After more than a year of living under the cloud of a global pandemic, we all still have to grapple with lifestyle changes to stay safe. For most people, this means they won’t be able to escort pets to the veterinary office as the practices continue to work on the roadside. Some dogs (and some owners!) Can cope with this reality better than others.
While COVID statistics are finally trending in a better direction in many states, it’s impossible to know exactly what the future holds or when veterinary practices will start letting customers back in. The following tips will help you make the most of a difficult situation.
* Ask yourself: is the visit absolutely necessary? At the height of the pandemic, many practices were restricting non-essential procedures, including spay and neuter surgery. While we would never recommend refusing care, if you’re feeling well, wait and see if you have minor issues.
Also, be extra careful to avoid accidents that would require veterinary treatment.
* Share notes. Write down the information you want the vet to know about your dog’s current situation. Be precise! In many practices, a veterinary assistant will come to your car and ask you initial questions about your dog and its problems before bringing your dog into the house for an examination. Send your notes with your dog. Then the vet can read the notes before her exam and discuss them with you when she calls or comes out to speak to you.
* Improve your treat game. We may not be able to go inside to make sure our dog doesn’t get stressed or scared, but we can at least send him something to make him feel better: quality treats! The last time my dog needed a blood draw before a drug refill, I filled a plastic bag with pieces of cooked meat. I wrote: “Please be generous!” on the baggie and handed it to the assistant as he trotted my dog into it. It must have helped because Saber came out happy and licked his lips!
* Ask questions. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. It doesn’t hurt to ask if the vet would like to examine your dog outside or if you can lead him to the door before dropping off. Stand up for your dog, but understand that sometimes the answer is no – and be respectful. Practices try to protect everyone. If employees call in sick with COVID, it can destroy a practice – especially a smaller one.
* Consider using a mobile veterinarian. With heartbreaking end-of-life decisions, ask your veterinarian if they can refer you to a mobile doctor who can safely help you and your dog at home. This event is already emotionally difficult, but not being there with your dog for euthanasia can be even more traumatic.
* Practice and be prepared. For some dogs, visits to the vet can be stressful at best. Training collaborative care skills at home can alleviate some of the anxiety associated with vet visits. The Fenzi Dog Sports Academy (fenzidogsportsacademy.com) offers excellent online courses for cooperative dog care. (See also “Cooperative Grooming: Give Your Dog Choice and Control” WDJ February 2021.) If your dog is extremely anxious and viewed as a risk of biting, teach him to happily wear a muzzle that you attach before you do send him in. (See “Gentle muzzles”, page 4.)
It’s easy to get frustrated with the rules of the COVID era. Take a deep breath and practice patience and kindness – not just with your dog, but also in dealing with your valued veterinary health team.