Improper Cat Handling Leads to Painful Recovery

Loss Amount: $98,000

Situation: A veterinary assistant was cleaning cages in an animal hospital. When he lifted a cat to remove it from its enclosure it attacked and bit him on the hand. The bite was deep but the employee initially treated it with a local antibiotic ointment. Two days later he sought further medical attention at a local clinic where he was prescribed antibiotics. Then, when it was clear the wound was getting infected, he was admitted to the hospital.

It was just a week after the incident but the bite wound had developed into one of the most serious bacterial infections the treating physician had seen. The employee spent the next month in the hospital where he received IV fluids and aggressive antibiotic therapy. Multiple surgeries were required, involving the grafting of skin from another part of his body to replace tissue that had to be removed from the wound.

After the initial recovery from the operations the employee was discharged, first to a rehabilitation care facility and then a skilled nursing facility. It was important that assistance be provided to replace the surgical dressings and to monitor for another infection. When the open wounds (due to the earlier grafting surgeries) had healed the employee underwent several additional weeks of physical therapy to help regain use of his hand. He was ultimately released to full duties but did not return to his job at the veterinary hospital.

Lesson Learned: Cleaning cages and runs is a necessary exercise in all animal treatment and boarding facilities but can be very hazardous if not conducted properly. To minimize the hazards involved in this exercise:

  • Understand animal behavior. Entering an animal’s area naturally increases their anxiety. Train staff to recognize the warning stages of aggression and what to do in these situations.
  • Train staff on the proper use of restraint tools and their applications. For cats, these tools include towels or blankets, netted or squeeze cages, snares and other devices.
  • Always seek immediate medical attention when a workplace injury involves animal bites and scratches. All workplace injuries need to be reported to your supervisor – follow your hospital policy.
  • Immediately report the injury to your supervisor and your insurance company as this is a worker’s compensation claim.

For further assistance in preventing all types of losses, call VISC at 888.762.3143.