Monday’s announcement by the Government placed England into lockdown from midnight tonight. As with previous rule changes, including the move to tier 3, tier 4 and earlier lockdowns, some businesses have been forced to close. However, veterinary practices remain an essential service. Therefore, most will remain open.

What are the restrictions?

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons has updated advice for the Tier 4 restrictions in England and Scotland, as well as Alert Level 4 restrictions in Wales and lockdown in Northern Ireland (effective from December 26). In instances where there are no immediate animal or human health or animal welfare implications, vets are advised not to see clients. So this might include annual booster jabs and even neutering.

When contacting a vet, you may be asked to do an initial telephone or video consultation. This will be to assess the seriousness of the condition and whether it requires a physical examination. As per the RCVS and Government guidance, vets will be restricting face-to-face visits – probably more aggressively than before the lockdown. In some areas of very high infection rates, some practices may go back to emergencies only, but this isn’t expected to be the normal approach at this stage.

Veterinary staff are still being advised to work from home where possible, so there may be a smaller team on-site. Video consults are becoming more commonplace throughout the pandemic, you can read more about how they work in our blog post – How do video vet appointments work?

Should I Contact my Vet Before Visiting?

Understandably, many vets will be receiving more calls and requests than usual. If you have an appointment booked, or are looking to get your pet seen, visit your individual practice’s website or social channels for advice first. Many vets are providing updates on the services they are able to offer, and any restrictions they have – one pet, one owner, no children on-site etc.

However, with emergencies and significant welfare concerns, always contact your vet directly.

Will all Vet Practices have the Same Rules?

The RCVS, BVA and UK Government advice provides a framework for all practices. However, individual vets may have further restrictions in place. This may mean more outdoor consultations, fewer standard procedures or and some may not be able to accomodate owners with their pets.

The important thing is that your animal should be able to get the essential treatment they need. Equally, you should feel comfortable contacting and visiting your vet – following all the guidelines on face coverings.