Evaluation of risk factors for bite wounds inflicted on caregivers by dogs and cats in a veterinary teaching hospital

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  • 1 Section of Critical Care, Department of Clinical Studies-Philadelphia, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19101.
  • | 2 Section of Epidemiology and Public Health, Department of Clinical Studies-New Bolton Center, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Kennett Square, PA 19348.


Objective—To identify factors associated with increased risk of being bitten by a dog or cat in a veterinary teaching hospital.

Design—Unmatched case-control study.

Study population—207 animal caregivers.

Procedure—Case subjects (n = 75) were any caregiver that reported being bitten by a dog or cat. Control subjects (n = 132) were randomly selected from a list of all caregivers interacting with dogs or cats. Information on the characteristics of the caregivers, characteristics of the dogs and cats, and the nature of the interaction between the dog or cat and the caregiver was obtained by use of self-administered questionnaires.

Results—Caregivers were more likely to be bitten by dogs or cats that had warning signs on their cages indicating the potential to bite or that were considered difficult to handle. Caregivers interacting with cats or with older dogs and cats were more likely to be bitten. Only 37 to 55% of dogs and cats that had characteristics traditionally associated with biting or were considered likely to bite were muzzled.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Muzzling dogs and cats should be considered more frequently. Dogs and cats considered to have the propensity to bite frequently do bite, and precautions, such as muzzling, should be taken if the medical condition or conformation of the dog or cat is amenable to this type of restraint. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2003;223:312–316)