There are some vets out there, my ‘mentor’ (I use that term loosely) included, who don’t really use muzzles very often. I think for some, it’s a guy thing- “I don’t need no stinkin’ muzzle! I am brawny and manly and I can dominate this beast!” And two seconds later they tell their technician to go hold the dog. They get bit a lot.
Some clients buy into this too. When a pet is looking scared, anxious, or outright aggressive, I don’t waste much time in suggesting a muzzle. Most clients are fine with it, but every now and again we get the person who says, “Do you have to? I really don’t want you to muzzle Precious.” I look at Precious, who is hunkered down in the corner with her hackles up and bared teeth, and tell the owner, “Yes.” The persistent ones respond, “But Dr So-and-so never did,” in an accusatory tone. Implying that if I knew how to properly restrain Precious, it wouldn’t be an issue.
Granted, proper restraint technique goes a long way- but only so far. The best restrainer in the world is not immune to a determined dog with a mouthful of teeth. I’ve seen Dr. So-and-so do the doggy rodeo trying to keep from getting injured, and I am certain it is NOT less stressful for Precious to be aggressively handled as opposed to having a small muzzle placed on her. It allows us to do our job more quickly, and more safely. If clients don’t care for it, that is OK. They can leave. Few do, however.
I promise it is not a statement on you or your pet. When I say, “I’m going to get a muzzle,” some people automatically add in “because you are a terrible dog parent and your Cujo mutt is a fleabag menace.” I swear I don’t feel this way. Dogs get nervous and scared and anxious at the vet- who can blame them? This is their natural response. It’s OK. Let me handle it the safest and most effective way I know how. I still like you both.
On occasion we have owners who ask (insist) that they be allowed to restrain their aggressive dogs. Some vets allow this. It is extremely rare for me to do so, and only if I know the pet and owner very well. The reason: Well, allow me to demonstate.
Hi Mister Jones! Good to see you again. What brings you here today?
Well Doc, my dog Betsy has been shaking her head. I think she has ear mites. Don’t worry, she’s really nice.
Hi there Betsy! Can I take a peek at those ears?
Oh, Betsy’s looking a little nervous there Mr. Jones. I’m going to go ahead and get a muzzle just so I can get a better look at those ears.
Oh no, she’s never bitten anyone. I’ll hold her. See? Go ahead. Shhh, Betsy. It’s OK. Go on, Doc.
Mr. Jones? (Not again!) SKIPPER!!!! Get in here NOW!!
I thought you knew what you were doing!! I hope you’ve got good insurance, lady! I’m calling my lawyer!
Muzzle? Sure, if you think it would help.
Here we go, Betsy. I’m sorry, girl, just a quick peek. Hmmm….looks like an ear infection. Mr. Jones, I’ll go ahead and get you an estimate to get this worked up and we’ll have Betsy feeling better soon.
Note which one took longer, by the by. Regardless, I live in California, where people get sued when a burglar slips and falls in their house while in the process of robbing them. Taking that kind of risk, not only to myself and the staff but to you, the client, is something I’m just not willing to do. Even if you are.
P.S. If you know you have an aggressive pet and you mention that to me *before* I do anything with your pet, I will love you forever.