. While not providing quite the level of a true muzzle, keeping a good, well-fitting E collar on a dog that has been a bit ‘sketchy’ in his behavior can give hospital staff that critical barrier between teeth and arm.
That said, we don’t hesitate to use the classic blue muzzles. It still amazes me how so many dogs that are flat out naughty without a muzzle, lunging and snapping, will become absolutely perfect patients once the muzzle is on. To anthropomorphize, it’s as if they do all the naughty behavior just for show until you take away the obvious weapon (teeth).
Finally, every person who is involved in patient handling in our hospital (technician, assistant and doctors) understands that sometimes you are NOT the right person to interact with a given dog. For whatever reason, dogs sometimes decide that Technician Angelheart is out to get them. Being professional enough to step aside and let someone else work with a dog is a critical skill. As safety manager, I try to ensure that everyone working on the hospital floor knows that he/she can opt out of any animal handling situation if they feel it is not going well.