Smart and Safe: Why Your Vet Wants to Muzzle Your Dog

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So, you hate the idea of taking your dog to the vet only to have him muzzled before the vet will even consent to see him. To many dog owners, the idea of muzzling their "furry baby" seems so unfair. After all,  the dog has never bitten anyone at home and never shows any real signs of aggression, right? This might be the case when your dog is in a familiar environment, but his behavior can change dramatically, and without warning, once you take him into the vet's office.

Most Vets Don't Like Being Bitten

What you will find is that most vets like getting bitten almost as much as you hate the idea of your dog being muzzled. But, in reality, you have to look at it from the vet's point of view. Try asking your vet how many times he has been bitten by a dog that wasn't muzzled. You might be surprised at the answer. Your vet is used to dealing with a huge variety of dogs and other animals; he is an expert at reading your dog's facial expressions and body language.

Almost all dogs (approximately 90%) will let you know they are getting agitated and might pose a bite risk. Your vet is good at picking up these signs and will recommend your dog be muzzled long before he starts his "warning" growl or attempts to bite the vet. In most cases, the vet is going to ask for your permission before using a muzzle.

Good Reasons to Muzzle Your Dog at the Vet's Office

One thing to keep in mind is that while you might think the muzzle would only serve to make your dog more agitated, the reality is that most dogs will actually calm down once they are muzzled. When your dog is calm and muzzled, it allows the vet to get on with his examination or treatment far more quickly--reducing the amount of time your dog has to be in the exam room and in the muzzle.  

Here are three good reasons why your vet prefers to muzzle your dog.

  • A muzzle eliminates the risk of your vet suffering physical injury due to a bite that could leave them unable to work while they are recovering.

  • Any dog bite could be the one that lands your vet in the hospital facing surgery, long-term treatment, and loss of income.

  • Despite the fact your vet works with dogs and other animals all day long, a serious bite can have a severe psychological impact that can make it hard for the vet to return to work for fear of being bitten again.

It Is Really Up to Your Vet

While you may not want the vet to muzzle your dog, in the end, it is up to him. He will use his experience and training to judge your dog's body language and behavior. He uses what he sees and what he knows to decide whether or not to use a muzzle. Remember, just because your dog is very well behaved at home, this does not mean he will do so at the vet's office. Rather than fight with the vet over muzzling, which is only likely to further agitate your dog, work with the vet to safely muzzle your dog.

Using a muzzle creates a quieter, more relaxed, and much safer environment for your dog, your vet, and yourself. Most vets are sensitive to your reluctance to his using a muzzle, but you have to put yourself in his shoes.

The Most Common Alternative

If you simply refuse to have your dog muzzled so the vet can do his job quickly and efficiently, there is one other alternative your vet might suggest. This is to anesthetize your dog so that he will sleep through the entire process. Depending on what your dog is going to the vet for, this may or may not work. Be sure to talk to your vet about your options regarding muzzling before you visit to make sure you are comfortable with their policies regarding the use of a muzzle.

Be Understanding and Be Safe

While there is nothing wrong with preferring not to have your dog muzzled when visiting his vet, doing so can pose a danger to you, your vet, his vet tech, and potentially any other animal that is not in a cage in the office. No vet wants to muzzle a dog against the owner's will, but you may find that if you don't agree your vet will not treat your dog.

In fact, many vets require all dogs to be muzzled as a form of insurance against being bitten. Your dog probably won’t mind it, and even if he does, he will get over it very shortly after the muzzle has been removed.  Be smart, protect your dog, your vet, and everyone else by allowing the vet to use a muzzle on your dog.

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