Vet clinics and COVID-19: How are they affected?

Vet clinics and COVID-19 (Photo by Juan Naharro Gimenez/Getty Images)
Vet clinics and COVID-19 (Photo by Juan Naharro Gimenez/Getty Images) /

Vet clinics and COVID-19 – how are they affected by this crisis? We checked in at several clinics across the country to find out.

Vet clinics and COVID-19 – how are they affected by the coronavirus pandemic? Dog O’Day checked around with several clinics around the country to find out what’s been different about veterinary medicine in the past few months.

“My clinic has made a drastic change to how we conduct care for our patients,” veterinarian Dr. Peter Kross of the New York City-based Rivergate Veterinary Clinic explained. Dr. Kross is also a spokesperson for the community wellness website Hive80, which features a large section devoted to pet care.

“In order to protect ourselves, our clients and their pets we are conducting curbside service. That means pet owners call from the street at their assigned appointment time and a staff member collects the patient. The veterinarian then calls the pet parent during the exam and then the pet is delivered curbside again with instructions and medicine if indicated.”

Out west in San Diego, our friend Ovie the Bulldog has also been using curbside service for his ongoing cancer treatment.

Other precautions Rivergate has taken include disinfecting surfaces every half hour and making sure employees are wearing masks and gloves at all times. They are making sure only one employee at a time eats lunch in the staff lounge to ensure social distancing as well – though this has proven more difficult than expected, as they are short-staffed due to health reasons because of the coronavirus, and then a coworker’s birthday celebration was dampened by the realization that candles couldn’t be used on the cake.

“So all in all, it is challenging,” Dr. Kross summed up. But “from the pet owners’ standpoint they will have no exposure to other people, and their pets will be handled in a protective environment.”

Fellow NYC-based network Small Door Veterinary Clinic has also made changes to their operations, though not as radical due to their members-only setup.

According to Small Door cofounder Josh Guttman, these changes include Zoom consultations for some appointments, home delivery of medicines and preventatives, and flat-rate pet and/or human transportation for trips to the practice when an in-person exam is necessary.

While pet parents aren’t able to be in the exam room, they can watch through the floor-to-ceiling windows, and connect via Zoom, Facetime or a phone call.

“While it may be safe to postpone some routine care or check-ups, or schedule virtual consults instead, it may still be necessary to visit your vet for an appointment,” Guttman said.

“For example, it’s vitally important that cats and dogs continue to get their routine vaccinations and preventative care on time, to ensure they are protected from potentially lethal illnesses. Certain viruses that we vaccinate pets against are also a threat to human health, such as rabies and leptospirosis, so pet vaccination is important as part of a One Health initiative between human and veterinary healthcare.”

Though a Pug in North Carolina tested positive last week, showing mild symptoms, at this time it does not seem likely that domestic pets can transmit COVID-19 to humans. Still, it is best to wash your hands after petting a cat or dog, and clean their paws if they are outdoor/indoor pets.

In Oklahoma at the Small Animal Hospital of Owasso, about 20 minutes north of Tulsa, most business has moved to being conducted over the phone as they switch to curbside patient pickup, according to pet nurse Mary Laurel Gaston.

“The only interaction with clients that remains somewhat the same are euthanasias; that particular procedure remains the same because it is important to us and to our clients that they are able to spend that time with their pet.”

SAHO has adapted by limited interdepartmental contact when possible and splitting the staff into two teams, thus limiting employees’ potential exposure. The flow of patients has remained pretty steady, however.

“We still offer preventative exams and vaccines, and we just started back up with elective surgeries,” Gaston added.

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Though there doesn’t currently seem to be an end in sight when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic, there are still many hardworking employees and practitioners of veterinary medicine at the nation’s various vet clinics and COVID-19 is a challenge that they are ready and able to work around.  We are very thankful for their efforts.

For the latest in coronavirus news and updates, please see the websites of the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization.