How to Muzzle a Dog or Cat in the Veterinary Clinic | VETgirl Veterinary Continuing Education Videos

January 2024

In this VETgirl online veterinary continuing education video, Amy Johnson, BS, LVT, RLATG, CVJ, VETgirl’s Manager of Content Development and Michaela Witcher, MS, CVT review how to properly muzzle a dog or cat in the veterinary setting. This is an important technique that must be mastered by CSR/CSC, veterinary assistants, triage, veterinary technicians, and veterinarians to ensure patient and staff safety. Whether you have to place a muzzle on a dog or cat, this is a must-know procedure to keep everyone safe in the veterinary clinic!

*Remember, e-collars can be an option to protect staff along with the use of muzzles. Learn how to place e-collars in this video HERE.

It is important to remember that placing a muzzle is a temporary restraint method. Muzzles are not meant to be left on any animal long-term.

Dog Muzzling
Nylon Muzzles
Nylon muzzles come in a variety of sizes, so you will want to pick the right size for the dog you are working with. A couple of things to keep in mind:

• These muzzles don’t always work on dogs with short snouts (e.g., brachycephalic).
• Some dogs may be better with their owner placing the muzzle.
• With an aggressive or fearful animal, you may only have “one chance” to get this muzzle on them, so it is important to have the right size on the first try.
• If a dog is fearful or aggressive enough to require a muzzle to work with, it may be worth having the front desk staff/call center/veterinary team talk to the owners about giving a sedative at home before the appointment.

When placing a nylon muzzle, you typically want to approach from the back of the animal and have the smaller piece of fabric of the muzzle facing up. This will go over the top of the dog’s nose, while the larger part of the fabric will fit under the dog’s lower jaw. When asking owners to put it on, make sure the muzzle is not placed upside down. You want to loosen the straps before approaching the patient as it is easier to tighten the muzzle once it is on the dog rather than loosen it if it’s too tight. You will want to place the dog’s nose in the center of the muzzle and bring the muzzle back as far on the nose as you can while never letting go of either of the straps. Clasp the straps together behind the dog’s head and tighten them until you can only fit one finger between the straps and the dog’s head. Once you have it on, you want to ensure that the dog can breathe and pant appropriately. You want to ensure you have the right fit. If the muzzle is too loose, the dog could easily paw it off, or they will be able to bite and injure you, even with the muzzle on. Too tight of a muzzle can impede breathing/panting, pinch the skin causing discomfort, and elevate the stress level of the dog even more.

Basket Muzzle
Basket muzzles have the same considerations as the nylon muzzles and should be placed similarly. These muzzles are more comfortable, and allow the dog to open their mouth, helping them to feel less restricted while wearing one. With a basket muzzle, you are protected, while the dog can pant, drink, and potentially eat with the muzzle on. NOTE: Some basket muzzles can be left on longer than nylon muzzles as they allow a dog to pant and breathe more readily.

Feline Muzzling
Feline restraint devices are often underused in our veterinary facilities. Keep in mind that if we are able to prevent the patient from having access to biting us, that often will allow us to feel secure enough to lighten up on our physical restraint techniques which is better for the cat.

Nylon muzzles
To place a nylon muzzle on our feline patient, we need to gently slip the muzzle over their nose and mouth from the back of the cat, being careful to guarantee that the seam of the muzzle is under the chin. The muzzle can be secured with the Velcro straps behind the ears. Verify proper placement by confirming that no piece of the muzzle is occluding the nares of the patient or stuck on the bottom jaw. Note that this device in cats is designed to limit the visual field of the patient.

Hard muzzles
Hard plastic feline muzzles are safer to use than the nylon muzzle due to the fact that there is very little possibility of wrong placement or having any of the muzzle material occlude the patient’s airway. To apply this muzzle, gently place the muzzle over the patient’s face, making sure the muzzle ties rest on the back of the patient’s head between the ears, while making sure that they are not stuck on the bottom jaw. Slip the loops of the ties over each ear, and gently pull on the strings to tighten the muzzle onto the patient’s head. Once secured, tie the strings into a standard bow tie. You should again look down the front of the muzzle to confirm that there is no material occluding the patient’s airway. This device is also designed to limit the visual field of the patient.

Plastic Air Muzzle
The plastic air muzzle is designed to create a safe space for our patients’ heads to be in while allowing them to have access to plenty of air and oxygen. To use one of these muzzles, release the Velcro straps on the sides and gently place the device over the patient’s head. Once the head is inside, secure the Velcro along the sides to hold the device in place. You will notice that unlike the nylon muzzle or the hard plastic muzzle, this device allows the feline patient to see the room.

When in doubt, veterinary professionals must feel comfortable placing muzzles onto dogs and cats to keep all safe. When placed quickly and safely, these restraint devices can be helpful to assist in every day procedures.

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