Are Veterinary Occupations Dangerous?

Veterinarians are treating a cat

There are several types of injuries that veterinary technicians may suffer while on the job, either as a result of negligence or exposure to aggressive animals. To maintain personal safety in a veterinary office, employees should keep the following workplace hazards in mind.

Injuries from Animals

It’s not always easy to anticipate how animals will behave in a veterinary office. Pets are often stressed and anxious as they encounter vets and an unfamiliar environment. As a result, animals may display aggressive behavior and, in some cases, bite, scratch, trample, or kick during their visit.

Animal attacks can vary depending on the size and overall temperament of the pet. Smaller animals tend to cause less harm than larger animals when inadvertently provoked, and some animals have a calmer disposition compared to others.

Chemical Exposure

Other work-related injuries that veterinary technicians can sustain are chemically-induced burns or poisoning. Certain chemicals that technicians may be exposed to include:

  • Disinfectants
  • Anesthetics
  • Insecticides
  • Surgical smoke
  • Hazardous drugs
  • Agricultural dust

Injuries resulting from chemicals can vary depending on the type of chemical and the overall length of exposure. In some cases, illnesses may develop after repeated periods of exposure to hazardous materials over time. 

Diseases

Similar to other medical facilities, people working in veterinary offices are often exposed to certain pathogens that can cause disease. Diseases such as rabies, cat scratch fever, salmonellosis, cat bite abscesses, and Clostridium difficile are zoonotic diseases that can result from bites and other injuries, or general exposure. In some cases, diseases may arise from technicians accidentally sticking themselves with infected needles or instruments.

X-Rays

Accidental exposure to harmful X-rays can cause burns to the skin and eyes. Radiation can also increase a person’s risk of genetic defects and cancer, particularly with repeated exposure. When working with X-rays, technicians should take the proper steps to prevent exposure for themselves and others.

Injuries from Improper Posture

Another hazard faced by veterinary employees deals with ergonomics. In many veterinary offices staff often stand or bend over for long periods of time, which can cause injury. Some complications veterinarians may experience include ruptured discs, improper alignment of the spine, muscle spasms, and other musculoskeletal issues.