Friday, April 3, 2020

Additional Covid-19 resources

One of my colleagues sent me this image of her cats socially distancing. Something that comes a bit more naturally to this species.

This week we’ve been working from home, teaching and doing research-based writing online, attending Zoom meetings (a highlight was being ZoomBombed by a prominent specialist’s cat’s bottom), and trying to attend webinars on Covid-19. I write We because everything I do, I am doing with a cat who appears to be mildly annoyed that I am working from home. We're a smidge "behind" in my webinars, but also trying not to turn into square-eyed blobs!

We're also making an effort to have virtual cups of tea with colleagues and friends where we can, and learning that many of my colleagues are struggling with home schooling their children, on top of completely changing the way they practice, and fielding animal welfare issues. Others are struggling with isolation, especially those living alone, which social distancing guidelines seem to overlook.

Last night we watched the Covid-19 episode of Playschool, and it was like watching something from a science fiction movie. Only it wasn’t. (If you’re looking for something lighter, Sammy J’s Corona Yoga is worth a peak).

RCVS knowledge has put together a comprehensive coronavirus resource page which can be accessed here. It provides information from both medical and veterinary sources, and includes links to journal articles and webinars. You can find it here

This week I am hearing a lot about animal welfare implications of the pandemic from colleagues in Australia and overseas. It can be very challenging to get accurate information, but I am working on compiling this. The big concern is animal care during lockdowns and/or absolute shortage of personnel and funds.

Adoptions from shelters seem to have increased in general, but they need to maintain funds to care for animals even when they are closed, and they also have a duty to protect staff. There is some interesting info about local shelters, including the RSPCA and the Cat Protection Society, in this article (it also stresses that pets are for life, not just for quarantine). 

Finally, if you’re around this morning, Mighty Vet in the US are streaming an update on Covid-19 on Facebook. To register click here.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Veterinary clinics remain open, but need to be vigilant

Frankie is helping Jane work from home, but has demanded a new feeding schedule.

On Friday night, the Federal Government announced that veterinarians are an essential service and remain open:

The Federal Government considers the role of veterinarians essential to the agricultural sector and therefore to our nation’s food security but also in protecting companion animals and our nation’s wildlife. 
The Federal Government has not put any restrictions on veterinarians other than the practice of social distancing and hygiene practices during the COVID-19 crisis. While confusion has arisen due to the closing of some state borders, those state governments have assured us that veterinarians are able to continue to operate across borders.

Most veterinary clinics are changing the way they practice, and globally there has been a tendency to implement low and no-contact consultations to minimise human to human contact and thus reduce the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission.

This is the best way to protect both our human clients and our veterinary team members, though it does make everything feel different. We ask screening questions about the health of the owner, i.e. have they traveled within the last 14 days, do they have Covid-19, are they in quarantine?  Its strange to be a vet routinely asking questions about human health but here we are.

We are discouraging walk-ins and encouraging people to phone ahead, to avoid crowding or congregation in the waiting room. We are encouraging only one person to bring an animal in where possible (as opposed to the whole family or a group of friends).

Instead of spending time in a consultation room with a client and their animal, the client now leaves the animal for me to examine, I perform an examination and take a history from the client on the phone, and then we discuss whether any further tests or treatment are required. The animal is then discharged to the client, whom I might wave to at a distance.

I conduct my examinations in PPE – a full gown and mask. I thought this might freak my patients out but they seem to get it. And on the whole they are coping well without their owners in the room (some appear to be less stressed, occasionally they appear more stressed). They still get treats (unless contraindicated), and a nurse helps hold them. Some owners are very anxious so in some cases I've examined animals in front of them, through the windows of the building. It would be nice not to have to do this but people do understand.

The new normal? Ready to consult in PPE.
There are going to be issues when demand for PPE exceeds supply. The AVMA have provided some information about this here:

To me the biggest challenge is socially distancing BETWEEN veterinary team members. This is critical as anyone can contract the virus and may be asymptomatic. While we are reducing the risk of transmission between clients and veterinary teams, we have to be equally conscious of reducing the risk of transmission between colleagues. Infectious disease guru Scott Weese has provided some guidelines here:

The other issue is stress. Like everyone, veterinary team members are vulnerable to anxiety, depression and work-related stress. For many people, Covid-19 – the challenges it presents, including its associated restrictions on personal freedoms – has ramped that up. Cathy Waburton, founder of Making Headway, us running a free webinar on coping in the Covid-19 crisis. You can sign up here:

Readers are welcome to send photos of their animal family members working from home. Today’s post features Frankie, who is keeping Jane company as she works from home. Frankie has insisted on a new feeding routine, so now has half of her dinner at 3.30pm and the other half at 6pm (as opposed to dining at 7).

Jane is doing a brilliant job increasing the frequency of meals but not the daily ration. One thing I noted consulting during Covid-19 is weight gain in companion animals. Don’t cave in to those demands for more food!

Friday, March 27, 2020

How do we continue to minimise stress in companion animal patients during the Covid-19 pandemic?

companion animals and covid
Since I've been doing a lot more work from home, Hero is demanding meals at very specific times. 

Companion animal vets work hard to minimise fear, anxiety and stress in our patients. While the Covid-19 pandemic necessitates some dramatic changes to the way we practice in order to protect veterinary team members and clients, there are still steps we can take to make the veterinary experience easier on companion animals. The Fear Free team have a host of webinars on topics from euthanasia in the time of Covid-19 to infection control:

For a non-companion animal specific activity, a researcher at the University of Texas, Austin (USA) is conducting The Pandemic Project, a social psychology initiative that is studying how our everyday lives are affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

The survey, which took me about 15 minutes to complete, provides some feedback on how your reactions to the outbreak compare with others. You will get personal feedback about your coping methods with information about what may work best for you (I thought this was very helpful).

If you want to share an image of animals in this very unusual era of quarantine, please feel free to email me a JPEG.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

No-contact vet visits, telemedicine and veterinary ventilators sourced for human patients

coronavirus, pandemic, onehealth, ventilator
Companion animal owners should ensure that their pet's tick prevention is up to date. Image(c) Anne Fawcett 2020

As the pandemic situation develops, it appears that veterinary hospitals around the world are considered essential services and remain open to provide animal care. That said, some may have reduced hours and the majority (those at which I work included) now instituting non-contact or low-contact veterinary visits.

These are where the veterinary team has no or minimal contact with the human (client) – we still have contact with the patient. But what it may mean is that the client leaves the animal, waits outside the premises while the animal is examined, and then is telephoned for the history.

No doubt there will be some teething issues, but these measures are designed to ensure that animals can be continue to be treated while minimising risks to clients and veterinary teams and complying with social distancing (or more accurately, physical distancing) recommendations.

We are likely to see a rise in the practice of telemedicine or remote consulting. In the USA, the FDA has announced that it regulations may be relaxed to facilitate telemedicine. You can read more here.

Veterinarians are also being asked to make ventilators available for human patients. At this stage, an inventory is being conducted – the ventilators remain on site in veterinary hospitals but at least those who may need them know how many they can call upon, and where they are.

What does this mean for animals? It means that now, more than ever, owners need to ensure that their pets are on up to date tick prevention, and that they have enough prescription medication to manage conditions like chronic airway diseases. It means that owners of brachycephalic dogs need to be extremely careful that these dogs aren’t overexerted or overheated. You can read more about the measures here.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Coronavirus pandemic information for veterinarians and veterinary nurses

continuing professional development, CPD, covid19, pandemic
Its a good time to grab your cat and log in to a webinar or online course.

When the going gets tough, the tough upskill. Given that so many people in Australia and around the world are in lockdown mode, it’s a good time to catch up on webinars, including those about coronaviruses. At present, veterinarians appear to be essential services and remain open to care for animals. Our professional associations including the Australian Veterinary Association are lobbying the government to ensure that continues, as animals will continue to need care.

Meanwhile if you find yourself with a little more time on your hands:

The World Health Organisation are running courses through their Open WHO channel. While they appear to be aimed at health professionals these are very basic:

(As an aside, in additional to these I am working through the Centre for Veterinary Education’s TimeOnline course on animal forensics, here:
Now is a very good time to engage in online learning).

The Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association has a resource page, including an upcoming webinar (if you’re in NSW Australia that will be 5am Thursday morning). In addition to resources for vets it has resources for shelter and rescue groups and for pet owners. (FYI the HSVMA is based in the US).

VetGirlOnTheRun are holding two webinars on the pandemic and veterinary clinics:

The Canadian Government have provided an update on animals and Covid-19. Bottom line: at present, there is no evidence that pets or livestock can develop Covid-19 or transmit SARS-CoV-2 to humans.

Dr Alicia Kennedy, from the social enterprise Cherished Pets, shared her experiences of supporting some of our most vulnerable companion animal owners in the age of coronavirus in this post.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Is it safe to take my dog or cat to the vet?

You can take your pets to the vet...but you will need to practice social distancing.

Now that the global community is coming to terms with a pandemic, veterinary clinics are changing the way they operate to minimise risks to staff from contact with our human clients.

You can help your veterinary team by:
  • If you have been unwell or in contact with someone who has been unwell and need to take your pet to the vet, phone ahead and let the vet clinic know;
  • Order medications and food by phone to minimise the amount of time you need to spend in the clinic and avoid unnecessary trips;
  • Limit veterinary visits to one person per animal coming into the clinic;
  • If you are able, ask a friend or family member to take your pet to the vet for you;
  • Reschedule non-urgent appointments until you are well or your self-isolation period has concluded.

Please ensure you don’t let your stocks of medication or prescription food run too low before you order more, as there may be some delays in orders.

We may see some additional changes in the near future, including the use of telemedicine to help some animals and their owners.

Fellow blogger and infectious disease guru Scott Weese shared some excellent data compiled by the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association showing how hospitals have altered their operations, and what social distancing measures they have implemented. Check it out here:

If you're at home and you have a spare 30 minutes, you can undertake a very short, free online course on coronavirus. You will need to create an account. You do not need to be a health care worker or expert to do the course, and you will receive a certificate at the end. The handwashing videos are great.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Covid-19 and companion animals

(c) Anne Fawcett 2020
Hero catches up on some reading. (c) Anne Fawcett

There is a lot of confusion and misinformation about companion animals and SARS-Cov-2, the novel coronavirus, circulating.

The bottom line is that there is no reason for companion animal owners to panic, and there is no evidence to date that dogs, cats or other companion animals can transmit SARS-Cov-2 to humans. All of the experts add the caveat that this is a rapidly evolving situation.

Here are some reputable sources of information online. Please recheck for updates.

The World Animal Health Organisation (OIE) has posted Q&As about SARS-Cov-2 on their page here:

The American Veterinary Medication Association have posted FAQs about SARS-Cov-2 and companion animals here:

The International Society for Feline Medicine (ISFM) is a good site for information about cats. See their statement about SARS-Cov-2 and cats here:

The World Small Animal Veterinary Association is collating advice about companion animals and SARS-Cov-2 here: