Well, as of yesterday, about 35% of the population of England went back into some form of lockdown – appropriately enough called “Tier 4”, matching up with Scotland’s system. However, this has all happened very quickly, and there are still questions to be asked – for example, can you take your dog or your cat or your rabbit to visit a vet if you’re under Tier 4 regulations?

Yet another update to our rapidly growing “Are vets open in…” series!

Yes, it does seem to be growing now! We’ve previously asked:

But, as more Tiers are added, it’s a useful question. And the answer is “yes, but not in quite the same way as they were before”. Exactly how this plays out will depend on the guidance issued by our professional body the British Veterinary Association (BVA) and our regulator, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS). At time of writing, Tier 4 guidelines haven’t yet been finalised, but we will update the links here as and when it is.

Why hasn’t the guidance been issued yet?

Because this was rushed in at pretty short notice by the government. However, the new mutated variant of Covid-19 has only been confirmed in the last week or so, and it appears to be more highly transmissible than the previous strains. As a result, I think rapid action by the government was entirely appropriate – even if it has left everyone racing to catch up.

What do the regulations say about vets?

The newest government regulations specifically state that veterinary practices are essential services and will stay open. In addition, visiting a veterinary practice for advice or treatment is considered a legitimate reason to leave your home (for animal welfare reasons). Grooming of a pet for animal welfare reasons is also considered acceptable, but grooming for aesthetic or cosmetic purposes is not.

So how will visiting the vet change?

Well, treatment for injury or illness won’t change – your vet will still see your pet in emergencies or if there are medical reasons. However, elective procedures such as routine neutering may in some cases be postponed, depending on the specific practice policies and risks.

You can also expect your vet to be very strict about social distancing and mask wearing; and in many cases “kerbside vetting” is likely to make a comeback. In other words, your vet will see your animal – they may not, however, be willing to see you inside the building.

It’s definitely suboptimal, but given the numbers of new cases (35,000 on Sunday 20th), with the winter viral spike just starting, I think it’s a lot better than the alternative.

Will my pet be at risk from the new mutant virus?

Probably no more than they are at the moment – cats and ferrets we know can very very rarely develop the disease, although onward transmission to humans from animals does not appear to happen with dogs and cats.

However… there is a big question mark here. Any mutation to the spike protein on a coronavirus can alter its ability to bind to cells. After all, that’s one of the main drivers behind altered transmission – if the virus can bind more efficiently, you need fewer viral particles to set up a self-sustaining infection. This mutant form has over 20 different mutations, so it isn’t impossible that changes to the spike will make it more able to infect animals as well as humans.

Vetster option 01 (Blog)

So far, we don’t know – but we’ll watch this space and update you all as soon as we have more information!