COVID pet owner iconograph
Graphic by VIN
No one should die for a nail trim.
As everyone knows, over the course of a few short weeks, everyone’s life and way of going through the world has changed.
Vets are no different. Being a veterinarian has always been a people profession. Just about every pet (and I am only referring to those in my field – small animal medicine) is attached to an owner. A human. And now we are supposed to stay 5 kielbasas away from humans (that’s the metric here in the Chicago suburbs where I live. Yours may be different). This obviously presents some challenges to a business that relies on humans bringing in their pets for evaluation, preventive care, and treatment.
So how have veterinarians adapted to this new reality? How can they provide services to pet owners, keep pets healthy – while at the same time protecting themselves and their staff? A recent survey of nearly 3,000 veterinarians on the Veterinary Information Network, or VIN, an online community of veterinarians and parent of VetzInsight, gives us some insight.
More than 80% of respondents were switching to curbside drop-off and pickup for both patients and medical supplies such as bandages and medications. More than half were only allowing clients into the hospital for pet euthanasia. Only 1% said they have closed, but over 50% are reporting decreased caseload. About 1/3 have suspended anything non-urgent, treating only ill patients.
So, this means the days of the professional nail trim are temporarily suspended. Like much of life.
But humans will be humans. I have heard from many veterinary friends that some clients (thankfully few in number) are banging on doors, being rude to staff, or requesting “normal” procedures like nail trims at hospitals that have switched to only emergency patients. In some of the most egregious cases, clients are completely ignoring signs that ask them to wait outside clinics and are barging in. Everyone is on edge, but yelling at a veterinarian, receptionist, or technician will not do anyone any good: it probably won’t get you what you want, and it may get you “fired” from a vet practice. This means you have to find a new vet – your old one won’t see you anymore.
Please – don’t be that person. That person is not nice.
I get it that emotions are running high. Many people are spending more time with their pets and may be noticing more things than under normal conditions: lumps, bumps, skin tags, etc. When that lumpy pet is someone's sole housemate, it can feel like an emergency. If you find something concerning, first take a breath. Now a second one…. Does it still seem like an emergency (lots of blood, inside things on the outside)? If so, call the emergency clinic.
Assuming that all your pet's parts are still attached, call your veterinarian's office or find their website. Many vets are offering telemedicine services for their existing clients. That may be a phone consultation, a video chat, or email. Many questions or concerns can be handled by telemedicine, meaning you can maintain your stay-at-home status confident that your pet is getting proper care.
If you and your vet determine that your pet needs to be seen in the clinic, follow whatever instructions your vet asks you to. If that’s curbside drop-off, arrive on time and phone the hospital to make sure they know you’re there. You may have to wait -- bring a book, listen to a podcast, or knit a dog sweater. Make sure you have your dog on a secure leash or your cat in a sturdy carrier. I have heard tales of pets running loose after a dog slips a loose collar or a flimsy carrier falls apart during handoff, and this is not the time to be screeching through alleyways calling out Mr. Flooffles? Where are you?!! I have kielbasa!!
Your vet (and their staff) are human and probably just as stressed as you are. Try not to take it out on them. You don’t need to bake them cookies (though if you do – oatmeal raisin cookies are an affront to decency), but please treat them with the patience and kindness they deserve and that you should treat anyone with. Just like the nurses, doctors, and other caregivers treating people, your vet and all of their staff could potentially be putting their lives on the line to take care of your pet.
I’m not saying don’t go see your vet. If your pet is ill, and your vet is open and seeing patients, they are there to help. And in reality, they’d probably appreciate the business and the opportunity to help you and your pet. Many businesses are suffering during this time, and a vet hospital is in the business of helping. Just inform yourself of what they expect of you and play by the rules.
And, please – be nice. Did I mention being nice? We should all be nice. Just do it from 5 kielbasas away.
May 5, 2020
May 1, 2020
Dr. Tony Johnson
April 29, 2020
April 17, 2020
VIN News Service commentaries are opinion pieces presenting insights, personal experiences and/or perspectives on topical issues by members of the veterinary community. To submit a commentary for consideration, email firstname.lastname@example.org.