I’m sure many of us responded to the UK Government’s announcement on Saturday with something like “here we go again…” Once again, England is going into some sort of lockdown, with businesses being closed, and restrictions on movement. The population is being advised to stay at home where possible. So what about vets? Is your practice an “essential service”, or are the vets going to be closed as well?

Remember, this advice only applies to vets in England – Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland have their own regulations in force, some of which may be stricter and others more relaxed.

Will veterinary clinics and surgeries have to close?

First the good news – no. Veterinary surgeries are considered to be essential businesses and will stay open. The veterinary care that they provide is so essential to animal welfare that there is no realistic chance of them being completely closed down. So if your pet becomes ill, you can and should still call your vet.

Will vets’ be open as usual?

Now the bad news – probably not. While we have not yet had the full government guidance, the BVA (the main veterinary representative body) have this morning issued advice. They are recommending two major changes:

1: Veterinary staff should work from home where possible, offering remote consultations. 

This means that many more health problems in animals are likely to be dealt with by video consultation or telephone call than usual. For many practices, it’s likely that as a default most patients will initially be “seen” over video link or with a telephone triage, to determine how serious their illness or injury is.

2: Vets are advised to provide only essential animal health care at the moment

In other words, patients will only be seen in person if it is essential to do so. The RCVS advice on this is that cases that should be seen in person are those which…

  • Involve food animals and the maintenance of the food chain (so most farm animal vets will be open as usual).
  • Are emergencies (such as a road traffic accident, a dog with bloat, or a cat with a blocked bladder).
  • Present a significant welfare issue and cannot be dealt with remotely.

Bear in mind that vets are, for the duration of this emergency, permitted to prescribe remotely in some situations, so as to avoid putting them and you in danger, if it is safe to do so.

However, these are all guidelines, and all vets are advised to use their professional judgement as to what constitutes an emergency or a significant welfare issue. We’d like to call on all animal owners to #respectyourvet – they are trying to keep you and your animals safe and well! Please remember that this pandemic has been incredibly hard on us all – vets as well as animal owners – and that many of our colleagues and friends are suffering significant mental health issues as a result. 

So, on behalf of all UK vets, please try to be patient with us as we work this out!

Is there much risk to me from my pet?

The risk is very, very small. While dogs and cats can contract the virus, dogs do not seem to be affected by it. Cats may rarely develop symptoms, but there are no confirmed cases of pet to human transmission. See our blog for more details.

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Read more…

British Veterinary Association Frequently Asked Questions for Owners

British Veterinary Association 2nd November briefing

Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons’ Advice