FAIRMONT – The global COVID-19 pandemic has changed life as the average American knows it – at least temporarily – in nearly every way. And that happens to be no different for everyone’s favorite furry little friends.
However, there is plenty of good news for you if you keep pets at home – and the first and foremost thing to know is that even if you become infected with the illness, you’re not able to pass it on to any household pets you’re likely to have.
According to Natalie Fraley, a doctor of veterinary medicine with the Middletown Vet Clinic in Pleasant Valley, the disease has been shown not to be dangerous to common household pets such as cats and dogs, and even other animals that may be kept on farms or even around houses that could potentially be more susceptible are unable to be infected with the virus via a human host at this point.
“We have the same contact with the animals … the animals, it’s not something that technically affects them so, so far, everyone has been good on that end of it. It has changed that we use a lot more equipment, gloves, masks. There are more precautions. I guess we would [care for animals that can be affected by it] if it was a possibility, but right now, it’s very rare for an animal to contract something like this from a human right now,” Fraley said.
However, despite the fact that this coronavirus doesn’t have an effect on household pets, it is inevitable that animals will become sick or ill for other, run-of-the-mill reasons during the pandemic outbreak, or will just need a regular check-up – especially as social distancing and lockdown measures become likely to stretch on for a longer period of time.
With that in mind, vet clinics urge pet owners to remember that they have numerous workers that can and likely will become infected on the front line and that they need to keep enough doctors and staffer healthy to keep clinics running for your animals.
“We can still be here for your pets,” Ai Takeuchi, a veterinarian at Lucerne Veterinary Hospital in Dedham, Maine, said in an interview with the Bangor Daily News. “But if we get exposed [to COVID-19], we’re going to need to shut down.”
And as vets work their hardest to keep their employees healthy and their clinics operational during a public health crisis, that means they have to change the way they handle themselves, especially when interacting with pet owners. This means there may be things to go the next time you head to your vet – and you should likely check ahead of time to see how their policies have changed.
“It’s definitely a change to the normal. We have less contact with the clients – we have kept them outside, we have done all the history-taking over the phone, a lot of telecommunications back-and-forth, just to help reduce exposure on the human side of it. For euthanizations we make exceptions for that – we do allow owners to come into the room since it’s such a sensitive area,” Fraley said.
“We’ve had to reduce our surgery load and our appointment load to more so just emergency sick animals at this point – we haven’t been scheduling new appointments for a couple of weeks now.”
“Everybody has a different protocol because we’re all small businesses if you think about it. There’s no overarching management, but there are general recommendations from the American Veterinary Medical Association,” Takeuchi said.
Across the country, other vets are experimenting with both existing and new technologies to expedite some processes that may be slowed during the outbreak, and better accommodate the flow and needs of customers.
At Tampa Veterinary Clinic in Florida, pet owners are encouraged to use the AirVet app, which is a way to have a consultation while remaining at home. Melissa Webster, a doctor at the clinic, demonstrated how the app works to ABC Action News in Tampa, checking on a French Bulldog with a skin infection remotely.
“With the coronavirus going on, it is another way to do telemedicine so the person at home that’s concerned about their pet can get care for their pet, but they’re not having to leave the house,” Webster said.