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Five Veterinary Services That Aren’t Available During Coronavirus Social Distancing Restrictions

Being able to see the vet when our pets are ill or injured is something that most of us at least partially take for granted, and calling on our vets for advice if we need help or aren’t sure about something is an important part of what vets do as well.

However, like most other services and industries including GP practices for people, how vets deliver their services and the very services that they offer have just undergone a huge and sudden change in the wake of the social distancing measures that have been put in place to help to slow the spread of coronavirus in the UK.

Veterinary clinics remain open offering a skeleton service for emergency and essential care for pets, to prevent or curtail pain, distress or suffering; but that is the limit of it. Anything else (including routine and preventative healthcare) is deemed to be non-essential, or rather, non-urgent at this time compared to the acute threat to human health posed by the spread of coronavirus, which means that many of the things you might fairly consider that vets would still be offering in terms of companion animal care are currently off the menu.

So, what can’t you see the vet for during coronavirus social distancing regulations? This article is not exhaustive, but will outline five veterinary services that you can’t access due to social distancing under the current restrictions, as a representative example to help the owners of companion animals to understand where they stand.

This article represents the state of play as offered by the vast majority of companion animal clinics based on government guidelines at the present time, being the end of March 2020 – please note that this might change as the year progresses and the regulations change over time too.

Can you get your pet neutered during social distancing for coronavirus?

No. Spaying and neutering pets is vitally important to prevent unwanted litters, but it is classed as preventative and routine rather than essential or emergent in nature. Unless failing to spay or neuter a pet would cause or worsen pain, distress or suffering – such as if they had an underlying medical condition or complication that neutering would resolve – this is something that will have to wait until restrictions are eased or lifted.

In the meantime, if your pet is unneutered, it is vital to learn how to care for and manage them to prevent mis-mating incidents.

Can you get your pet vaccinated during social distancing for coronavirus?

No, once more because this is preventative, and not emergent (necessary due to an emergency) or essential to prevent pain, distress or suffering. The BVA (British Veterinary Association) has advised clinics to suspend and defer the issue of both first vaccinations and boosters as part of the initial stage of coronavirus social distancing restrictions.

If you have a puppy or kitten, this may mean keeping them from going outside for longer than you would otherwise.

Once more, this is something that may be reviewed and changed if the social distancing measures currently in place continue for a protracted period of time.


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Can your pet have a routine dental procedure during social distancing for coronavirus?

No. Preventative veterinary dental treatments like sedated teeth cleaning, treatments for dental issues that are minor or that can be deferred, or that are undertaken as routine to remove plaque and tartar, are all off the table during social distancing under the current regulations.

However, if your pet is in pain, distress, or suffering due to a dental issue such as damaged or broken teeth or abscesses, then this will meet the benchmark of requiring care.

Can your pet have their nails clipped or anal glands expressed during coronavirus restrictions?

No. Nail clipping and anal gland clearing are usually handled in nurse clinics as preventative or maintenance treatments, and so are not urgent, emergencies, or essential. 

However, if an issue related to these things causes pain or suffering to your dog; like a toenail that is growing into a pad of their paw and causing pain, or an anal gland impaction or infection that is causing pain, this can be treated as an essential need.

Can your pet attend weight clinics and other routine monitoring appointments during coronavirus restrictions?

No. These are again routine or preventative appointments that fall outside of the remit of being an emergency or urgent need. 

Some services that are not emergent or essential may be delivered by other means

Where staffing at your veterinary clinic is available and a service can be delivered without face to face contact between staff and customers, some services that you are asked not to bring your pet to the clinic for may still be delivered, but by a different method.

For instance, if you can weigh your dog at home and have a phone appointment to discuss any changes, a remote consult may be possible in this respect.

The issue of flea and worming medications that might involve an annual visit to the clinic for your pet or face to face attendance by you can probably be handled with a remote consult and electronic or postal issue too.

It is worth calling your vet to find out what sort of workarounds and provisions they have in place for care that is not essential or classed as an emergency, as many will be delivering a range of other services remotely and to great effect too.


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