If you have a pet, there’s no doubt you’ve noticed that veterinary hospitals are experiencing an overwhelming case load throughout the pandemic. Since the very beginning of the COVID – 19 outbreaks, veterinarians had to shift the way veterinary care is delivered, to keep the staff and the public as safe as possible. Life in a pandemic created a cascade of events that, among many other things, has caused an increase in pet ownership and a decrease in the capabilities of veterinary hospitals to function as they did prior to COVID – 19.
Veterinary personnel experienced the same challenges as everyone else, the same school shut-downs, the same COVID – 19 infections, the same family losses due to COVID – 19, loss of child-care and loss of income. Veterinary facilities experienced the same supply shortages, shipping delays of life saving medications, equipment and supplies for surgeries and intensive care, while doing their best to keep their doors open to serve the pet owning public.
Practice owners have been faced with unprecedented challenges to mitigate staffing shortages an
d delays in receiving shipments of medical supplies while trying to preserve sterile surgical gloves, masks, and gowns because there was no guarantee they would be available. It has been a monumental task. Veterinary facilities have had to turn pets away because they don’t have the staff to care for them. Some veterinary facilities have had to shut down completely because of the number of staff who contracted COVID. Some veterinary facilities have had to close because someone didn’t survive. It has been devastating.
With that in mind, here are some ways that you can keep your pet from needing veterinary care during these extraordinary times.
Vaccinations are very high on the list because they can prevent devastating diseases such as parvo virus. It is incredibly important to vaccinate your pets, especially young puppies and kittens. Just as with children, there is a recommended schedule for puppy and kitten vaccines, it’s important to get the boosters to be sure the pet is fully protected. It is one way to keep your pet out of the ICU.
Spay/Neuter for pets is also important and can prevent life threatening diseases such as prostate cancer, uterine infection, mammary cancer, and testicular cancer. It can also decrease sexually driven behaviors such as aggression, inter-male fighting, urine marking of territory, roaming and escape from yards and of course, unwanted litters of puppies and kittens. This is typically done around 6 months of age. It is far better for the pet to have this minor surgery while they are young and healthy. Pets that develop cancer associated with reproductive organs, uterine or prostate infections in their later years are at higher risk of anesthetic death and complications from surgery or other age-related illnesses. Pregnant females that have difficulties giving birth may need to have a C-section. This is a life-threatening emergency for the mother and the babies.
Wellness Exams at regular intervals can catch developing illnesses before they become a major medical issue. Wellness exams include a complete blood panel, a urinalysis and thorough physical examination. It is recommended that pets over the age of 7 receive wellness examinations twice per year. These screenings can reveal subtle changes in liver and kidney function, early signs of diabetes, cancer, heart disease, parasitic infections and quality of life concerns.
Behavior Management is a key component to preventing accidents and illnesses. Take the time to teach your dog basic obedience commands such as sit, stay and come. Teach your dog to walk on a leash. Crate train dogs and cats so that they are comfortable being in a transport cage when it is time to go to the veterinarian. Teach them to stay in a crate while they are unattended, so they are not tempted to be destructive in the home or eat things that are not food. Poor behavior management has been the number one reason people surrender their pets to shelters. Teach your pet to be comfortable around other animals and people. Good manners will go a long way to keeping your pet safe and keeping other people and animals safe around your pet as well.
Medication Management for pets on continuous medications for illnesses such as diabetes, congestive heart failure and epilepsy, is key to avoiding a trip to the vet emergency hospital. Follow all directions carefully and consistently. Often times, pet owners will stop giving the medication because they believe the pet is better and doesn’t need it any longer. This is a dangerous game of roulette putting the pet at risk. Seizures, diabetic emergencies, and respiratory distress are commonly seen in vet emergency rooms. Make sure that your pet doesn’t run out of these medications. Have a plan to assure that refills are picked up. Remember, many veterinary hospitals are closed for holidays. Before a veterinarian can prescribe medication there must be a veterinarian-client-patient relationship, which means that veterinarian has to have physically seen the animal and confirmed the animal needs the prescription.
Household medications can pose a significant threat to pets. Dogs and cats don’t tolerate common household medications such as ibuprofen and Tylenol, in fact they can be fatal. Keep all household medications well out of reach so dogs and cats cannot accidentally ingest them. THC is highly toxic to dogs, even the smoke from a marijuana cigarette can cause illness. If a pet accidentally ingests any household medication its important to see a veterinarian as soon as possible and tell them what the pet ingested so they can appropriately treat the pet. Veterinarians are far more interested in treating the pet th