Veterinary offices change protocols in response to COVID-19

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CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – Pet owners in West Virginia are noticing some big changes when it comes to taking their animals to the veterinarian. While veterinary services are still being provided, vet’s offices are taking numerous precautions to protect pet owners and staff.

“Whenever I’m home she’s a little more active throughout the day,” said Leah Kersey from Charleston, while taking her dog Honey for a walk.

Kersey is working from home and has incorporated more walks into her daily routine. She hasn’t needed to take Honey to the vet recently but heard about the changes from a relative.

“I know my brother he has a German Sheperd and she had to go in for her shots and they came out and got his dog from the car,” she said.

Most veterinary offices including Kanawha City Veterinary Hospital in Charleston are taking drastic steps to remain open while keeping employees and pet owners safe.

“All of our protocols have changed, said Dr. Jennifer Snider, a veterinary at Kanawha City Veterinary Hospital. “We are not allowing clients to come into the hospital except for under really serious circumstances like euthanasia.”

Members of the staff are communicating with clients primarily over the phone. They are using that method to do everything from taking payments to discussing information about the pet’s health. It has been a big adjustment.

“It really is difficult because we really emphasize that aspect of our practice and the personal care and personal communications,” Snider said. “So having to have that distance I don’t feel that we are able to necessarily communicate as well and maybe the clients aren’t able to understand as well. But again we do the best that we can do under the circumstances.”

Snider said the West Virginia Board of Veterinary Medicine has eased some restrictions in terms of veterinary and client relationships. For example, she said right now she is able to renew a prescription without necessarily seeing the pet even if they haven’t been in the office lately. 

The American Veterinary Medical Association said on a national level they are seeing more and more states including veterinary medicine as an essential service during the pandemic, so veterinary clinics are able to stay open, and veterinarians are now working on how they can continue providing their essential services while protecting the health of their staff and their clients.

This can include things like telemedicine, curbside drop-off of pets and pick-up of medications, and postponing some elective or non-emergency visits like annual checkups or dental cleanings, for example.

The AVMA has developed resources and advice on caring for veterinary patients and interacting with clients during this time, including tips on conserving personal protective equipment, minimizing COVID-19 exposure and social distancing.

The AVMA said owners who are concerned about their pets’ health should call their veterinarians to discuss the issue and determine if a visit is necessary, and, if so, what the process is for dropping a pet off at the clinic.

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