How to manage difficult animals

Written by: vet times jobs
Published on: 6 Sep 2016

Veterinary nurse cleaning dog's wound

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If you are studying to become a veterinary surgeon or nurse, it's extremely important that you learn to handle animals properly, so appropriate treatment can be given and stress to the animal is minimised.

Although some animals are used to visiting the vet, others are likely to be frightened and may react aggressively. You may also handle animals that are not used to human interaction or those that may have been treated badly.

Clinics can be chaotic places, increasing the sensation of anxiety and stimulus. Even the waiting process can create stress, as there are many strange odours in the clinic – and if animals have to wait for longer periods than usual, this can magnify the potential for behavioural issues, so it is important to handle pets sensibly and with confidence.


Understanding each pet is important, so you can ascertain the likelihood of aggressive behaviour occurring. Treat each animal with kindness and in a humane way, and take a little time to calm their nerves.

Avoid placing your face directly in front of a dog or a cat. Dogs, in particular, will not appreciate being approached from behind or being surrounded by a crowd.

Equally, it's best to remain standing so you're able to move quickly should any animal suddenly become aggressive.

Ask for help

If you have any doubts about an animal’s behaviour, always ask colleagues for help; your own safety is paramount.

Talk to the pet’s owner to ascertain if there are any specific behavioural problems and keep restraint to a minimum. This enables you to have control, but the animal will not feel threatened.

Animals can be unpredictable, so it’s important to take an intuitive approach if handling one for the first time. Talking in soothing tones and avoiding high-pitched verbal communications or direct eye contact will help.

Animals may react badly because they're fearful and do not recognise their environment, it's up to you to reassure them.

If you take all of these tips into consideration, you will be able to do your job, without risk of injury.