Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Ethically challenging situations for veterinarians, veterinary nurses and animal health technicians due to the Covid-19 pandemic

Veterinarians, animal health technicians, veterinary nurse, RVN, DVM, RVT, coronavirus, Covid-19, ethical dilemma, ethical challenges
The Covid-19 pandemic has raised additional and perhaps unforeseen ethically challenging situations for veterinary team members. Illustration (c) Sally Pope, spediting. 
The Covid-19 pandemic has raised additional and perhaps unforeseen ethically challenging situations (ECS) for those working in veterinary clinical settings. 

As part of my PhD study, I am conducting a survey to determine the frequency, stressfulness and nature of these ethical challenges.


The survey is open to veterinarians, animal health technicians and veterinary nurses around the world who are over the age of 18. It will take 15-20 minutes to complete.
To read the participant information statement and complete the survey, please copy and paste the following link into your browser: https://redcap.sydney.edu.au/surveys/?s=KDFEFHCKX3

This is an anonymous survey. You are welcome to share the link with colleagues anywhere in the world.

For further information about this study, contact Anne Fawcett: anne.fawcett [AT] sydney.edu.au

The survey will remain open until July 13, 2020.

My colleague and friend Sally Pope drew the above depiction of companion animal practice during the Covid-19 era. When she isn't drawing (she is a ridiculously talented artist) she is editing academic writing. 

Monday, May 18, 2020

Sickness presenteeism: we need to rethink going to work when we're sick

Covid-19, influenza-like illness, ILI, veterinary wellbeing, public heath
Covid-19 is changing the way we think about sick days, personal wellbeing, public health and PPE.


One of the things that Covid-19 has already changed is our attitude to sick-days. For a long time, many of us have assumed that its better to soldier on when we’re not feeling well. We do so to avoid letting colleagues down, to ensure continuity of care, and sometimes out of financial necessity. It may also be because there’s just no hard and fast rule about what constitutes “too sick to work”.

Veterinary team members aren’t the only people who struggle on. A medical colleague co-authored this global study comparing work related behaviour and the phenomenon of “sickness presenteeism” (essentially, turning up to work when you are sick) in health care workers vs non health care workers. Influenza like illness in health care workers is a particular concern given their contact with vulnerable persons. But Covid-19 has highlighted just how much non-medics have contact with vulnerable persons.

Anyway, in this study the researchers surveyed 533 people across 49 countries (getting a large number of responses on a global survey is a tough gig!). Of those, the majority (58.5%) would continue to go to work with signs of an influenza-like illness. How does that play out? Well, 26.9% of healthcare workers would go to work with a fever (versus 16.2% of the non-health care worker population), while 89.2-99.2% of health care workers would go to work with one or more of the following: sore throat, sinus cold, fatigue, sneezing, runny nose, mild cough and/or reduced appetite. That compares with 80-96.5% of the non-healthcare worker population.

The authors recommend better sick-leave policy management and greater uptake of the influenza vaccine. This is especially pertinent given that signs of Covid-19 are very similar to ILI.

You can read the full paper here

It will be very interesting to see whether sickness presenteeism is reduced since the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic.

On the topic of self-care, a colleague shared this monthly action calendar from Action for Happiness. You can view and download a copy here

Veterinarian Joe Herbert has started a facebook group to promote well-being in the vet profession. The group is for veterinarians.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Pets and aged care


Hero and I have been getting a lot of mileage out of this cardboard box, which - surprisingly - is still standing.

Last year my friend and colleague Dr Stephanie Ward took part in an amazing television program called Old People’s Home for 4-Year-Olds. If you have not seen it, this is quite an amazing series based on a simple question: does putting older people together with younger people benefit one or both groups, and how?

You can watch the five-part series here.

One statistic I cannot forget, delivered in the first episode by the inspirational Professor Sue Kurrle (watch one of her fabulously engaging talks here), is that 40 per cent of people in aged care don’t get visitors. FORTY PER CENT.

This is a figure that I continue to reflect on in the light of Covid-19, which has seen severe restrictions that have unintentionally but disproportionately impacted vulnerable people and their carers. It is especially painful on days like today, Mother’s Day, when a lot of families would have planned to visit their elderly relatives.

Companionship is critical. Humans need it. Companion animals need it, and we can mutually benefit. Yet many older people have to give up their companion animals when they enter care, and both animals and humans suffer when they are parted. Pets and Positive Aging is one organisation that advocates for the recognition of the bond between people and our pets as we age, and they’ve recently updated their website.  

They’ve developed a Pet Plan that should be completed in case of emergency by those living with companion animals. 

Of course there are many people out there – family members, friends, neighbours – supporting people to care for their animals, whether it’s a helpful lift to the vet, a daily dog walk, minding or feeding an animal while an owner is in hospital, or someone happy to pick up some more supplies when they’re on a run to the shops. Every single act of kindness like that makes a difference.

Monday, May 4, 2020

How to manage companion animals wearing Elizabethan collars

cone of shame; elizabethan collar
Yustina Shenoda with Chelsea and her owner Rhonda. Chelsea wore the collar to protect her against self-trauma following eye-surgery.
Have you ever lived with an animal who happened to be wearing an Elizabethan collar? Many of my clients have, and so have I, and it isn’t without challenges. In fact, on the weekend I had a call from a close family member whose canine companion is recovering from knee surgery, for the specific purpose of trouble-shooting Elizabethan-collar related issues.


Last year I worked with a fantastic team, including DVM student Yustina Shenoda, looking at the animal welfare impacts of Elizabethan collars and dogs and cats. You can find out about the study and what we found in a webinar tomorrow night through Bova Scholars. Registration is free and you don’t have to be a vet to register. The talk will be of interest to vets, nurses and companion animal owners. Register here.

You can download the full paper from MDPI Animals here

Friday, April 24, 2020

Free Covid-19 webinars for veterinary teams

PPE, home made mask, Covid19, pandemic
Home made masks, mailed by my amazing mum. 


There is a growing body of info now available on SARS-CoV-2/Covid-19 for veterinary teams, though the majority is in the form of webinars and e-updates as the situation continues to evolve.

The good news, for those of us living with and working with animals, is that there are no documented cases of animal to human transmission.

We are very fortunate in Australia to have currently low levels of community transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in humans. Colleagues in other countries (Italy, the US and the UK) have been affected by the loss of people they know. Without saying too much, they are trying to work under much stricter restrictions, and there have been some unintended animal welfare impacts.

Next week I will be participating in a presentation with infectious disease experts Professor Jacqui Norris, Associate Professor Thomas Gottlieb (he looks after human patients) and Australian Veterinary Association President Julia Crawford on Covid-19. I will be talking about ethical challenges experienced by veterinary teams. Veterinary team members can register here. This will be the first of a two-part series.

The World Health Organisation has a new free online course on how to put on and remove PPE here. (On that note my mum has been making some beautiful masks. Because of social distancing I can't see her and, like everyone else separated from family, miss her so much. So getting these masks in the post was a much-needed dose of mum).

Professor Jacqui Norris has recorded an excellent update on Covid-19/SARS-CoV-2 and leptospirosis in companion animals for the Centre for Veterinary Education. It can be viewed here.

You can also check out my webinar on ethical challenges for veterinary teams in the Covid-19 era here.

On the WFH front, I don't know about you but its been a big challenge this week. Life has been a bit of a challenge in general, and then Hero developed acute abdominal pain on Tuesday, necessitating an unplanned trip into work and some investigations (I don't want to breach his privacy but he is doing much better, though we will be consulting with a medicine specialist). But doesn't it feel like the rug has been pulled out from underneath you when you have a sick family member? I'm trying to be kind to myself by trying to clock off at a reasonable hour, making more realistic to-do lists, and saying g'day to this delightful turtle on my walks.
Hopefully the Covid-19 pandemic will force us to reevaluate, and change, the way we treat animals and the environment.


Sunday, April 19, 2020

Covid-19 updates for vets and pet owners

"Phil" cakes, made by My Little Panda Kitchen in honour of my late dog Phil. Unrelated to this post, except that they go well with a cup of tea. 


Whether you’re working hard in a veterinary hospital, in quarantine or isolating yourself at home, we hope you’re doing well.

I am fortunate enough to be working at this stage, and every day seems to end or begin or both with a webinar or new paper re companion animals and Covid-19.

Some useful updates re Covid-19 for veterinary teams. Each of these probably requires a cup of tea as they’re not brief, but they are very helpful.

The International Society for Companion Animal Infectious Diseases (ISCAID) has released a very detailed series of responses to Frequently Asked Questions for pet owners

ISCAID has also provided an update on current knowledge re SARS-COV-2 for veterinarians. 

The World Small Animal Veterinary Association provided a webinar/youtube video for vets

Note that all links shared on this site are external and subject to update.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Up to date information on Covid-19 for veterinary teams

Social distancing means that I cannot visit my family, including Bosca. 


Last night I gave a webinar for the Centre for Veterinary Education on ethical challenges for veterinary teams that have arisen from the Covid-19 pandemic. A recording will be available soon (more info here https://www.cve.edu.au/web/ethical-challenges-veterinary-teams-covid-19-era). 

In the meantime a common question was where to go for reliable information.
For reliable it needs to be up to date, as – to repeat an oft-repeated phrase – this is a rapidly evolving situation.

There is quite a lot out there and it can be hard to sort the wheat from the chaff, but this is an area where our professional organisations play a vital role. For example, the Australian Veterinary Association (of which I am a member) has established a Covid-19 working group which has already produced some very useful resources and answered practical questions.

The Australian Veterinary Association have set up an online Coronavirus Information Hub which includes FAQs about PPE, telemedicine, protocols and procedures: https://www.ava.com.au/coronavirus/

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS Knowledge) has established a coronavirus information page: https://knowledge.rcvs.org.uk/covid-19/

The American Veterinary Medical Association also has a page here: https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/animal-health-and-welfare/covid-19

The World Small Animal Veterinary Association have provided information, available in a number of languages: https://wsava.org/news/highlighted-news/the-new-coronavirus-and-companion-animals-advice-for-wsava-members/

Dr Scott Weese's Worms and Germs blog is extremely useful and very current. I am not sure when he sleeps, but if there's a new pre-print about Covid-19 with a veterinary angle, he covers it: https://www.wormsandgermsblog.com/

For general information of the non-veterinary kind, the World Health Organisation provides situation reports, rolling updates and online courses: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019

For veterinarians based in Australia, Judy Gillespie from Vet Answers has been compiling a Covid-19 resource hub for the veterinary industry: http://www.vetanswers.com.au/covid-19-the-veterinary-industry