Can I still take my pet to the vet during COVID-19?

Because of the important services veterinary hospitals provide in keeping pets healthy and safe as well as protecting public health, most veterinary practices will continue to provide as much of their regular services as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, don’t be surprised if you aren’t allowed inside the building. Many practices are only offering telemedicine—having appointments over the phone or using videochatting platforms—while others are limiting their appointments to “curbside services.”

Staying open during COVID-19

Veterinary practices are revisiting policies and procedures daily, so check the website frequently or call ahead. Few hospitals will turn away patients in need of critical care; however, wellness exams, dental procedures, and other less urgent services may be postponed. And clinics in high-risk COVID-19 areas may limit services to only critically ill patients.

How does veterinary telemedicine work?

The rules about how much a veterinarian can do in a telemedicine appointment are constantly changing. In some cases, you may not be able to receive full services from a new veterinary hospital if your pet hasn’t been treated there before, so call and ask them. Even when there is no pre-existing relationship, exceptions might be made for emergency care where there will likely be follow-up appointments with the same veterinarian.

What to expect in a curbside veterinary service

During a curbside appointment, you call the front desk when you arrive, then wait inside your vehicle for the hospital staff to come out and retrieve your pet. Cats and small dogs should be inside carriers. Larger dogs should be on a leash before you open the vehicle door. Even if you have a leash and harness on, don’t be offended when the veterinary staff puts another “lead leash” on before exiting the vehicle. This is a recommended best practice at this time, both to ensure that scared dogs don’t slip away and run off and to protect against the possibility of your leash breaking during the transition.

Once inside, your pet will be examined by your veterinarian, and the staff will call or videochat with you to discuss findings. When your pet is ready to come home, the staff will once again bring your pet straight to your vehicle, so you don’t have to go inside.

How are hospitals handling euthanasia?

Some veterinary hospitals are making exceptions for euthanasia procedures and allowing at least one or two family members into the building, then disinfecting thoroughly after each visit. However, many practices are not allowing anyone in the building under any circumstances. Call ahead to ask what to expect.

What precautions are veterinary hospitals taking against COVID-19?

Veterinary hospitals are doing their best to follow recommendations made by the Centers for Disease Control, or CDC, and the World Health Organization, including:

  • Ensuring there are enough supplies to meet personal hygiene and facility-cleaning policies
  • Requiring hand washing and other individual sanitation measures
  • Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and objects that are frequently touched
  • Providing receptacles that don’t require touching (such as those operated by a foot pedal)
  • Encouraging sick team members to stay home

They are closely watching changing regulations at the local, state, and national levels to do what is in the best interest of public health, while still providing you with the highest-quality medical care for your pets.

What you can do

The most important thing you can do is be understanding when faced with new procedures as well as possible delays. Veterinary hospitals want to give your pet the right level of care in these trying times.

A few suggestions for what you can do:

  • Be understanding if your veterinarian asks to postpone elective procedures and less urgent exams.
  • Be open to telemedicine and curbside options.
  • Wash your hands and disinfect your vehicle if you’re doing curbside services.
  • Keep an emergency supply of food and medication for your pet to cover up to two weeks.

Veterinary hospitals will continue to adapt as quickly as possible to changing health regulations, so check their website or call to find out what new restrictions or procedural changes are in place before your appointment. No matter what, your AAHA-accredited veterinary practice is keeping your pets’ wellbeing in mind, and they will do their best to provide the care your pets deserve.