What to do if your pet gets sick during lockdown?

The best thing about being at home during lockdown is that we get to spend more time with our pets. And they must be loving it too! There’s nothing normal about this new situation we’ve been thrust into, but we’re getting used to it in the hope of flattening the COVID-19 infection curve.

Now that you’ve got more time around your pets, you’ll be inclined to notice their behaviours, habits and antics more closely. And while you might be tickled by your unique furry’s idiosyncratic behaviour, you’ll probably notice when his behaviour isn’t so normal. So what do you do if your pet presents with an illness or an injury?

Vet care is an essential service

Fortunately veterinary care is deemed an essential service, but according to the South African Veterinary Council (SAVC), not all procedures are considered essential. They list some of the non-essential services and advise vets to:

  • NOT do house calls for routine procedures (like vaccinations)
  • NOT continue with grooming services during lockdown
  • NOT perform elective procedures (spays, vaccinations, dental surgery, nail clipping/beak trimming, etc.) unless deemed a medical emergency

If you are unsure whether your pet’s condition is considered necessary for a vet visit, do not hesitate to phone your local vet and find out what their COVID-19 protocol is.

You will still be able to buy pet food from your vet during lockdown.

Vet protocols during lockdown

Vet care is considered an essential service during lockdown in order to treat medical emergencies and ease animals’ potential suffering. But despite veterinary practices staying open during lockdown, veterinarians, their staff and their clients need to be protected from contracting COVID-19 (and further spreading the disease) at all costs.

This means that unnecessary human contact will be avoided and has the following implications:

  • If your pet was booked for a minor procedure or a check-up before lockdown, your appointment will likely be rescheduled for after lockdown. Phone and confirm with your vet that this is the case and ask for a new provisional appointment for your pet’s procedure.
  • If your pet needs urgent medical attention, one of two situations will apply:
    • Find out from your vet if they can arrange an animal ambulance to collect your pet for treatment and care.
    • If you need to take your pet to the vet, they will likely have a lockdown protocol in place, so phone them first to let them know you need treatment for your pet. Follow their instructions.

Generic lockdown protocol

Each vet will probably have a slightly different protocol, but it may look something like this:

  • You will have informed your vet that you need to bring your pet in for emergency care. Your vet will either arrange that you come at a specific time or instruct you to come immediately.
  • Once you arrive at the veterinary practice, stay in your car and phone reception to let them know you have arrived.
  • Either you will be allowed to take your pet in yourself, in which case they will call you to inform you it’s time to come in. Or the veterinarian and/or a vet staff member will come out to your car to collect your pet and take them inside for treatment and care.
  • The vet will come outside to your car to speak to you about your pet’s diagnosis and what treatment is necessary. If hospitalisation is required, you will be asked to complete the relevant form and give your consent.
  • After treatment (and depending on protocol), the vet will bring your pet back to your vehicle and discuss treatment and the prognosis with you.
  • When you need to make payment, a staff member will bring the card machine outside to your vehicle and sanitise it before and after use. Please sanitise your hands after making payment.

Remember to phone your vet to confirm their operating hours and make an appointment for your pet. These special protocols are for your and their protection – please respect and comply with your vet’s specific protocol while getting your pet the care and treatment they may need during lockdown.

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