« How to see a vet during coronavirus? » | There are a few practical details for pet owners to know when they go to see a vet during the coronavirus pandemic. Arrangements can vary depending on the different levels of lockdown in place (local, regional, national).
In the UK, veterinary practices can remain open to receive and examine sick animals. However, due to COVID-19 regulations in application, the way appointments are carried has now changed a little.
In this blog, we explain what are those changes and what pet owners should expect when they plan to visit a veterinary practice during coronavirus pandemic.
Scheduling appointments during coronavirus
Most veterinary practices routinely take appointment bookings via a phone call. However, some might have systems in place to allow clients to book in-person appointments directly from their website. Arrangements might differ from a veterinary practice to another. Hence, it is advisable for pet owners to check it out, depending on the practice they would like to attend.
Complying with health and safety regulations means it is trickier for vets to provide in-person consultations. Waiting rooms cannot be filled with many people coming in and out. So, they have to stagger appointments. It avoids people mixing. Thus, the number of slots available to clients in a given day is reduced.
During a lockdown, veterinary practices want to allocate human resources accordingly. As a result, they will tend to triage patients. They set their priority to the most urgent cases. For example, some charitable organisations have announced they might stop offering preventative care to the benefit of emergencies.
Some non-urgent appointments might have to be hosted via remote consulting such as phone, video calls, emails or text messages.
Safety first: complying with COVID-19 regulations
The biggest challenge with COVID-19 is to keep everyone safe, whilst being able to attend to sick animals in need of veterinary care. This poses a real problem, due to the fact that Sars-Cov-2 is a virus known to be highly contagious. Besides, this virus can spread from a person to another, without carriers showing any symptoms of the illness.
It means veterinary practices face a double challenge: protecting the staff working inside the surgery and protecting the clients visiting the surgery from catching the virus.
Arrangements make it mandatory for people to practice social distancing and wear face coverings. It is also expected to wash hands and to actively disinfect surfaces more frequently. Therefore, if you are planning to visit your veterinary practice during coronavirus, you must expect to be asked to wear a face covering and to keep your distances.
During a lockdown, it might not be at all possible for pet owners to come in the veterinary practice. People bringing their pets to be seen will have to wait outside or in their car, provided a car park is available. Pets will be taken inside the veterinary practice to be examined. Communication between the vet and the pet owner will be done by phone call and possibly via email.
Convenient way to see a vet during coronavirus
It is not always the case that pet owners have to come in-person to a veterinary practice. There are some instances, for example in non-urgent cases or when pet owners want to discuss a particular aspect of pet care and pet health, where most of the professional advice can be passed over a video consultation.
It’s the same as being able to interact in-person, as to exchange information, but safer and faster in the context of the coronavirus. With the aid of a video call, the pet can also be seen in its home and a better appreciation of situations can be made by the veterinarian. It is more difficult to attempt this type of exchange with pet owners over the phone only.
A video consultation cannot replace a traditional in-person visit, in the sense that to prescribe medicines labelled as POM-V and diagnose specific conditions, an animal must have been physically examined by a veterinarian. This is the law. However, not all medicines are labelled as POM-V and pet owners can also benefit from professional advice in that direction, when they are not too sure about what to do from home.
In non-urgent cases, for example late at night or during weekends, a video consultation is a convenient solution for pet owners wanting to find out if they need to rush their pets to an Out Of Hour (OOH) clinic or if the situation could wait for normal opening hours. Vets often hear this question: « Does my pet need to be seen? »
Often, transportation and OOH higher fees can be perceived as a major issue when pet owners would like to talk to a vet and their practice is closed. In such cases, the convenience of an online vet appointment, directly available from a mobile phone or computer, can contribute to bring reassurance and provide information needed to pet owners.
Visionimo is an independent provider of online vet appointments allowing pet owners to talk with a qualified veterinarian. More information on how this video call service helps pet owners to see a vet during coronavirus can be found here.