Dr. Dolittler

Dog owner dislikes vet muzzling her ‘baby’



Q. When I moved here a few years ago, I was surprised to find that the veterinarians muzzle my dog more frequently than my Chicago vets ever did. I can understand that they’re trying to be safe, but my dog is a big baby. Muzzling him only makes him feel more stressed.

You’re not alone in your disdain. Most pet owners don’t welcome the application of this ubiquitous veterinary safety device. They consider the muzzle an insult to their beloved pet, which I get. But the alternatives are problematic.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 4.7 million Americans are bitten by dogs every year. Of these, 800,000 seek medical attention –– 386,000 at the E.R. And while more than half of these are children, veterinarians and their staff are among the adults considered most at risk.

It’s almost a statistical certainty that veterinary professionals will be bitten badly at some point. Pain and infection are only two perils; each bite raises the specter of long-term disability and loss of income.

Then there’s the issue of psychological trauma. Most pet owners don’t understand how difficult it is to recover emotionally and psychologically after a significant bite.

But muzzles have other practical uses, too. They allow veterinarians to maneuver around patients with confidence, and being able to examine them carefully means we’re doing a better job.

As a veterinarian who has practiced in Pennsylvania and Florida and keeps up with her profession, I can attest that we are more risk-averse in South Florida than in other areas when it comes to employing the muzzle.

I do wish you’d cut your vet some slack on this one. Safety first, right?

Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice in South Miami and blogs at www.dolittler.com. Send questions to khulyp@bellsouth.net, or Dr. Dolittler, Tropical Life, The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, FL 33132.

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