It’s not infrequent that we see animals that are aggressive (be it fear aggression, overprotectiveness towards owners, possessiveness, owner directed aggression, dog on dog aggression, food aggression, etc).
I’ve deliberately chosen to use the word ‘aggressive’ because this particular word has sparked rage, discontent and defensive behaviors from clients.
I have had my fair share of scratches and bite wounds over the years. My left forearm bears the forever memory of a feral cat that sunk its entire dentition into my muscles. That cat got extremely close to the bone and damaged some of my nerves. I cried that day as it was incredibly painful and traumatic. Due to the work load I was unable to seek medical attention immediately. In fact, I was only able to visit the ER late that night at ~10pm (a good 11-12 hours post incident) and only left the hospital that night at 4am. By that stage my arm and wrist had ballooned into double its size. I was off work for an extended period and had to see the specialist (yes a real specialist) as my fingers were numb.
Did the clients who presented with the cat apologise? NOPE.
Did the clients who presented with their Golden retriever (of which I asked if he was aggressive- they said no and the dog subsequently lunged for my neck and jugular) apologise? Nope. Their response- “oh yah, he does that sometimes”.
When I firmly told them that they should have informed me/us at the start of the consult, their response – “but this is your job”.
We vets and veterinary staff are trained to assess the body language and evaluate our patient’s demeanor. We often ask at the start of the consult if Fluffy is friendly or if she will bite as your animal may already be showing signs of hostility. Being made aware of your pet’s normal behavior at the vets, propensity to turn/ snap will in fact help determine how we should approach and handle your animal.
Why does it take so much for an owner to admit to the vets (or perhaps to themselves) that their animal could potentially be belligerent? Why does the idea of having a temporary muzzle placed on your animal put you off?
Muzzles don’t hurt. We aren’t here to judge. (On the contrary, we have the utmost respect for clients who forewarn us) We are just trying to provide the best veterinary care to your animals and at the same time protect ourselves and our staff from getting harmed.
At times, sedation may be required to achieve compliance in an animal (for example wound cleaning, removal of grass seeds from ears, fish hook removal, etc). This not only enables us to perform our duties more effectively and efficiently, it also reduces the stress the animal experiences (ie. shorter vet visit, not needing to wrestle with the animal… )
I absolutely understand that your pet may be the sweetest companion in the confines of your home. That in YOUR eyes, they do not fall into the category of being aggressive. But if they have displayed signs of aggression towards anyone or any other animal, or even towards inanimate objects- then the truth is that there MAY be a slight inclination towards aggression and it would be advisable to mention this to your vet.
This does not mean we are going to use brut force or be rough with Fluffy. And this does not ultimately change the value of how special Fluffy is to you.