Dr. Anthony S. Johnson has been working in the veterinary profession for over twenty-five years. In his time as a vet, nothing has changed the way he works quite like the COVID-19 pandemic. Offices are closed or working in totally new ways, people are home and spending more time with their pets, and a business focused on customer service and animal welfare is now required to respect social distancing orders. These changes have been an adjustment, not only for vets and those who work with them, but for pet owners, too.
Many veterinary offices are now only seeing emergency and severe cases in-person. Routine check-ups, nail trims, and other non-essential services are being limited if not canceled all together. Etiquette surrounding vet visits has changed and Dr. Anthony S. Johnson is here to advise pet parents on the best, most efficient ways to make sure your pet gets exactly what he or she needs with as little stress on them and their humans as possible.
Stop and Assess
Considering that most veterinary practices are focused on treating only emergency or serious cases in person, Dr. Johnson suggests taking a deep breath before rushing off to your vet’s office. Consider whether or not your pet’s condition is truly serious. Many pet owners are spending more time at home and noticing things like skin tags, bumps on the skin, and other routine conditions that often have no impact on the pet’s wellbeing. Sound familiar?
If your pet’s condition doesn’t feel urgent, resist the urge to run to your vet’s office. Dr. Johnson explains, “Things like skin tags, lumps, and bumps usually aren’t emergencies. Consider taking a photograph if you’re worried and calling or e-mailing your vet. Many practices are now serving their customers through phone calls or email. This may be all you need to calm your nerves and get the information you need. If your pet needs to see a veterinarian in person, your vet’s office will let you know.”
Call Ahead and Read the Signs
If your vet is seeing patients in person, one of two things will happen. First, you may be asked to drop your pet off at the front desk or curbside. When you’re making your appointment, your vet’s office will let you know if this is the case. That’s why it’s so important to call ahead to understand the procedures. Curbside or front desk? How long should you expect to wait? How will they gather information about your pet’s condition? All of these questions can be answered safely over the phone. So, bring a book or come prepared with a podcast handy. Chances are you won’t be allowed in the building, but you will feel much more at ease and protect others by calling ahead and understanding the process.
As more states open up and restrictions are relaxed, you may be able to accompany your pet inside the office. If this is the case, stop at the front door and read the signs. Most offices will have social distancing instructions posted on the door before you enter. Don’t rush into the office in a panic without understanding the procedures in place to protect both you and your veterinarian. “When your pet is suffering, it’s easy to forget your petiquette,” says Dr. Johnson. “Try to remain calm and follow instructions. Chances are your vet and everyone who works in the office from administration to technicians are more stressed than usual.” Everyone is doing their best and you should try to as well.
Keep Calm and Wash Your Hands
“The best thing you can do when your pet is experiencing an emergency is to try to remain calm,” says Dr. Johnson. A cool head will allow you to think clearly. Panic results in rash decisions and thoughtless actions that can put both you and the veterinary hospital staff at risk of contracting COVID-19. The most effective way to get your pet help quickly and efficiently is to keep a level head and follow instructions. Demanding services like nail trims from your vet or disregarding new instructions for social distancing and hygiene at a vet’s office means nothing good for you or your pet. Everyone is on edge, but your veterinarian is there to help. So, help them in return by being kind, staying calm, and washing your hands!
Dr. Anthony S. Johnson is a veterinarian, academic researcher, and teacher originally from Carmel, Indiana, now living and working in Illinois. He has published numerous academic articles, taught veterinary medicine at Purdue University, and headed up several emergency departments across the United States. Dr. Johnson now works as the Medical Director at the Veterinary Information Network (VIN).