These are tough times, but our profession is tougher

March 30, 2020
Adam Christman, DVM, MBA

dvm360, dvm360 April 2020, Volume 51, Issue 4

We’re all in this together, and I couldn’t be prouder of the work veterinary professionals are doing.

To say that our world has been turned completely upside down is an under-statement. As healthcare practitioners, we take steps every day to protect our health and that of our patients. Even more so now with COVID-19 here. Coronaviridae have been around for ages and infect dogs and cats with strains that aren’t known to infect people.

Here’s what we know

We know that COVID-19 affects humans. The coronavirus strain that causes COVID-19 is SARS-CoV-2 (formerly 2019-nCoV). Transmission occurs via an infected person’s bodily secretions (e.g. saliva, mucus). Transmission via touching a contaminated surface or object and then touching the mouth, nose, or eyes is possible.

We know that pets exposed to COVID-19 are not at risk for developing these signs. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) guidelines recommend taking a commonsense approach when interacting with pets. As you’ll read in the April issue and on dvm360.com, while there have been no reports of pets becoming sick with COVID-19, people who are sick with COVID-19 are advised to limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus. If possible, having another family member or neighbor care for the pet is recommended to help avoid excessive contact.

Resiliency on full display

At the time of this writing, I’ve officially been chief veterinary officer at MJH Life Sciences for seven days, during which I have been in communication with veterinarians around the world about the COVID-19 pandemic. What really has resonated with me through all those conversations, emails and messages is how incredibly resilient our profession is.

I’m not surprised. We have weathered storms in our communities before. There have been moments in my own career where, just like many veterinarians, I felt depressed, unworthy, undervalued, the list goes on. I know you can relate. And in such a challenging time as we are in, I can honestly say I have never been more proud to call myself a veterinarian and to be part of a community that is simply remarkable.

One colleague who owns a fully mobile veterinary practice expressed her concerns about going into people’s homes. When one of her feline patients presented for a possible abscess, she noticed human mucus on top of the cat’s head. Given the current pandemic, this caused immediate pause for this practice owner, enough that she decided to close her business temporarily and start doing virtual visits instead. She has focused on her clients with valid veterinarian-client-patient relationships and is working with them and their pets via Facetime. She even partnered with a company to help have her patients’ medical records all online in a convenient app should the owners need them for future use. This veterinarian doesn’t know when she will reopen her mobile unit, but she does know she is providing exceptional care to her patients right now in the best way she knows how.

A new normal

I look at the public health concerns over COVID-19 as good practice for when a newly emerged (or current) infectious disease comes our way and creates alarm. Veterinary healthcare teams are continuing to provide service and care for patients while remaining mindful of their pet parents. Fastidiously cleaning the high-traffic human touch points with disinfectants is helping keep the threat of a potential viral overload at bay. Veterinary healthcare teams are holding weekly team meetings to make sure they are educated and providing the necessary education to pet parents over the phone and online. Many veterinary hospitals are even hiring professional cleaning crews to help with disinfecting and sanitizing their facilities. New clients are asked to fill out all necessary paperwork online or via an app ahead of time.

Patience is truly a virtue during these times. A fellow pet parent of mine told me she waited three hours to receive a refill of her dog’s ear medication and it was worth every minute. “To see humanity come together during times of crisis is truly remarkable,” she told me. “When it comes to our pets, we all give that little extra patience since they can’t talk to us and tell us. Veterinarians are our heroes.” Countless testimonials such as these may be the new normal for some time. I’m OK with that.

A veterinary hospital in Chicago removed all of its chairs from the waiting room so the healthcare team became even more aware that all pet parents were to be escorted to and from their car. They even bought a “red carpet” to make every client feel like a VIP as they are being escorted into the hospital. Another veterinary practice in New York City has switched its entire transaction system to Venmo, Paypal and Apple Pay. No credit cards are accepted and minimal cash (with gloves) is exchanged to help avoid person-to-person contact.

Thank you

I am truly proud to see how the veterinary community has stepped up and come together during such difficult times. On behalf of the dvm360 family, thank you for all you continue to do, risking your own lives while helping those that can’t speak for themselves and putting their pet parents at ease. Thank you for continuing to provide care while being incredibly resourceful and mindful of the virus that has plagued our world. A virus may damper the way we live, but it won’t ruin our passion for our profession, our communities and, most importantly, our animals.

Continue to fight the fight. We are in this together and we will come out on top.

—Adam Chrisman, DVM, MBA

Chief Veterinary Officer

Reference

1. AmericanVeterinary Medical Association. COVID-19 . AVMA webite. avma.org/resource-tool-animal-jealth-and-welfare/COVID-19. Acccessed March 26, 2020.

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