Taking your dog or cat to the vet during the pandemic can be very stressful. Some people seem to love curbside drop-offs, and others avoid taking their pets to the vet altogether because they are uncomfortable with the idea.
If you already have a long-term relationship with your veterinarian, much of the stress may be eliminated. Having good rapport and easy communication helps a lot. But what if you have to take your pet to someone you’ve never met before? The need to see a new vet could result from a recent move, acquiring a new pet or the development of a condition, injury or illness that requires a visit to a specialty clinic, a new veterinarian, or an emergency hospital.
Some pets get incredibly stressed going to the veterinary clinic. Others don’t like leaving their guardian and being taken by a stranger. There are also the pet parents who are very uncomfortable having their fur baby taken from their arms into a building where they can’t see what is going on. Trust plays a huge role in this new relationship. If you have a relationship with your veterinarian and their staff that is built-in trust, you are off to a great start and this transition might be easier for you than for others.
Veterinary Care is an an Essential Business
Thank goodness the FDA deemed veterinary services an essential business. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), World Veterinary Association (WVA), and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) all advocated winning this status. They also worked hard to ensure that telemedicine could be utilized where an existing Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship (VCPR) exists, to prescribe drugs to pets who previously needed to be seen in person for refills or new prescriptions. The exception to the VCPR requirement is in emergencies or with poisoning.
Which veterinary services and procedures are considered essential?
Under COVID protocol, veterinary visits are to be limited to essential procedures and visits. Each state has guidelines on what classifies as an essential procedure. Spays, Neuters, general bloodwork, and vaccines are all considered non-essential. “Essential” is what is necessary to preserve the life of a pet. Most veterinarians take into account a pet’s disease status, managing pain, and maintaining a pet’s well-being. They consider more than just an immediate life or death situation.
We’re supposed to reschedule and put off things that are not absolutely essential. But don’t forget that keeping your pet pain-free and deterring potential health issues that could become very serious if not attended to, is very important.
Start with gratitude
Are you one of the pet parents who is uncomfortable with curbside drop-offs for whatever reason? Start by taking a minute to be genuinely grateful that care is available for our pets. Remember that protecting everyone’s life is important. Keeping veterinarians, their staff, and pet parents safe from COVID-19 has to come first. Without the safety and health of a community, there would not be health care available for our pets. ourselves or our human loved ones.
Acknowledge that your feelings are real
Having all this go on for so long, without an end in sight, is what makes it so difficult. If you call the veterinarian’s office and ask when they are going to cease doing curbside, they generally say, “there is no end in sight”. So then we are forced to accept this new normal that can be very unsettling.
It’s important to acknowledge why some people don’t like curbside drop-offs. For those of us who have a close relationship with our pets and observe everything, we provide valuable insight into our pets’ clinical behavior. Sure, we get to talk to the vet on the phone from the car, but often the vet doesn’t give enough time or space to let us talk. We might have a strong sense of decorum with a doctor and not speak up enough. If we are a little on the shy side, it’s even harder to insert ourselves into the conversation.
The challenge of communication
Talking to the vet tech or receptionist in the parking lot for curbside drop-offs, through face masks also has its challenges. It’s hard for techs to write things down when they are taking your pet in the parking lot. They may forget to ask or tell you something relevant to your pet’s case. Not to mention that as the weather gets warmer, it is very uncomfortable to talk through a mask. You may say much less than normal, only because you are having a hard time speaking through a homemade mask.
Vets are unable to see our faces and subtle expressions over the phone. This makes it hard to know when to pause and let us talk or when to ask us a question. A veterinarian sees some pets for just a few minutes every year or so. We live with our pets every day and see everything. Our observations provide valuable keys to our pets health status.
It’s important during this time of curbside drop-offs, to force yourself to speak up. Consider writing out what you want to say before you go to the vet’s office. That way you will have it ready when the vet calls you, while you wait in the car.
Easing your pet’s anxiety
Pets can also be very anxious around strangers or at the vet’s office. Before curbside drop-offs, you might want to consider giving a dose of CBD oil or a CBD cookie. A few drops of Bach’s Rescue Remedy in your pet’s water, or directly in the mouth, may also offer relief. Adaptil pheromone spray might also be helpful. Spray a little in your car about 10 minutes before you leave the house to ease anxiety. There are several different products that may be helpful to your pet during this time of stress.
If your veterinarians office is a Fear Free clinic, they have focused on special procedures to make your pet feel more at ease during their visits.
The trust factor
Many of us have anxiety that once our beloved fur baby is taken from our arms. When we can’t see what’s going on we might have a fear that a procedure that was not intended for our little could take place. Accidents happen, so we are terrified that our pet is going to get confused with another.
To set your mind at ease, make a masking tape tag on your pet’s collar or harness. Include your pet’s name, vets name, and a two-word explanation of why they are there. This won’t always work as some clinics don’t allow your pet’s collar or leash to go inside the building. You might even get a few laughs, but if you can do it, it might set your mind at ease.
Keep Calm, Curbside On
Remember your pet’s emotions feed off of you. The calmer you can keep yourself, the better your pet will do. Dogs are especially attuned to their parent’s emotions. Take a deep breath. Get centered and think positive thoughts.
Vets became vets because they love animals
Know that your vet has the best interest of your little one at heart. Remember that it’s highly likely your pet’s veterinarian had a very special animal in their lives when they were young. That pet probably went through a health issue or injury that made your vet want more than anything to help their pet. Your vet spent years in grad school, did externship rotations, and likely took on a considerable amount of debt, so they could save lives.
The impact of the pandemic on veterinary clinics
VetSuccess, a veterinary data company, took data from over 2,500 vet clinics in the U.S. and showed an 8% average drop in daily revenue and a 12% decrease in the number of visits.
There are so many different stories and factors amongst vet clinics. Specialty clinics that specialize in elective procedures may have been forced to close. Others may have more substantial ticket sales, but less volume, because the cases they are seeing require more care. Many have had to lay employees off, significantly cut hours, and take out assistance loans. Times are not easy.
Showing up every day to save lives
Veterinarians and vet techs are incredible. They are showing up for work every day through all of this uncertainty and taking the risk of exposure. Make sure to show them your gratitude and appreciation for seeing your pet.
Know that it’s okay to feel frustrated by this new process. Remember, you are not alone if you hate curbside drop-off and can’t wait for things to return to normal. But in the meantime, don’t let your pet’s care go by the wayside. Keep calm and curbside on.