The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way a lot of medical practices operate.
That means for animals, too.
Gov. Ralph Northam said last week veterinarians are now allowed to do a full array of services their patients require while performing best practices. But since the pandemic started, veterinarians have had to change their operations to promote social distancing and ensure the safety of clients and staff.
Jay Margolis, president of the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association, said while some practices have closed to only allow emergency services, many have switched to a curbside program.
That means a client will come to the parking lot with their pet, call the office to let them know and a staff member will come get the pet and bring them inside for service.
Margolis said clients have reacted in various ways to the service, with some enjoying the convenience and others who want to be in the medical room with their animal.
Tyler Carmack, a veterinarian with Hampton Roads Veterinary Hospice, said the new procedure isn’t limiting the level of care animals receive. If anything, she said it can make pets more relaxed because it’s so quick and they don’t have to sit in a waiting room with other animals that make them nervous.
Margolis and Carmack also said some practices are actually seeing an increase in the amount of patients coming in. This is because their owners are with them at home all day now, which allows them to become more aware of different health concerns.
“In [spending time at home], a lot of owners have become more attuned to what their pets are doing all day long,” Carmack said. “But now they are working from home and trying harder to do some of those extra care needs. So in some cases, we’re having families able to recognize issues sooner than they would’ve normally.”
In addition, Margolis said a lot of people have taken to adopting pets during this time which means they’re coming to veterinarians for early care needs.
But as the state starts to loosen restrictions, Carmack said she expects many practices to continue using social distancing protocols in the foreseeable future.
“I think the social distancing and those protective measures will probably last for a long while just to decrease the risk as everything starts to reopen,” she said. “But I think practices are expanding in ways they’ve been reluctant to.”
Both Margolis and Carmack said many practices have started using telemedicine to connect with clients in non-emergency situations. As a result, many clients have enjoyed the convenience and it helps keep themselves socially distant from others.
Carmack said practices are also receiving a lot more questions than usual regarding the health of their pets and especially with concerns about the coronavirus.
While there isn’t much information about animals and coronavirus, Margolis said there have been a small handful of confirmed cases in animals. Recently there have been a few cats, ferrets and one dog that have tested for the virus but these animals showed very minimal signs of respiratory issues.
Carmack said data has been continuously collected since the start of the pandemic to understand how animals interact with the virus. While there is no conclusive information, some of the data is showing that pets are not likely to transfer the virus to humans. Instead, they are more likely to contract from a person.
There is some evidence that animals can spread the virus to each other but that the risk appears to be relatively small, she said.
“But just to be on the safe side, if people are positive and sick, the quarantine recommendation that’s used for a family should include the pets,” Cormack said.
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