How to Handle the Influx of New Pet Adoptions During COVID-19
Pet fostering and adoption are surging in many communities across the country—what does this mean for veterinary practices in a COVID-19 world?
Pet fostering and pet adoption have thus far been one of the silver linings associated with the coronavirus pandemic. With stay-at-home mandates in place for 95+% of the country’s population, people have found themselves wanting to give back, especially as the pandemic worsened and some animal shelters needed to close or were fearful of overcrowding in such uncertain times.
Animal shelters throughout America report a huge surge in pet fostering and adoptions since the coronavirus lockdown took hold.¹ Additionally, shelters and humane societies have seen an increase in fosters being permanently adopted as well. This is a true win-win-win scenario in that it is good for the animals, good for the shelters, and good for the new pet owners.
We in the veterinary profession understand the benefits of pet ownership: decreased blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and triglyceride levels. Pets can help manage loneliness and depression by giving owners vital companionship along with a source of care and entertainment for the single, coupled, and families with fidgety kids. Studies have shown that the bond between people and their pets can increase fitness, lower stress, and bring happiness to their owners.²
How does this impact veterinary teams, which are considered essential businesses but have been advised to focus on essential procedures?³ Veterinary teams need to continue to provide medically necessary care for our animal patients, especially during this time when Americans are spending increased time at home with their pets and as noted above are fostering and adopting pets.
What does this mean for veterinary hospitals, veterinary nurses, and pet owners? Increased communication, increased use of telemedicine, and determination of what constitutes essential procedures. We have discussed veterinary nurses and telemedicine in the age of COVID-19 and education and communication surrounding pets and COVID-19. But what is essential and with many people fostering and adopting, what is routine and what is not? Veterinary nurses can assist the veterinarian in a variety of ways.
Veterinary hospitals have been encouraged to cancel elective appointments and procedures until the threat to human health subsides. Telemedicine can be made available to clientele as needed. Emergency services can remain available on an as-needed basis. The AVMA has encouraged the position of deferring elective procedures at this time to help preserve medical supplies for human use. The decision is in the hands of the veterinarian, and is case dependent.
Physical examinations should be performed on new patients and new puppy and kitten patients. However, to do this via telemedicine a VCPR must be established. Therefore, it would be appropriate to teletriage the patient and if warranted, examine this new patient in person while following the social distancing guidelines currently in place by the CDC, the state veterinary medical board, and the hospital.
As COVID-19 is an infectious disease, veterinary teams realize the importance of preventing other infectious diseases; thus, vaccinations—especially rabies—are essential. Therefore, higher on the triage list would be those pets in need of a rabies or another zoonotic, infectious disease vaccination. Priority should be given to those animals getting their first rabies vaccination or their first booster rabies vaccination.4 For those animals coming due for a booster, the recommendation is to give the booster if possible and following CDC guidelines for social distancing.
With the potential influx of newly fostered and/or adopted pets, it is crucial for the veterinary team to keep their website and social media channels up to date. Consider adding educational material regarding what is done in an initial examination and why—proper nutrition for the pet, behavior considerations, house training, vaccination protocols, etc. Direct new pet owners to evidence based educational sites. Celebrate with them that they have a new pet!
Communication is key. Remind new pet owners of the appointments that will need to be set up when the social distancing guidelines are relaxed and why these appointments are important to the health and longevity of their new family member. It is important for new pet owners to see the compassion and knowledge that your veterinary hospital has—and that even though a formal VCPR may not be established until the pandemic eases, veterinary teams care about the pet and the pet owner.
More Coronavirus Coverage
1. Teeman T. Pet Adoption Is Way Up. But What Happens When Quarantine Ends? The Daily Beast. March 26, 2020. https://www.thedailybeast.com/coronavirus-sparks-a-pet-adoption-and-fostering-boom-but-animal-shelters-worry-it-may-go-bust Accessed April 18,2020.
2. CDC, Healthy pet, healthy people. https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/health-benefits/index.htmlAccessed April 12, 2020
3. AVMA. COVID-19 Update https://www.avma.org/blog/covid-19-update-emailed-avma-members April 20, 2020.
4. Best practices for vet practices. https://vetmed.illinois.edu/covid-19-recommendations-for-veterinary-practices/ Accessed April 20,2020.