Getting to the veterinarian during coronavirus
Going anywhere during a pandemic is difficult but getting to medical appointments is even more fraught. Whether you need to get to the pediatrician, dentist, vet, internist or hospital, this five-part series from CNN Science and Wellness has you covered.
(CNN)When Christy Mitchell’s mini-Aussiedoddle puppies, Ellie and Bosun, began sneezing and having diarrhea, she knew she had to take them to the vet. She couldn’t let her fragile 10-year-old labradoodle Jake, already in poor health, catch a virus or parasite.
It was early March, well before full-fledged social distancing due to Covid-19 was the norm, and Mitchell was concerned. Living precariously with pulmonary arterial hypertension, a severe lung condition that requires 24-7 IV infusions via a port in her chest, she knew exposure to the disease caused by the novel coronavirus could easily be a death sentence.
Mitchell called first and found her vet already had safety precautions in place.
“When I went they were only letting one person at a time into the clinic and making sure that everything was very clean,” she said. “And they keep us in the loop on any new precautions with emails. Now if I need to go, a person in full protective garb will pick up the dogs from the car.”
While each vet will have his or her own procedures, the American Veterinary Medical Association provides frequently updated guidance to its members on minimizing possible exposure to Covid-19 while providing quality care for pets.
Veterinarians Dr. Will Draper and Dr. Francoise Tyler, who own a number of veterinary clinics in metro Atlanta, immediately implemented virtual telemedicine visits for their clients.
A husband-and-wife team who starred in the NatGeo Wild series “Love and Vets,” Draper and Tyler have experience with video production and have produced helpful (and funny) explainers on what to expect during a curbside or telemedicine visit at their facilities.
For telemedicine, the couple uses a downloadable app that allows text, audio and video communication between a vet and a client to determine if the concern is worth the risk of a visit.
Draper often works into the night to triage pets into such medical categories as “don’t worry about it” or “let’s try this and see how your pet is tomorrow” or “we need to do an examination, so you’ll need to bring your pet to the clinic.”
A dog’s life
A lot of the non-emergency calls are from dog owners who never realized how much their pet scratched or licked a body part until they were home with them all day, every day, Draper said.
“Dogs typically lick their rear ends or feet or scratch their ears a few times a day,” Draper said. “But now owners are seeing it and think their dog has fleas or an allergy. I also see a lot of limping dogs who’ve pulled a muscle playing Frisbee and need to rest for 24 hours.”
If the pet needs to come in — and many do — the clinics have elaborate safety plans in place to protect both the clients and the vets and their teams, Draper said.
“We’ve numbered the parking lots at all the hospitals and we’ll tell clients to pull in space one, space two, space three. When they’ve done that, they call us and one of the technicians goes out with gloves and a mask and brings the pet into the clinic,” Dr