A prospective cross-sectional survey of UK-based dog owners to explore canine handling intolerances and owner willingness to disclose these to veterinary professionals
Canine handling intolerances (CHI) can be problematic for veterinary professionals (VPs), particularly when not disclosed by owners.
This study explored apparent prevalence of CHI during veterinary practice visits, owner willingness to disclose intolerances to VPs and their beliefs as to responsibilities for disclosure and risks of non-disclosure.
Using a prospective cross-sectional study design, an online, social media-based survey was distributed, which generated 471 usable responses over 4 months.
The majority (60.7%) of dogs had CHI. Most owners (78.1%) would definitely alert VPs to CHI, 90.5% believed it was primarily the owners’ responsibility to disclose, with non-disclosure perceived to make procedures high risk for VPs. Veterinary practices could help prevent CHI, with puppy classes and information on canine body language which respondents also felt could be valuable.
With CHI common, owners and VPs have roles to play in prevention, disclosure and management to minimise risk to VPs and ensure all parties’ welfare.
Even when physically healthy and pain free, dogs may have aversions to being handled in particular ways (Oxley et al, 2018) and to certain individuals (Csoltova et al, 2017), this aversion may manifest itself in fearful or aggressive behaviour (Oxley et al, 2018). Canine handling intolerances can make handling dogs within a veterinary practice environment more problematic and pose a risk for veterinary staff and owner health and safety (Dhillon et al, 2019). In particular, being bitten can cause life-changing physical and psychological injury (Dhillon et al, 2019). However, canines that are problematic to handle may also reduce job satisfaction in veterinary professionals (Roshier and McBride, 2012), or be a source of embarrassment to owners (Roshier and McBride, 2013), with the canine stress associated with it resulting in reduced owner willingness to visit the veterinary practice (Lloyd, 2017). Combined, these factors may result in lower levels of veterinary care being provided to handling intolerant dogs. Clearly, prevention of handling intolerances is an admirable goal (Ryan, 2017). However, it also seems likely that complete eradication of handling intolerances among the pet dog population is unachievable. Therefore, the veterinary professional will continue to meet dogs that have handling intolerances and be exposed to the risk that is involved in this when meeting the requirement to put patient welfare at the centre of their veterinary endeavour.