Are vet clinics open right now? Yes, most are. Veterinary services are considered essential. “Great!” you say. “Since I’ve been home so much lately, I’ve noticed that Fluffy’s breath is really bad and I think Fido is overdue on his vaccinations. Now would be the perfect time to take everyone in for a vet exam since I’m not working.” Right? Wrong.
There are several reasons why you shouldn’t be making routine veterinary appointments. Veterinarians, like everyone, are worried about social distancing and keeping themselves and their staff safe. Having people in and out of the building is not recommended for any business that can limit access. So veterinarians are available for emergencies – injured pets, ill animals and other urgent issues. This is definitely not the time to schedule an appointment for something as routine as vaccinations or dentals. What shelter-in-place means is ‘stay home!’ Realize that every interaction has potential risk and first priority must be to keep people safe.
Sadly this even includes spays and neuters, which we, in animal welfare, have never considered as an elective procedure! All spay/neuter clinics have shut down in our county and that means that people have to be extra careful and vigilante to keep their cats indoors – not easy when the female is in heat! We know this is going to be a busy kitten season because of this shut-down so do your part to keep your pet at home and away from the boys! And your boys at home so they don’t find the girls (and fight with other males over her!)
Another reason that this is the wrong time to schedule a dental or other surgical procedure that isn’t a life-saving requirement is that medical supplies are in high demand right now and there are predictions that there will be shortages. Human health, again, is taking priority right now so hospitals are getting first dibs on all medical supplies and veterinarians need to conserve their supplies for use in real emergency situations.
If an emergency does happen and you need to take your pet to the vet, don’t be surprised if you aren’t allowed into the building. Most likely you will be asked a lot of questions over the phone before even coming in and if they agree it is important to be seen, someone will come out to your car to collect your pet and bring her inside. Same for returning the pet to you at the end of the visit. As much as possible the veterinarian will talk to you by phone to discuss your case.
Vets are not offering testing of pets for Covid-19. There is no evidence that our pets can carry the virus and you shouldn’t be worried about transmission from your pet to your family. That said, it is wise to be protective and not allow strangers to pet your animal. This is not the time to kiss your pets or have them lick your mouth. Why take unnecessary chances (and that is so unsanitary anyway – think about what else has been in their mouths!) I’m sure some of you have read about a couple dogs in China that have tested positive and the tigers and lions in the New York Zoo that were sick and tested positive. Each of these animals had direct contact with an infected person.
Dr. Doug Kratt, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association recommends that if you have symptoms, see if someone else can care for your pet and if that’s not possible, wear a mask and wash your hands (have you heard that enough times?). “Don’t try to get too close to their nose, their mouth, to their eyes. Feed them, take care of them, but don’t do a lot of snuggling,” Kratt said.
The AVMA is tracking all the data on pets and the virus and they have no reports of any pets in the USA having the virus. So don’t panic and don’t feel you have to remove your beloved pet from your home!
Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.