Veterinary Advice During the Coronavirus Outbreak

These are unprecedented times and, outside wartime, none of us has any experience of any kind of social restrictions so it is perfectly understandable that people might have concerns about what might happen if their pet is injured or unwell as this crisis unfolds over the next few months.

The other perspective that we must keep in mind is that veterinary practices are also businesses where the senior managers also have a legal responsibility both to keep their staff safe and to stay within the guidelines of their own professional regulator, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. As well as that, every veterinary professional will want to remain at work to meet the needs of the animals under their care and therefore to avoid contracting either the virus itself, or any other symptoms that would require them to self isolate and, as a result, place additional strain on the practice's ability to see clients. As a result, many practices will be asking clients to use a hand sanitiser on arrival at the practice and we all have a responsibility to observe every precaution that we can.

Every veterinary professional will want to place the needs of their clients' animals first but, to be able to do so, they will be relying on members of the public who have any symptoms or who have been in recent contact with anyone who has been self-isolating, to stay away from the practice until the end of the advised period of isolation. Wherever possible, in these circumstances, ask a friend or relative to take the animal to the practice on your behalf.

Additionally, some practices will be asking clients to consider a more remote form of consultation in cases where a physical examination of the animal is not necessary. In some cases, sending your practice a digital photograph may assist them to help you but, in every case, the best advice must be to telephone your practice first unless they already operate an on-line consultation service. Your vet will want to be sure that, in their opinion, any risk to the animal is outweighed by the benefit and will always be willing to discuss the available options with you.

All practices will be planning to prioritise the services that they offer to ensure that those that have the most impact on animal health and welfare - such as emergency care - can be maintained.

It may well be that staffing levels will be challenged as this viral outbreak continues and you may find that some practice branches will be sharing services and, as a result, there may be a more limited service available than that which you've been used to. This may be evident in longer waiting times in the practice waiting room or less availability for non-urgent cases but, as in everything concerned with this situation, your patience and tolerance will greatly assist your practice to help you and all their other clients. Rest assured that, in the event of an emergency, your practice will do its utmost to help you to the best of their ability. In the event of severe staff shortages, the best advice might be to direct you to another nearby practice but your own practice will only do this in extremis and if they believe that, under the extraordinary circumstances, this is the best course of action for you and your animal.

There are some things that we can all do to assist the practice and these include:

  • If you should be self-isolating, please do not visit the practice but ask a trusted friend to take your animal for you.
  • If your animal is unwell, make a careful list of all the symptoms you've observed so that you can accurately describe the situation on the telephone.
  • Give plenty of notice if you need a repeat prescription - don't leave it until the last minute.
  • Please wash your hands before leaving home and use the hand sanitiser/hand washing facilities provided on arrival at the practice.
  • If you have a need to visit the practice frequently, please discuss with the practice how best you can together achieve that.
  • You may experience greater difficulty in getting through by telephone, please be patient as the practice will be doing its best to help everyone under increasingly difficult circumstances.
  • Try to be as flexible as you can about any appointments that you may be offered.
  • If you are in a high-risk category and are required to self isolate for weeks or months, wherever possible and in advance, line up a friend or relative who can take the animal to the vet for you rather than requesting a home visit.
  • If you are self isolating, please be scrupulously honest in describing your situation and remember that visiting your home to attend to an animal puts practice staff at risk - most practices will have a policy concerning this and they may think it advisable to refuse. In such a situation, they will suggest an alternative course of action.
  • Everyone will continue to want the best for their animal, especially your veterinary practice, but please try to respect the difficulties that self isolation by clients or by the practice staff will create for them too.
  • Finally, in the case of self isolation, it might not be possible for an owner to be with their pet at the time of euthanasia - however distressing that might be, please respect the veterinary professional's position.

  • How can OSCAR can help? Are you self isolating and need help and advice for your dog, cat, rabbit or small pet?

    Contact OSCAR Helpline on 0800 195 8000 or email and we'll do our best to assist.

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