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Veterinary Care During the Pandemic: What Pet Owners Should Expect

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During the COVID-19 pandemic, what do you do if your pet needs wellness care or other medical attention? Fortunately for pet owners, Governor Walz included veterinary clinics in the “essential businesses” category when he issued the shelter-in-place order, but services may vary from clinic to clinic. Read on to learn general guidelines for seeking and receiving veterinary care during the COVID-19 pandemic and what to expect!

Curbside Care

Most, if not all, veterinary clinics are limiting the spread of COVID-19 through curbside care. For a visual overview of how it works, see this video by Dr. Scott Weese with Worms & Germs Blog.

  • Once you arrive, call the clinic from your car.
  • A team member will meet you and take your pet inside. It’s very important that pets are well-contained; cats and small animals should be kenneled. In addition to your dog’s leash, the team member will likely put two slip leads around his or her neck. That way, if your dog slips out of his collar for any reason, he still won’t be able to bolt.
  • The vet will examine your pet and call you in your car.
  • The vet will provide authorized treatment, prescriptions and/or food, and all of these (plus your pet!) will be returned to you.
  • Your payment may be collected over the phone.

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Urgent and Emergency Veterinary Care Only

Governor Walz’ executive orders have specified that veterinarians should only be providing care that is urgent and emergency at this time. The goal is to reduce the amount of personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical supplies used by veterinarians in case they are needed by the human healthcare system. That said, determining what is urgent or emergent and what isn’t is left somewhat at the discretion of your veterinarian.

What you likely can do for your pet:
  • Vaccine boosters for puppies or kittens who have not completed their initial series because they are at risk for contracting the disease(s)
  • Vaccinations if your pet’s risk for the disease is not manageable
  • Urgent care
    • ear infections, decrease in appetite, lethargy, diarrhea and/or vomiting, mild pain of any kind, broken toenails that keep bleeding, management of chronic disease such as diabetes, anything that causes you to doubt that your pet is well
  • Telemedicine for care that doesn’t require your pet to be in-hospital or the use of PPE (rechecks that can be done via computer camera, consultations about a health issue.) Since telemedicine still takes time from a veterinary professional to perform, expect to pay for this service.
  • Pick up prescriptions and/or food curbside at your clinic. You may even be able to avoid a trip if they have an online store with the option for home delivery.
  • Euthanasia *more about this below

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What you may be able to have done for your pet during the shelter-in-place order depending on your hospital and veterinarian’s level of comfort and staffing. (Call an emergency animal hospital if not.)
  • Spay in the case of an infected uterus (pyometra)
  • Trouble with pets giving birth
  • Laceration repair
  • Emergency care
    • any trauma, uncontrolled bleeding, moderate to severe pain of any kind, not eating or drinking for several days, prolonged vomiting and/or diarrhea, collapse, altered mentation, poisoning, bite wounds, difficulty breathing, ingestion of foreign material, worsening of chronic illness such as diabetes, cancer or heart failure, lameness, inability to defecate or urinate

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What you can’t have done for your pet during the shelter-in-place order
  • Routine annual wellness care (vaccinations, dentistry, heartworm tests)
  • Routine spaying and neutering
  • In Minnesota, telemedicine cannot be performed without an already existing relationship between you, your veterinarian, and your pet wherein your vet saw your pet within the last 18 months. So while your six-year-old Labrador may be able to have a virtual visit for his slight limp, the new puppy that has yet to meet your veterinarian will not.

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Euthanasia

Euthanasia of a beloved pet is hard under the best circumstances; the pandemic makes this procedure more difficult for all involved. Vets are doing their best to provide this needed service safely while still being sensitive to the emotional needs of their clients. Most clinics have put safety measures in place. Your clinic may be doing all of these, none of these, or a combination.

  • Normally, most veterinary practices give two injections during the euthanasia procedure. The first one sedates your pet and helps ensure a more peaceful passing. The second one provides a quick, painless death. Some hospitals are giving the first injection at the pet owner’s car and allowing the family to say their goodbyes there – reserving the second injection until the pet is inside the clinic.
  • Other clinics may permit family members to accompany the pet inside but may limit the number of family members allowed into the clinic. Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota is currently limiting the number of family members allowed inside with the pet to one.
  • Once inside, your pet may be taken from you to allow staff to place an IV catheter so that they don’t violate the six foot distance with you to do so.
  • Your clinic may connect a six foot piece of extension tubing to your pet’s catheter so that the veterinarian can administer the two injections from a safe distance.

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Please know that your family veterinary clinic is daily walking a fine line between continuing to provide needed veterinary care and keeping their own staff and family members safe. Remaining open to care for your pets and those of everyone else requires your compliance to their safety protocols. Your cooperation, patience, and kindness are much appreciated!

If you have COVID-19 and your pet’s condition is not an emergency, please wait 14 days before seeking veterinary help. If the condition is an emergency, you may be asked to find an uninfected caregiver to bring your pet to the vet clinic.


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