B.C. veterinarians want to smooth the fur of COVID-19-worried pet owners

Vets expect to continue giving your fur buddies the help they need while social distancing

Ally the dachshund has chronic pancreatitis thatrequires daily care.

It’s special veterinarian-assisted care that her owner is worried might not be available when she needs it most due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.

“She’s on strict food and that’s the only thing she’s allowed. She’s allowed no treats, no human food, no nothing…and insulin twice a day,” said Marisa Panter. “She can’t have a different kind of food, the food is bought from a vet office. She can’t have a different kind of insulin, and the insulin is bought from a vet office.”

Panter and 7-year-old Ally live outside of Kelowna, along with her three-year-old daughter, 13-year-old step-son, her husband, her in-laws, and six pregnant dachshunds that Panter is breeding.

Ally loves all dogs and humans she meets. She’s visited hospitals and retirement homes, bringing joy to residents and patients, and is inseparable from Panter’s daughter.

“She’s probably done 500,000 km in a vehicle, if we go anywhere and we’re not going to be home for insulin, we have to take her with us,” she said

Like most veterinarian clinics, Panter’s vet clinic has closed its doors to all non-essential visits and has resorted to parking lot pickups for food and medication.

She shares a common concern with many pet owners during this time — will she be able to get the adequate care she needs when so many services are being cut back?

“If her pancreatitis acts up, she needs to be in a (clinic) for three days on IV,” she said. “If there’s no vets, I watch her die.”

Dr. Chris Armstrong, a veterinarian and member of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association’s (CVMA) Council, said the one of the main things pet owners should keep in mind is that vet clinics have been declared essential in many provinces and there’s no sign of them shutting down in British Columbia.

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“It may not be business as usual, but I think certainly pet owners and animal owners should not be afraid that their animals won’t be taken care of,” she said. “Particularly in emergency or urgent situations.”

Virtual care options are also starting to become available — GoFetch Health recently launched a Canada-wide service that can help pet owners connect with vets to ask questions and get advice on if their animal needs further care.

The CVMA put out a statement on March 24 advising vets on best practices for telemedicine. However, Armstrong said there is a big worry in her industry: running out of medical supplies.

“Veterinarians, like human medicine, we’re running out of masks, we’re running out of surgical gloves, we’re running out of personal protection equipment,” she said.

Armstrong said that puts limits on things like non-essential surgeries, like a neutering or spaying.

“I think that’s really one of the biggest limiting factors is: can we access sufficient masks and gloves and gowns to be able to continue service?”

When it comes to another common worry, running out of medicine, Armstrong said that hasn’t been a problem so far. She urges pet owners to resist hoarding because that would start to affect supply.

“For most of the medications, I think certainly the supply chain is still there,” she said. “Hoarding at least for pet owners goes just as true for medications and products.”

Armstrong said people have also been worried about their pets contracting COVID, which she said is very unlikely. There’s also been no proof that humans can contract COVID from their pets.

“There has only been two COVID positive dogs, there’s been a tremendous number of dogs been tested through IDEX, which is one of our labs,” she said. “And out of all the testing, it’s only the two Hong Kong dogs.”

However, Armstrong said it’s worth remembering that pets can carry COVID, much like any other surface.

“Dogs, like your pen or a table, could act as what we call a fomite,” she said. “So, in other words, a COVID positive person kissed their dog on the head, just like if they kissed their pen, could they put the virus on those two objects? And the answer is, yes.”

New information comes forward all the time, said Armstrong, and the best thing pet owners can do is stay up to date from reliable sources.

“I think that the message to go across is that, if we are patient, if we kind of know that this is a fluid situation, take direction from responsible and reliable sources,” she said.

“Stay calm and be nice.”

cloe.logan@pqbnews.com

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