5 Unexpected Ways The Pandemic Has Impacted the Veterinary Field
While the CDC and WHO have had consistent messaging on COVID-19 - the virus may affect animals while the risk of animal-to-human transfer is quite low - there are many other ways that the new novel coronavirus pandemic has impacted the veterinary field.
Here are the top five ways this pandemic has had a recent impact on our industry:
1. Human visitation with their pets has been very limited.
It may seem upsetting or bizarre at first to drop off your pet at the vet without coming in and making sure the animal is comfortable, but it's become normal practice during the past few months. The Ontario Veterinary Medical Association recently conducted a survey, asking veterinary hospitals how they've changed their operations. Here are some interesting statistics:
- 88% of veterinary hospitals did not permit clients into the hospital at all.
- 89% of veterinary hospitals enforced a curbside pharmaceutical pickup.
- 76% of veterinary hospitals have been using some form of telemedicine.
Drop-offs, client screenings and limited visitation are also commonly used tactics to try to preserve the health of the clinics.
Of those practices surveyed by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), 98% of veterinarians were limiting client contact.
2. In many cases, neuters, spays and routine checkups have been delayed.
According to that same survey of veterinary coronavirus impacts, most vet hospitals have postponed or delayed these services:
- 90% of veterinary hospitals have postponed neuters for dogs.
- 82% of veterinary hospitals have postponed neuters for cats.
- 80% of veterinary hospitals have postponed spays for cats and dogs.
- 55% of veterinary hospitals are only seeing animals for emergencies.
Routine checkups for dogs and cats have been pushed out in favor of emergencies since many veterinary hospitals have limited their hours and staff. Pet owners should be patient with follow-ups, while also not letting them go by the wayside as well.
3. There have been veterinary drug shortages due to pandemic panic.
Drugs normally used on animals like ivermectin and chloroquine phosphate have been bought up in droves due to a few studies showing their effectiveness in battling coronavirus. Veterinarians and veterinary hospitals may have a shorter supply of certain drugs as a result.
But the shortage is not limited to drugs that may combat the novel virus. According to the AVMA, there is a very real risk of shortages in the supply chain of active pharmaceutical ingredients and medical devices sourced from China. Out of the 32 animal drug firms that source ingredients from China, only six of them have reported disruptions in the supply chain that may lead to shortages, according to the FDA.
In addition, there's been a wave of panic-buying normal animal drugs like antibiotics in the hopes that they would be good for use in humans when drug supplies dwindle. This is not advised at all, but still may harm the shelves of local vets as we feel the effects of this panic.
4. The FDA has been carefully watching animal food.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has been in contact with stakeholders in the animal food supply industry since March. As of now, according to the FDA, there is "no evidence of animal food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19." Also, there is no evidence of animal food shortages. That being said the industry has been prioritizing the health of its workers and maintaining inspections to assure that the novel virus is not being transmitted this way. The industry continues to monitor the effect of the coronavirus pandemic, though. A veterinarian will likely not have a shortage of pet food, as of now.
5. Many major veterinary schools have shipped their ventilators to save human lives.
The lack of ventilators is one of the most frightening impacts of the first "wave" of the coronavirus pandemic. In veterinary medicine, there is sometimes a need for ventilators, but circumstances have led the country's largest animal hospitals, zoos and veterinary schools to donate their devices. These ventilators are often identical to the ones used on humans and can be repurposed very quickly. Cornell University and Tufts University are among the several schools that have donated their devices.
As this pandemic continues to unfold, vets will continue to adapt and change their services for the benefits of both humans and pets. Check your local vet's business hours and call ahead to see whether you'll need to do a drop-off or drive-in of your pet or your pet's prescriptions.
As coronavirus continues to sweep across Northern Florida, veterinary experts at Forever Vets will continue to safely and quickly serve the community. Contact us if you have questions or concerns about how the virus is impacting your local branch.