In the past week, several pet owners have asked me how they can help veterinarians during these unprecedented times of the COVID-19 pandemic. I found myself at a loss for words. To be honest, I was humbled to even be asked such a compassionate question. After all, I’m not fighting on the proverbial frontline of this real and devastating disease. I’m simply doing my job to care for sick cats and dogs. I tip my hat to the human doctors, nurses, technologists, first responders, truck drivers, One Health researchers, grocery store team members, pharmacists & pharmacy technicians, and so many more who are helping all of us get through this scary situation. With that being said, I’ve since thought about that original question. Here are some easy and practical ways pet owners can help veterinary teams during the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks for reading!
Practical Way #1 – Be Flexible
Veterinary team members are working during the COVID-19 pandemic. Veterinarians took oaths to “to promote animal health and welfare…” and “relieve animal suffering…” Due to COVID-19, many local and state governments have placed temporary limitations and restrictions on businesses, including veterinary hospitals. Veterinary hospitals have had to alter the methods by which they offer animal care. They’ve had to modify their standard operating procedures to both meet the needs of our patients and protect their teams. After all, veterinarians also swore oaths to “protect the health of the public and environment…”
Most veterinary hospitals have switched to curbside service. Why? To protect team members from the public. Pet owners aren’t allowed inside hospitals. Veterinary team members come outside to owners’ vehicles to get pets. Owners remain in their vehicles while veterinarians examine pets inside hospitals. Veterinarians then call owners to relay their concerns, findings, and recommendations. Is this the new norm of service in veterinary hospitals? Of course not. It’s temporary but necessary to allow veterinary teams to continue safely caring for their patients. Flexibility of pet owners with these temporary protocols is truly appreciated during this unique time.
Practical Way #2 – Be Kind
Like I said earlier, these are unprecedented times. Most of us have never lived through anything like this. All of us are trying to keep our heads above water. We’re juggling family, work, and all of the complex responsibilities that come with daily life. To say stress levels are at all time highs is an understatement. A lot of folks are on edge. Our mental and physical health are really being challenged. So, here’s my ask. Remember veterinary team members are facing many of the same stressors you are.
Too often, we are careless with our words. They fly from our mouths without thought. Once said, words can never be taken back. Yes, we can forgive. It’s often much more difficult to forget. When we share kind words with each other – gentle and compassionate words of appreciation, gratitude, and support – we should cling to these beautiful truths and let those who breathed that healing know we appreciate their thoughtfulness. Seems practical, right?
Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.Leo Buscaglia
Practical Way #3 – Stay Home if Your Pet Isn’t Sick
In municipalities around the country, temporary restrictions on medical and dental procedures have been instituted by local and state agencies. For example, in Nebraska, the governor has temporarily banned elective veterinary surgeries. While veterinary hospitals are generally considered essential businesses, many teams have split into smaller working groups with limited schedules to reduce their potential exposure to COVID-19. As such, veterinarians are prioritizing patients that need to be urgently seen over ones that need only preventive care.
What does this mean for you as a pet owner? Unless your pet is sick, stay home. Your cat’s annual exam can wait until the pandemic is over. Your dog’s vaccines can be postponed until the restrictions are lifted. Many of you are currently at home more than usual. You’re looking at and interacting with your pets a lot more, and you’re noticing things. But, not all of those things are urgent health matters.
Resist the urge to use those non-urgent pet matters as an excuse to leave your house to visit your veterinarian. For the love of all that is holy, do not bring your pet in for a nail trim. Walk your dog more frequently – while practicing social distancing – to help them wear down their nails. Allow veterinarians and their teams to dedicate time to the pets that are truly in need of veterinary medical attention. Pretty practical, right?
We’re all currently living in uncertain times. Yet, I have no doubt we’ll get through them. We’ll beat COVID-19 through adherence to guidelines from infectious disease and public health experts combined with practicing human kindness, generosity, and decency. Until next week, practice social distancing, be well, and stay safe!
Wishing you wet-nosed kisses,