COVID-19: Safe practice advice for veterinary clinics
Photo by Artur Tumasjan on Unsplash

Veterinarians are on the front lines during the COVID-19 pandemic. Heed to this advice to safely practice in a clinic setting.

Veterinarians are on the front lines during the COVID-19 crisis, keeping animals healthy and addressing emergencies when they arise. The AVMA continues to work hand in hand with the CDC, USDA, and FDA, along with other international, national, and state agencies to keep the animal health community updated with the latest news concerning safe practices.

Understand COVID-19 

Keeping your veterinary practice safe begins with understanding how this novel coronavirus works. It is key to ensure that your staff members are well-informed about the virus’s symptoms as well as the way it is transmitted. Everyone at your practice should follow CDC guidance aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19. This means safe social distancing, cleaning and disinfecting communal surfaces often, and frequent handwashing.

Know what’s permitted in your region

Follow minimum standards of care for your state or region. Health departments are responsible for issuing guidance and providing clarification about which procedures should be allowed or limited.  Often, limitations are issued based on whether disposable personal protective equipment (PPE) is required, as PPE equipment is being preserved for the COVID-19 response.

comforting puppyIt’s worth noting that exam and surgical gloves may be used as usual unless a shortage exists. If gloves are limited, then non-essential services that require the use of gloves must be postponed. Check to see whether your practice may conserve disposable PPE by utilizing reusable masks and gowns.

 

Check for local guidance

In many cases, the following procedures are permitted:

  • Routine vaccinations and examinations
  • Emergency procedures
  • Elective / non-emergency surgeries that do not require the use of disposable PPE
  • Non-emergency surgeries that require the use of disposable PPE when an extended delay would:
    • threaten the patient’s life
    • risk metastasis
    • cause irreversible harm to the patient’s physical or mental health
    • potentiate permanent dysfunction to an organ system or extremity
    • risk rapid worsening of symptoms
  • Elective procedures and services that alleviate pain and suffering, as well as those that may have an impact on public health
  • Humane euthanasia

Focus on physical distancing

Although clients may be anxious, and although they may wish to be with their pet, physical distancing must be observed.

  • Consider limiting clinic access to staff only.
  • In some areas, exceptions may be made for end of life care, although physical distancing procedures should continue. Consider offering euthanasia outdoors when practical.
  • When clients are permitted to enter, exclude those with respiratory symptoms. Anyone with a confirmed or pending COVID-19 diagnosis should remain outside.
  • Patient transfer should occur outside at a safe distance.
  • Discussions with clients should be conducted via phone, text, or email when possible. Facetime can be helpful if you need to see the patient.
  • Use online prescription services and electronic methods of payment when possible
  • Staff should practice safe social distancing to the greatest extent possible and should wear masks when working in close proximity with one another. Follow OSHA guidelines.

Equine practitioners should follow AVMA guidance. There are suggestions in place for mobile veterinarians as well. All veterinarians should stay updated as the COVID-19 pandemic evolves.

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