April 15th 2020

What if my animal needs veterinary care during the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown?

Just as humans may need to seek medical care for unrelated illnesses and conditions during the pandemic, the same is true of our pets. Veterinary practices are working hard to provide vital veterinary care amidst the lockdown and necessary restrictions in place to try and flatten the curve of transmission of coronavirus. 

The British Veterinary Association has also published helpful guidance for owners to consider when they feel their animal needs veterinary care: http://www.bva.co.uk/coronavirus/coronavirus-advice-for-animal-owners/

While Veterinary Practices may remain open under the Government restrictions, they must still adhere to the important social distancing requirements. Vets are currently balancing the need to provide veterinary care and protect the health and wellbeing of animals, with the need to protect the health of animal owners, their practice teams and minimising the risk of spreading the virus in the wider public. For this reason, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons has issued guidance to practices to help them deliver the critical veterinary care needed. This guidance is then further supported by advice from the British Veterinary Association. 

Veterinary care cannot continue as ‘business as usual’ during the pandemic. Care often involves owners and a number of the practice team working in close contact. During the pandemic, practices are going to have to work differently. This may mean not allowing owners into the practice, limiting where owners can enter and where animals are placed. Each practice is carefully considering what measures they need to put in place and what care can be safely provided. For each practice, and for each animal and owner, the practice will be using their clinical judgment to decide whether the interaction or procedure can be completed while maintaining social distancing, i.e. 2 m between each person. If social distancing cannot be maintained, then the interaction and treatment can only be considered where there is a real animal welfare implication if it is not provided before the lockdown restrictions are eased. Vets and their teams will have to look at each animal and each situation individually and make an assessment. In reality, they need to ask if the risks involved in owners making the journey to the practice and the interaction between animal owners and the team are justified. These will be finely balanced decisions, and very much based on individual judgments and practice settings.

If as an owner you are unclear why the practice has made a particular decision or you may not agree, please discuss this calmly with the practice. It may be helpful if you explain concisely why you feel the risk is justified. As owners, we will be anxious about the welfare and health of our pets. The practice will also be concerned and also balancing the wider public health issues. You may be looking for reassurance that the treatment can be postponed or be looking to understand why a practice may not be able to provide the care in a way you expect. 

The VCMS share 3 key points for owners to remember: 

  •  Acknowledge that the practice are trying their best in very difficult circumstances; 
  • Ask questions to understand why the practice have made the decision they have;
  • Explain what concerns you about that decision and any suggestions you may have to address these. 

Importantly, both owners and practices will need to work together, listen and understand the other’s perspective. Clear, calm and compassionate communication on both sides will go a long way in these difficult and uncertain times. 

If you would like further guidance, please contact Veterinary Client Mediation Service at:
Email: enquiries@vetmediation.co.uk
Phone:  0345 040 5834

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