Veterinary Care during the COVID-19 Pandemic

By Samantha Ramirez

COVID-19 continues to cast a shadow on daily life and work, including on the veterinary world and animal facilities.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, 84% of veterinary practices asked clients to wait in vehicles during treatment. This is referred to as curbside assistance where the veterinary staff meet the clients at their vehicle, then return later with the patient in hand. The veterinarian conducts their exam and returns to the client to explain any findings and personally ask for details and history on the patient. This is only one of the methods used to provide safe care. Other practices added contactless payment processing, visits allowed only by appointment, required the use of masks for employees, and instituted the need for social distancing.

Katherine Phoijai, a first-time pet owner, recounts her experience with these precautions. “I had to wait in my car, call to let them know why I was here and then they came out to pick my dog up”. She raised a concern that is brought to light with the new procedures. “I thought it was so convenient, but I also wanted to go with my dog to make sure he was being taken care of”.

Phoijai describes what her office visit was like. “They would call me when he was done, and I had to wear a mask if I was going inside to pick him up. At the ER, they put him in a kennel by the door and would call me when the veterinary technician left so I could go inside to grab him”.

Two dogs wait their turn for the veterinarian to examine them in the treatment area of Bulverde Animal Hospital.

The ASPCA released data showcasing that one in five households adopted a cat or dog since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, and 90% of those who adopted dogs along with 85% of those who adopted cats have no intent on rehoming their pet anytime soon. The increase in pet adoptions as well as the drastic shift of pet owners working from home, resulted in a surge of visits to the vet. A report by BluePearl, a specialty and emergency pet hospital that operates out of 28 facilities across the United States, said that they saw over 200,000 more pets than they did in 2019.

Because of that increased demand, the wait time for an appointment has shot up. Cassandra Ramirez, a young cat owner, shares her frustrations. “My cat just needed to be vaccinated for Rabies and the earliest they could get me in was in two weeks from when I called to set up my appointment,” says Ramirez. “I almost tried going to a completely new clinic, but decided not to. When I was finally able to go, it took a whole 40 minutes just to get one vaccine done”.

As veterinary clinic workers move forward with COVID-19 still looming, they will continue to face the challenge of giving the best type of care for the animals while maintaining a safe workplace for staff and clients.

  • Dog kennels with two dogs at a veterinary hospital.
  • Dog standing inside dog kennels
Link to source for graphics: AVMA. American Veterinary Medical Association.

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