Fur flying in surgeries as vet injuries revealed

A dog snarling
A dog snarling

THE extent of injuries suffered by Wigan’s vets while treating the borough’s furred and feathered friends has been revealed in a shocking survey.

Research conducted by the British Veterinary Association (BVA) showed 70 per cent of North West vets were injured at work in the last year.

Vet Steve Gilmore

Vet Steve Gilmore

More than 80 per cent of those questioned had been scratched and 61 per cent bitten, with 17 per cent of vets in the region described their recent injuries as severe.

Wigan vets who spoke about the survey’s findings said they had not suffered anything too serious in the past year but minor cuts and scrapes were a constant hazard of working with animals who are often stressed and frightened at the surgery.

Steve Gilmore, owner of Gilmore Veterinary Surgery in Standish, said: “Scratches from dog nails and cat nails are very common. There are four vets here and I would say we all get scratched about once every two weeks.

“I also treated a budgie fairly recently which was pecking away but it didn’t cause any real damage. We’ve been quite lucky to avoid serious injuries but we are always particularly cautious to avoid bites.

“It’s usually when animals are not happy being examined or you are trying to give them tablets. Some cats are angry from the moment you open the box and they are semi-feral while they’re in the surgery.

“Mostly they just want you to leave them alone rather than actually attacking you, and we just apply antiseptic, wipe down and carry on.”

Tony Buxton, senior veterinary surgeon at the practice at Leigh Dogs and Cats Home, said: “If you work with cats it’s unusual not to get scratched! Cat bites are a lot worse due to the high level of bacteria in their mouths which means the wound becomes infected easily. You’ll usually need to have a course of antibiotics after a bite from a cat.

“I was bitten once on the hand and although it didn’t seem too bad initially, you could almost see the infection moving up my hand and arm as the day went on.

“I went to A&E and got antibiotics but it still took about a week for the infection to clear up.

“I also got a nasty bite from a dog I was examining. The owner commented after the incident that the dog had already bitten other vets but they hadn’t thought to mention this to me or muzzle the dog.”

The BVA is now looking to reduce workplace injuries by promoting better dialogue between owners and vets when animals are in the surgery.

BVA president John Blackwell said: “Vets accept the daily risk of injury at work, but these figures highlight just how common injuries are for vets who care for pets.

“Rather than simply accepting this as an occupational hazard, veterinary teams should ensure they are taking all appropriate measures to mitigate the risks of working with animals whenever possible.

“We also ask pet owners to work with us. The surgery can be a strange and unsettling place for animals and even the most usually placid pet can become nervous.

“If a vet is taking precautions, such as muzzling, it is to protect everyone and to ensure the animal in their care receives the very best treatment possible in a safe environment.”