To stay open, Maine veterinary clinics are making some important changes to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. They are also teaming up to ensure that pet owners across the state continue to have 24/7 emergency care.
“We can still be there for your pets,” said Ai Takeuchi, veterinarian at Lucerne Veterinary Hospital in Dedham. “But if we are exposed [to COVID-19]We have to switch off. “
To reduce exposure to the virus, many veterinary clinics recently made the decision to “drive by the roadside,” Takeuchi said. This means that pet owners are not allowed to enter the buildings. Instead, pet owners stay in their vehicles in the parking lot and pets are brought in by hospital staff. Communication takes place over the phone or through a broken vehicle window.
“We’re minimizing human contact and keeping hospital staff as healthy as possible,” said Takeuchi.
Additionally, some veterinary clinics recommend paying by phone or credit card, which is easy to clean up.
Before traveling to a veterinary clinic – be it for an emergency or a scheduled appointment – vets ask you to call ahead. That way, they can let you know about their current logs and evaluate whether or not your pet needs to visit during this time. In some cases, appointments can be postponed until the COVID-19 threat is over. Veterinarians may be able to diagnose a pet by phone or use photos and collect medication and instructions from the clinic parking lot.
Veterinarians also urge pet owners to notify staff before visiting veterinary clinics if anyone in their household is diagnosed with COVID-19 or develops symptoms of the disease. That way, they know they need to take extra precautions around you and your pet. You can also recommend that those infected with COVID-19 limit interaction with their pets.
“Everyone has a different protocol because we are all small businesses if you think about it,” Takeuchi said. “There is no overarching management [for Maine’s veterinary hospitals], but there are general recommendations from the American Veterinary Medical Association. “
Some veterinary clinics, including the North Country Animal Hospital in Caribou, recently announced that they will only be open for emergencies and emergencies, with all non-essential appointments being canceled until further notice. This includes annual routine check-ups, vaccinations and elective operations such as spays, castrations and teeth cleaning.
Other veterinary clinics like Camden Hospital for Animals have yet to take drastic measures.
“We advise you [pet owner] They each come in with a pet, but we let them in, ”said Sharon Bettney, a veterinarian at Camden Hospital for Animals. “If the customer doesn’t come in, that’s absolutely fine.”
While the Camden Veterinary Hospital is currently doing this, the facility’s junior staff are constantly debating what changes to make to the log if COVID-19 spreads.
“We really take it day in, day out,” said Bettney. “We don’t want to turn it off. We are seen as essential. There is no emergency clinic in the area so we have to see emergencies. In the future, we may have to close our routine appointments and let the animals ditch their vaccines for a bit, calm things down and only be available for emergencies. We discussed that and we’ll see how things work out. “
Medical supply bottlenecks can affect veterinary care
In addition to enforcing new pet treatment protocols, veterinary clinics are taking steps to ration certain medical supplies that are sold out or may not be available in the near future due to the pandemic.
“It’s like the toilet paper situation,” Takeuchi said. “You cannot order at the moment [face] Certain gloves cannot be ordered from masks, and alcohol is no longer available in most places. This is part of the skin cleansing protocol for blood draws and surgery. “
Because of this, veterinarians can begin postponing surgery and other medical procedures for non-life-threatening conditions.
“Most veterinary clinics prioritize emergency and cancer surgery,” Takeuchi said. “We try to look at the bigger picture and be prepared.”
Camden Hospital for Animals currently has a good amount of medical care, Bettney said. As a small clinic, they don’t need as much supplies as larger clinics. Whether or not these supplies last depends on how long the coronavirus lasts and how many people are affected.
“We’re trying to be optimistic that it won’t be months before we have this crisis,” said Bettney. “We also don’t want to be part of the problem of hoarding a bunch of devices that other places may need more than we do.”
How to deal with a pet emergency during the pandemic
Most veterinary clinics are open at certain times of the week. If your pet gets injured or sick during this time, call the veterinary clinic where you usually go for checkups and other treatments. If it’s an emergency and a veterinary clinic is closer to your location, you can call that hospital.
In addition, Maine has five emergency care veterinary clinics that serve as places for pets to go for emergency treatment when their typical veterinary clinic is closed – such as weekdays, weekends, and major holidays.
These emergency veterinary clinics are:
– Portland Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Care in Portland, open 24/7
– Scarborough Maine Veterinary Medical Center Emergency and Specialty Hospital, open 24/7
– Mid-Maine Emergency Animal Clinic in Lewison, open weekdays and weekends
– Midcoast Animal Emergency Clinic in Warren, open weekdays and weekends
– Eastern Maine Emergency Veterinary Clinic in Brewer, open weekdays and weekends
What happens if one of these emergency hospitals has to close due to the coronavirus?
This is exactly what happened almost on March 16, when the Eastern Maine Emergency Veterinary Clinic in Brewer – the only emergency veterinary clinic for all of East and North Maine – learned that its staff had been exposed to a person who may have COVID-19 could. It turned out to be a false positive.
Several employees have quarantined themselves and the center stayed open on a limited schedule with a skeleton crew until the negative test result was returned.
If the hospital had to close completely, Takeuchi said the board had a backup plan to continue to provide 24/7 emergency veterinary care in the area. The plan will include the participation of local veterinary clinics and their staff, she added.
“We have a plan for emergency care even if this building has to close or all staff are exposed to the virus,” Takeuchi said. “We will do our best to ensure that the availability of veterinary care does not change.”