Q: Our Dachshund, Paco, bit our veterinarian the last time he was at his office. Unfortunately, it was a bad bite and our veterinarian still hasn’t been back to work! We’re not the kind of people who are in denial of our dog’s problems. We know he’s aggressive with strangers and so does our veterinarian, but we’re still embarrassed. What should we do?
A: Bites will happen. Even bad bites. Especially to veterinary professionals. Here’s my take on your dilemma:
Being a small animal veterinarian may seem like a fairly cushy proposition compared to working with horses, wild monkeys or tigers like other vets do. But that’s not always the case. Working with larger volumes of smaller patients means more opportunities to get scratched, bitten or even mauled. Some veterinarians have even been killed by their canine patients. (This is rare, of course.)
Most veterinarians know to expect at least a few minor incidents. A few deep claw marks, one uncomplicated puncture, and a couple of wayward fangs –– no more –– are pretty much what I expect from this profession on an annual basis. In fact, my profession is undeniably harder on my back and my knees than it is on my skin.
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In any case, most of us consider ourselves lucky to do what we do, despite the close calls, occasional mishaps and rare hospital visits (I’ve had four in my entire career so far –– two cat bites, one Doberman mauling, and a Rottweiler-broken nose).
As much pain as we might feel during these incidents, we recognize that the pet owners attached to these patients typically experience an equivalent degree of mortification. Many of us have found ourselves consoling anxious owners even as we bleed.
In an animal hospital setting, pets will act out. Not all of them, of course, but enough percentage to make any aggressive behavior directed at the veterinarian or staff members an expected part of almost every human-animal interaction that occurs there. And since most aggressive behavior in vet settings is fear-based, it’s even easier to forgive.
So what should you do? While I’m no etiquette advice diva, I’ll go out on a limb here and recommend that you send a nice little note expressing your true feelings and wishing him a speedy recovery. Simple human kindness is all anyone should reasonably expect from you in this situation.
Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice at Sunset Animal Clinic in South Miami. Her website is drpattykhuly.com.
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