By Serena Howlett, Contributing Writer
Hudson – In this stay-at-home spring, our animal companions are more important to us than ever. The creatures who share our world – in our homes and viewed from the window – lift our spirits and help us forget the fears we have for today and tomorrow. For family pets, days on end with everyone home may be the best thing that ever happened to them.
Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that the risk for contracting COVID-19 from fur is low, animal healthcare providers are not taking any chances.
“As veterinarians we count on our owners for history information on their beloved pets and find it easier to convey information on our physical exams in real time so we can get to treatment and resolution of any concerns as quickly as possible,” said Hudson Animal Hospital Chief of Staff Dr. Inga Bailey. “This current crisis has made this challenging.”
To meet the challenge, the hospital has made major procedural changes.
“We practice a low-contact protocol,” Bailey explained. “Only our patients are permitted into the hospital. Pet owners stay in their vehicles in the parking lot or go home if their pet is scheduled for a surgical drop-off.”
Technicians take the history over the phone and maintain social distancing as they bring the patient into the building,
The hospital also has protocols in place to reduce the risk of infection for Bailey’s “amazing support staff.” They wear masks and gloves when bringing a patient into the clinic.
“We use our own leashes” Bailey said, “and avoid contact with animal clothing and harnesses belonging to the client.”
Once the animal is inside, “we care for our clients’ furry family member to the best of our abilities,” said Bailey. “We wash our hands thoroughly before and after seeing a patient.”
After examination, the veterinarian contacts the pet owner by phone to discuss findings, diagnosis and any recommendations. The client then authorizes testing or treatment, as may be needed. To stay safe, the hospital has prioritized urgent care, rabies vaccination and keeping puppies and kittens up to date on required core vaccinations; however, it is now bringing back annual and wellness appointments and other elective procedures.
“I would encourage owners to follow social distancing for pets outside their home, such as keeping their dogs six feet from other animals and people and on a non-retractable leash while on walks. Keep cats indoors,” Bailey recommended. “There are on-going studies regarding animal to animal transmission and once this information is finalized I am sure it will be publicized.”
Bailey began her career aspirations at the tender age of 5, “after the death of a beloved pet.” Despite years of experience as a general practitioner and as an emergency veterinarian, Bailey said, “Nothing prepared me for this crisis.”
She praised the “patience, kindness, and cooperation” of Hudson Animal Hospital staff and “the community of caring families that we serve.”