Study: Safety Measures to Minimize Injuries to Equine Vets Needed

Due to the high number of work-related serious injuries incurred by equine practitioners, Australian researchers are urging vets to identify and utilize improved safe handling practices.

"It is known that large animal veterinarians have a very high risk of work-related injury and that these injuries are a burden not only to the injured veterinarian, but the veterinary profession in general," explained study co-author Michael Lucas, MBBS, MOccHS from the Western Australian Institute for Medical Research (WAIMR) and the University of Western Australia.

Equine practitioners are almost nine times more likely to sustain a serious work-related injury than medical doctors. Here, the term "serious injury" refers to those involving hospitalization, or an inability to work for at least one day, or being unable to work at the usual level for five or more days.

"To determine specific risk factors associated with horse-related injuries sustained by veterinarians, a questionnaire was sent to 5,746 Australian veterinarians regarding the type, nature, and severity of their injuries," said Lucas.

Key findings included:

  • 453 horse-related injuries were reported by 384 veterinarians;
  • 74% of these injuries occurred in male veterinarians;
  • 273 (60.2%) of the injuries were sustained during medical, surgical, obstetric, or anesthetic procedures;
  • 75% of serious injuries were sustained despite the use of some form of safety precaution;
  • The most common site of injury included the lower extremities and the head and neck;
  • Common injuries included concussion, intracranial injury, fractures, open wounds, and lacerations, and;
  • No safety precautions were utilized in situations resulting in 23% of the 43 head injuries.

Lucas added, "While inadequate use of safety equipment and a high confidence level in experienced veterinarians has been suggested as possible reasons for the high injury rate in this population, it is also possible that the injuries are occurring simply due to the high exposure to horses."

Nonetheless, Lucas and colleagues advocate the proper use of safety and restraint techniques to help reduce the incidence of injuries among equine practitioners.

The study, "Injuries to Australian veterinarians working with horses," was published in the Feb. 14 edition of the journal The Veterinary Record. Co-authors were Lesley Day, MPH, PhD, and Lin Fritschi, MBBS, PhD.

About the Author

Stacey Oke, DVM, MSc

Stacey Oke, MSc, DVM, is a practicing veterinarian and freelance medical writer and editor. She is interested in both large and small animals, as well as complementary and alternative medicine. Since 2005, she's worked as a research consultant for nutritional supplement companies, assisted physicians and veterinarians in publishing research articles and textbooks, and written for a number of educational magazines and websites.

Stay on top of the most recent Horse Health news with FREE weekly newsletters from Learn More