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Aggressive Animal Safety

Clinton Cotten, DVM

■ Animals usually give preliminary warning postures prior to an actual bite; all warnings should be heeded and all interaction with the animal discontinued.

Dog aggression warnings: body tensing/stiffening, intense stare, pupils dilated, growling, snarling (lifts their lip/shows teeth), lunging, snapping.

Cat aggression warnings:  tail rapidly flicking, ears pinned back, pupils dilated, hiss, growl, swat.

■ Interaction with the animal should only be resumed when the animal is no longer aggressively aroused, which may be difficult to determine, so use caution.

The aggressively aroused pet should be segregated in a secure location with necessary resources and minimal stimulation until the pet is calm again. Periodic visits to the area may allow the owner to assess the animal’s reactivity and ability to rejoin the household.

For cats, there may be a prolonged recovery period; it can take hours or days for them to return to a calm state.

■ To decrease aggressive episodes, avoid all known situations that trigger aggression.

If your pet exhibits warning signals or actually bites when you physically interact with them, then this interaction must be avoided. This may include petting, hugging, pushing, stepping over, grabbing by the collar, picking them up, wiping feet, cleaning ears, etc.

If your pet exhibits warning signals or bites when you approach his/her food or when in possession of a toy, chew bone, or stolen item, this interaction must be avoided.

If your animal is aggressive around human food, they should not be in the room while food is being prepared and consumed. Children must not walk around the home eating food if the animal is in the house.

■ If your pet is aggressive around their pet food then one should:

Prepare the pet’s food when the pet is outside or contained in another area of the house. Place the prepared food in a room that can be closed/locked. Let the pet into the room with the food. Close and lock the door, allowing the pet to eat without any contact. Once the food is consumed, put the pet outside or contain in another area of the house. Once the pet is away from the food room, the human can retrieve the food bowl and put it away.

■ If your pet is aggressive toward children, they must never be left alone together. An adult must closely supervise all interactions. If close supervision is not possible, the pet needs to be confined away from the children. Muzzles may be appropriate in some situations.

All animals have the potential to bite, but those with known aggression issues require special interaction protocols and constant vigilance. Without it, someone will get hurt.