Veterinarians adapt to working amid COVID-19 restrictions

Good news: If your pet is sick or injured, many Bay Area veterinarians are available to treat him or her, using telephone screening and curbside service to help stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.

These precautions are essential to keep Bay Area pet owners and veterinary staff safe from COVID-19, according to Dr. Debra Chen, an associate veterinarian at the San Jose Animal Hospital.

“My assumption is that if just one (worker) is diagnosed, we would have to shut down for some time,” Chen said. “That would have a big impact on the whole community, on people’s ability to get veterinary care.”

The hospital is offering clients a variety of options. Vets can examine pets in the car in the parking lot, or a technician can bring the pet into the examination room to be seen. Telephone consultations are also available.

“It is not as ideal to do phone consultations, because we can’t do full-on proper assessments,” Chen said. “But we are taking the lesser evil.”

Appointments are limited to more urgent issues, the vet said. Along those lines, Thornhill Pet in Oakland is only accepting emergencies and sick pet exams. Dental appointments are accepted only if an extraction or other pressing procedure is needed. As with the San Jose hospital, clients call from the car upon arrival, the pet is brought in for examination and the doctor calls the pet owner with recommendations.

At San Francisco Pet Hospital, appointments start with a phone consultation with the veterinarian, followed by a visit, if necessary. Clients aren’t allowed inside the hospital; a technician brings the pet inside while its owner waits outside.

The East Bay’s Kensington Pet Hospital has an app, the PetDesk App, that clients can use to request an appointment, said Dora Pannell, the hospital’s office manager and a registered veterinary technician. When clients arrive for an appointment, they call or text to notify staffers. As with the procedures at the San Jose hospital, a doctor or technician meets the client at the vehicle to obtain a patient history and brings the pet inside the hospital for a physical exam, if necessary.

Immediately after the stay-at-home order was issued, the Kensington hospital was deluged with requests for prescriptions, appointments and pet food, Pannell said. During the first two weeks it was chaotic, but now it is slowing down, the veterinary technician said.

Like the other hospitals, Santa Rosa Veterinary Hospital is providing curbside service. Pets can either be examined while the owner waits or dropped off, according to the hospital’s website. Veterinarians can call pet owners and guide them through the appointment with a telemedicine approach, according to the website. Doctors also utilize the FaceTime app, which makes it possible for the caller and the vet to see each other and the pet as the appointment takes place.

A final note: Chen, the associate veterinarian at San Jose Animal Hospital, advises social isolation for dogs as well as for humans. “While we don’t think that dogs can get infected by the COVID-19, it is possible, as far as we know, for them to have it on them,” Chen said. “So if someone has COVID-19 and it gets on the dog’s fur, they might carry it around.”

Her advice: “Avoid having your dog go to places where there are lot of people.”

One thought on “Veterinarians adapt to working amid COVID-19 restrictions

  1. My local vet, Thornhill Veterinary, has instituted protocols for continuing to treat animals while keeping everyone safe. And also delivering meds.

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