Sydney Marcon, a vet assistant, stands outside the animal hospital where she works. Photo credit: Kristy Jones

Animal hospitals began resuming regular hours on May 25.

At Greenbank Animal Hospital, pet owners can bring their cats and dogs for elective surgeries. Annual vaccines will also resume.

However, people shouldn’t bring their pets just because they can as it can pose risk to the clinic staff.

When the clinic was only accepting urgent patients, they had to turn clients away.

“Clients claim their dogs are in discomfort just to get a nail trim,” says Chanda Vodden, a veterinary technician at Greenbank Animal Hospital. Owners are using the animal hospitals as an outing.

Though the staff have closed their door to clients, sanitize regularly and use personal protective equipment, they risk catching COVID-19 during procedures.

“I do feel that coming to work increases my risk of contracting the disease,” says Athena Van Hoof, a veterinary technician at Greenbank Animal Hospital and graduate from Algonquin College. “Despite our best efforts to distance, there are many procedures in veterinary medicine that depend on getting within two meters of my co-workers.”

Vodden describes the trouble of taking blood from an animal. At least two people need to be in the room – one holding the animal and one drawing blood. If the animal is hyper, a third person needs to be present to provide assistance keeping the animal still.

“Social distance, not accomplished,” says Vodden.

It’s not just social distancing, pets also pose a second risk to staff.

“I have learned that pets can contract the COVID-19 virus, especially if someone in their home has been sick with it. It’s rare, but the risk is there,” says Sydney Marcon, another Algonquin graduate and veterinary assistant at Greenbank Animal Hospital.

“Owners don’t take the same precautions with their pets as with humans,” says Vodden. It could be simple things like owners petting their animals without washing hands.

The province may be reopening and the animal hospitals may be offering more services, but do not use it as an excuse to leave the house that puts these frontline workers at higher risk.

Certain appointments should be made. Other problems can be dealt with at home.

Important appointments include annual vaccines – especially for puppies and kittens.

Neutering and spaying has been reinstated. It is safe for your pet to go into heat one time, but if they go into heat a second time they are at a higher risk of developing cancer later in life.

Only 20% of dogs and 10% of cats feel uncomfortable with long hair during the summer, says Jessica Knight, a veterinarian at the Prescott Animal Hospital. Shaving is for the owner’s convenience but not a necessity.

“Brushing daily can help prevent matting,” says Van Hoof. Matting will cause your pet discomfort and can cause sores, so it’s important to brush them regularly.

“If a pet will tolerate it, clipping with electric clippers is an option, even if it doesn’t look as pretty as when the groomer does it,” she says.

Pet grooming kits can be purchased online or in stores such as Walmart.

“Avoid using scissors – it is very easy to cut your pet!” says Van Hoof.

If you’re worried about your pet, call your local animal hospital for a consultation before booking an appointment. This will keep you, your pet and the staff at these clinics much safer.