COVID 19 – a veterinary perspective

It wasn’t clear if I would be allowed to return back to my temporary placement in Abingdon and Wallingford when I returned to the UK, as in the meantime the UK management of the group I was working for, had given out the instructions, that all travellers to both Germany or France should self isolate for 2 weeks. After spending an extra day at home, this decision was thankfully revoked and I was once again on my way to Oxfordshire.

In the following days though, as the number of SARS-CoV-2 infected and unfortunately the dead was starting to rise exponentially, both internal and national rules and restrictions were changing rapidly.

On my first day back at work I was still “physically” seeing both pet owners and patients in the consulting room, where “social distancing” rules couldn’t really be adhered to. These consultations included routine health checks and vaccinations, which – despite wearing face masks and gloves – we became progressively uneasy with.

Our concerns were not helped by the now very frequent news we received not only from other UK colleagues, but also through my network of colleagues from other parts of Europe and from the rest of the world.

Towards the end of the week, also here only emergencies were admitted and I could use some of my spare time to distribute COVID19 infographics for both vets and for clients, which had been put together by the FECAVA marketing team, to both my British and to my Swedish colleagues. These guidelines are now in use in veterinary clinics all over (and beyond) Europe.

Clinical work had to continue though and just before the UK went into a complete lock down, we decided to operate on a young French Bulldog who was recovering from an aspiration pneumonia and who had severely obstructed upper airways. Unfortunately this is still a very common feature in these very popular dogs and his pre-surgical X-Ray showed not only the complete absence of a nose, but also a virtually complete obstruction of his throat.

Before starting with the operation, I checked all the instruments needed. This included a pair of long curved Metzenbaum scissors which I had asked one of the excellent nurses to order. She duly did so, but I had not paid proper attention when she had pointed out that the longest pair was 30 cm (!) long…….

Although being of an excellent quality, this piece of equipment, more designed for bovine surgery, was sadly of no use for me, but thankfully a smaller pair could be found in one of the other surgery kits.

The Frenchie’s throat was so narrow that it was impossible to intubate him under visual control (which is very rare with dogs) and rather than thinning and folding his soft palate forward (which in fact made matters worse…..) I had to completely resect it. Scary stuff, but there was surprisingly little bleeding and for the first time in his life, this little man could breath like a “normal” dog…..

Over the following few days, pandemic related matters worsened and clients were no longer allowed inside the building, not only to protect the team, but even more so to protect them from anything they might pick up in the waiting room. Somewhat bizarre consultations were now conducted on the car park, which reminded me to scenes out of spaghetti westerns or spy movies with prisoner exchanges :

Both parties are on opposite sides of a car park, with at least one of the characters masked, instructing the other (the client) what to do and what not to do before being told to retreat into his or her car.

Completely unreal, but all the clients I have seen so far have been extremely understanding and appreciated in fact these precautions. Regardless of this, I always felt that I had to apologise at the end of an emergency consultation conducted like this to my clients.

Another development is the emergence of the telephone and especially of the video consultation. This is a service that has been offered by some providers for a while, but with limited acceptance. However, now these consultations cover most of my diary.

The clients are loving it and I have to admit that with some experience a lot can be done and can be seen during this form of interaction with pet owners. I think that it is foreseeable that video communication on many levels will see a boost following the COVID 19 pandemic.

This weekend will be the end of my recent locum placement in Abingdon and with plans drawn up between all the larger veterinary groups in the country to work together by providing a strictly emergencies only service for the next few weeks, it is a fair assumption that not only will a large number of veterinary employees been furloughed, but there will probably not be much use for veterinary locums for a while.

Well – at least for me – that is not a problem and although it can’t involve much travelling at the moment, I have other plans…….

Published by The Blue Vet

I am a veterinary surgeon with a German and Norwegian educational background. I have been the founder and for over 20 years I have been the senior veterinarian at the Virginia Water Veterinary Clinic in Surrey, England. When starting this blog I was also the President of FECAVA, the Federation of European Companion Animal Veterinary Associations. In the summer of 2019 I left my clinic to work as an international locum and clinical advisor. I am interested in all aspects of clinical companion animal medicine, in endurance sports and in traveling and meeting people with and without their pets and especially in sharing my knowledge with colleagues in other parts of Europe and the World.

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