COLUMN: Veterinary Medicine & COVID-19 – Let’s Work Together.

By Dr. Trevor Lawson

You may have noticed a lot has changed these past few weeks; nothing is as it was yesterday.  This is for very good reason. 

COVID-19 is a serious public health risk that is affecting us all, individuals and businesses, and we all need to do what we must to limit the speed of spread.  Have you wondered – what does this mean for an individual?  What does this mean for a business in my community?

For you it means literally staying home unless you must go out over the next few weeks.  If you are in a high-risk age demographic, please ask a family or community member to run your errands.  There has been a lot of talk about “social distancing”, but the truth is that “staying home” is the most effective way to achieve this.

As you know, we have recently confirmed COVID-19 cases right here in our community, in a senior’s care facility and restaurant no less.  This is not someone else’s problem, not someone else’s to solve.  Each of us can be part of the solution.  Please ask yourself, do I need to go out to do this or can it wait a few weeks?

For businesses, the one’s who you have helped build by your support, it means difficult times.  Many small businesses are going to struggle, but they too have responsibility to be part of the solution.  The Public Health State of Emergency has mandated many businesses closed in order to reduce public movement and contact of individuals.  Select others have been provided “essential” status so that critical elements of society do not get left unattended.

Last week the Nova Scotia Veterinary Medical Association (our regulator) worked closely with government to assure continued access to veterinary care in Nova Scotia.  This was a critical step for everyone, and we are all relieved and thankful for the government’s decision.

Now this is the important part.

“Essential” does not mean business as usual, and those businesses deemed essential have a large responsibility to the public to do what they can to reduce public movement, often by restricting their normal business and postponing important items that can wait a little while.

The next few weeks will be critical in determining our outcome in the corridor community area.  Will we see rapid growth of COVID cases, or will it be a trickle?  Our actions matter and will directly contribute to that.

We are in the business of providing veterinary health care to your “family” members who are so important to help us get through the tough days.  We are also in the business of ensuring the best possible public health outcomes for you, our clients and community.  This is not new, veterinarians are experts in zoonotic diseases, and we have always applied our knowledge to prevent risk to you all the while taking care of your pets.

Now though, this is different, veterinarians must use their knowledge to help protect your health while postponing important care for your pet.  This is a tough balance, but we are committed to achieve it.

What does this look like at your veterinary practice?

It means when you call to see about having your new pups spay done your Vet will advise you that is not something we can do right now, but hopefully next month, please be patient.  It means when you call your Vet about the important dental cleaning you had planned, they will explain that we are going to have to wait for a bit but we’ll get to it as soon as it is more safe to do so.  It means that when you call about your annual visit or rabies booster, they will tell you we have to wait for a bit.

Your veterinarian isn’t saying “no”, but they are saying “not right now” for all cases that can safely wait a bit.  Remember the most repeated advice of the Premier of Nova Scotia and the Prime Minister of Canada – “stay home” unless you must go out.

The good news though, we will get your pet fit in as soon as the COVID risk starts to subside.  In the meantime, your veterinarian will manage each case as best they can for both your pet’s health and our community’s safety.

Most important of all though, the good news is that your veterinarian is prepared to undertake tele-health consults during this time where you need to “stay home”, and that they will see the patients that must be seen in clinic – no serious health issue will be allowed to linger.

If we are going to do our best for you and your animal, what we need most is your cooperation, understanding and patience.  Believe me, we all wish it were life as we knew it, small sacrifices now will help us get there sooner.

Dr. Trevor Lawson

Fundy Veterinarians Ltd.

Nova Scotia Council Member, Canadian Veterinary Medical Association

Dr. Trevor Lawson is a practice owner with Fundy Veterinarians in Shubenacadie Nova Scotia and lives in Carroll’s Corner.  He has been a longstanding volunteer with the CVMA, Canada’s national veterinary organization and the NSVMA whose primary responsibility it regulating the veterinary profession in Nova Scotia.