October 19th, 2020

Veterinarians still operating but with extra COVID-19 precautions


By Beeber, Al on April 1, 2020.

A staff member carries an animal from a customer's car to the clinic entrance as part of curbside service at the Coaldale Pet Clinic, one of several area vet clinics offering modified service during the COVID-19 crisis. Herald photo by Ian Martens @IMartensHerald

Al Beeber

Lethbridge Herald

abeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

Humans aren’t the only ones who may need emergency health care during the COVID-19 crisis. Farm animals and humans’ four-legged companions aren’t immune to sickness, either.

Area veterinary clinics are responding to the COVID-19 situation by taking extra safety precautions while dealing with pets and livestock.

Two southern Alberta veterinary offices which specialize in livestock said their staff is taking due diligence to ensure the safety of themselves and their clients.

Calving season is in full swing and vets can expect to be busy. One, Dr. Charlotte Hemstock of Ranch Docs Veterinary Services just outside of the city limits, on the weekend had to do an emergency C-section on a sheep near Warner.

Ranch Docs not only focuses on equine and livestock care but it also has a small-animal practice in the same building, a bright red barn-shaped facility easily visible just off Highway 4.

“We’re still going and trucking along,” said Hemstock this week. Livestock and pets alike need regular vaccinations and veterinarians are continuing to do that work.

Like the staff at Livestock Veterinary Services at Picture Butte, which is an ambulatory operation with five vets going out daily to area farms, vets at Ranch Docs are ensuring safe-distancing is being done when dealing with clients.

Both operations say farmers tend to be social-distancing experts anyway but veterinarians ask clients if they are healthy or showing any sign of illness before dealing with their animals.

“This is a busy time of year; it’s also breeding season for horses,” said Hemstock.

“We’re starting to limit elective care,” said Hemstock. That care, which includes spaying and neutering, is also being temporarily postponed by area pet clinics contacted by The Herald.

When horses or livestock are brought to Ranch Docs, their owners are kept a safe distance from staff and communicate by phone or through the open window of a vehicle.

The practice manager of Livestock Veterinary Services, who didn’t want her name used, said that facility’s five veterinarians “always practise bio-security measures” to prevent disease transmission from farm to farm.

And they also asks clients if they are healthy.

Small animal clinics in the area are having clients call or text from their parking lots to arrange for their cats and dogs to be seen by veterinarians.

Staff at Green Acres Animal Hospital in Lethbridge and the Coaldale Pet Clinic said these precautions are being taken to ensure safety during the crisis.

“We’re rebooking routine surgeries and vaccinations,” said Stacy Mahieux of Green Acres. Like the Coaldale Pet Clinic, which was also contacted, it is still doing rabies shots and vaccinations for puppies and kittens. But spaying and neutering is on hold.

“We’re doing a lot of triage over the phone,” said Mahieux.

At both locations, animal patients will be retrieved from vehicles and taken inside for care.

“It’s a very new way of doing things,” said Mahieux adding Green Acres’ phone is ringing off the hook.

Clients of both facilities have been largely supportive of the client care, said Mahieux and a staff member at the Coaldale clinic.

Mahieux said if a pet owner is ill, that person needs to arrange someone else to take the animal to the veterinarian.

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