Being told to stay at home for some people is a dream come true, not changing out of your pyjamas to go to work. Having a less stressful time than when normally traveling to work and taking the children to school on time each day after making sure they have everything they need for the day ahead. Now we wonder is that less stressful than staying at home trying to make sure they keep up with their schooling? For other people being at home 24/7 is the least safe place they could be, especially those who are being abused and exposed to violent partners.
For our pets too, it’s got to be a confusing time. The pet’s routine just like ours has changed beyond all recognition. Like us humans, animals like stable home environments where they feel safe and protected from the outside world. Currently they have us owners changing our behaviour and so changing our pet’s environment, sometimes not of the better. We are in our shared environment more than normal and their access to food water and rest will have changed.
Dogs are suddenly getting longer or more frequent walks, leading to lameness issues. Neighbours are at home when they normally would be at work, and our dogs picking up on our general anxiety at this time are reacting by alerting us to their presence by vocalising .Which in its self can be stressful as we are all trying to get along. Cats are being stressed out by their change in circumstances leading to urinary issues, which can be life threatening. The obvious remedy is to try to minimise change, keep their routines as normal as you can. Make sure they get their own “Me” and time out time, to just be themselves.
What else has changed during for vets, pets and their owners? Social distancing is changing the way we all interact. As a vets, we have had to consider how we interact with our clients and their pets so as to minimise the spread of coronavirus whilst maximising animal welfare.
To consider how urgent a pet’s problem may be, how we should interact with them, and for the first time the Royal College Veterinary Surgeons has allowed us to remote prescribe. That is not have to physically have touched and examined the pet before we dispense treatment.
We way we have interacted has changed by utilising technology we have in our mobile phones and tablets. Video consultations, phone conversations and remote videos, pictures by email have all been used in the past few weeks. But after using these modalities I can say that nothing, absolutely nothing replaces physical examination of an animal. There are clinical signs and symptoms that just do not show up well in pictures, nothing compares to auscultation and palpation even with something as simple as not being a skin lump.
The large corporate veterinary providers are looking to a future of video consultations as a way of making veterinary care more convenient, and obviously gaining more clients. But I think they have missed the point in their drive to “take over the veterinary world”. People are driven to interact with other people, in person. A video call to your Grandma is ok but it’s not the same as a hug is it? The loss of all the subtle reactions to palpation by your patient, and the body language of both the pet and their owner that you miss from a normal face to face contact. As Vets we have been using the telephone ever since it was invented, look at James Herriot (or Alf Wight as he should be known). A calf that is staggering all over the place on a video is one thing, visiting and working out that the walls have lead paint that the calves are licking is quite another.
Then there is trust. I am humbled by the trust that the majority of clients have in us especially at such unprecedented times such as these. We currently ask for you to wait in the car park while we take your pet inside for its examination, we then discuss our findings and we arrive at a plan for treatment. This is not normal and we know you prefer to be with your pet so you can help us, help them. We know you are worried and concerned with your pet’s health and try to help in whatever way we can. You have been very understanding and appreciative of our efforts to help you stay safe and your pets get prompt treatment for what ails them. You have understood when we have cancelled boosters and routine operations, to allow us to reduce journeys and to reserve oxygen supplies. Our oxygen supplier BOC has called and asked for any unwanted oxygen back, that’s how serious things are.
We are proud to be allowed to stay open at a time many businesses have been told to shut. We are trained in biosecurity, have access to and the correct conditions to use disinfectants effectively, as well as our vital role in animal welfare. As a “smallie vet” who has been a mixed (large animal /equine and small animal vet), I can say that our Large animal and equine vet colleagues attending calving’s and colic’s while social distancing are awesome. They are looking after your food supply and animal welfare at a very difficult time while social distancing.
For a perspective of several weeks under lockdown, we are becoming less tolerant as a society of being confined but it’s important to exit this lockdown, carefully. We do not want a second peak, we do not want our R0 rating to rise and to risk further transmission of the virus. We will have to make a long term change in our behaviour, which is not going to be easy. With sensible measures, we do not need to be sacred of our future.
Now as a country, we are all looking to the future. We are analysing how our current restrictions /actions and that of other countries have played out with our populations. This is so we learn as much as we can to influence the course of this Pandemic, to reduce unwanted consequences and provide a positive way forward out of it. This may take some time and we must be patient as we have been so far. This pandemic is a challenge that the whole community has risen to, where staying at home is as important as going to work, where something as simple as washing your hands can save a life. We just need to remember, it’s not over yet. Currently, #staysafestayhome because being bored is not going to kill you or anyone you know. Catching COVID 19 might.