ANIMAL WELFARE IN THE COVID REALITY

14th Apr, 2020

Press Release as supplied by Katya Guerra-Bayley, Account Director of Mala Media

The National State of Disaster has been declared by President Ramaphosa on the 15th of March. Since then, regulations have been published detailing what is constituted as essential and non-essential services, and from the 27th of March 2020, South Africa has been on a lockdown.  Veterinarians, being the custodians of animal health and welfare in South Africa, have been designated as essential service providers. The South African Veterinary Association (SAVA) has provided guidelines for veterinarians, assisting them in determining which services have been deemed necessary. This has also been made available to the public to assist animal owners in making informed decisions on when to contact their veterinarian.

If animal owners are concerned about the health of their animals, it is important to first call the veterinary clinic to discuss the concern and if deemed necessary by the consulting veterinarian to take the animal to the clinic, maintaining social distancing at all times. Both animal and owner welfare (i.e. human-animal bond) play an important part in these uncertain times, particularly as companion animals may be a critical support mechanism to many people. Using the guidelines below, veterinarians will guide their clients on when and how they will consult.

Service Advice
Wellness visits Postpone.
Food sales Continue but maintain social distancing if purchasing directly from your preferred veterinary clinic or make use of online delivery service. Should you need to visit your veterinary clinic, disinfect packaging with a sanitizer when you have arrived back at home, and wash your hands for 20 seconds thereafter.
Medication refills Continue but maintain social distancing if purchasing directly from your preferred veterinary clinic or make use of online delivery service. Should you need to visit your veterinary clinic, disinfect packaging with a sanitizer when you have arrived back at home, and wash your hands for 20 seconds thereafter.
Rabies vaccination Routine vaccinations (including previously unvaccinated animals) can be reasonably postponed if the owner can manage the animal in such a way to minimise the risk of exposure until your animal can be vaccinated.
Other vaccinations If deemed necessary, have your veterinary clinic administer boosters of vaccine series based on your animal’s condition and circumstances (e.g. risk of exposure), alternatively postpone other vaccinations if the risk of exposure can be managed in the interim.
Flea/tick preventives

Maintain social distancing if collecting from your veterinary clinic or arrange with your clinic if they offer the option for drop-off or delivery.

If you are a new client/patient at your veterinary clinic, establish a VCPR (Veterinarian-client-patient relationship)https://www.avma.org/KB/Resources/Reference/Pages/VCPR.aspx via telehealth (distribution of health-related services and information via electronic information and telecommunication technologies).

Life-threatening conditions

If your animal suffers from a life-threatening condition and you are both from a low-risk household, manage using social distancing when visiting your veterinary clinic.

With cases from high-risk households (See definition below), consult your veterinary clinic to discuss alternative options.

Management of painful conditions

Could be managed by telemedicine (See definition below) when possible.

If an examination is required and your animal is from a low-risk household, your veterinary clinic should admit your animal for examination, but always maintain social distancing.

Management of chronic conditions


Could be managed by telemedicine when possible.

Schedule an appointment if an urgent examination is needed but always maintain social distancing.

Surgical procedures for painful disorders


If your animal can be temporarily maintained on analgesics (medicines that are used to relieve pain) with a low risk of negative consequences, delay the surgery.

If the surgery cannot be delayed, do proceed if the household is low-risk.

If the household is high-risk, consult your veterinary clinic to discuss alternative options. If possible, isolate your animal from any high-risk individuals for 2-3 days to minimise the risk of possible contamination.

Sterilisations

Elective sterilisation for animals from a high-risk household should be discontinued until further notice.  

Animals from low-risk households could be sterilised, but always maintain social distancing.

 

 

High-risk households are those that have individuals known or suspected of COVID-19 infections, as well as those in which a person has been self-isolating and subsequently developed signs of respiratory infections, even if COVID-19 testing has not been performed.

Telemedicine:
Telemedicine (also referred to as "telehealth" or "e-health") allows health care professionals to evaluate, diagnose and treat patients in remote locations using telecommunications technology. Telemedicine allows patients in remote locations to access medical expertise quickly, efficiently and without travel.  South African veterinarians have started using Medici.md. The application allows clients to make contact with veterinarians in a secure portal, sharing videos and images and keeping an electronic health record of the animal.  Ask your veterinarian for more information.

“The health and welfare of animals, livestock and domestic pets is at the forefront of our business. During this period of the global pandemic, SAVA will continue to assist its members in upholding the highest set of standards, and we believe that our approach is to prevent any adverse impacts on animal welfare, from food safety to domestic care”, says Gert Steyn, Managing  Director for the South African Veterinary Association.

As animals are part of the family and deserve the same level of attention during this uncertain time as any other family member, it is therefore important to stay prepared and discuss feasible options with the veterinarian clinic as clients #StayHome and #FlattenTheCurve. The below points are vital in taking care of animals.

  • Ensure there is a sufficient supply of food before it runs out. Vetshops have been equally designated as an essential service, and therefore can sell pet food and ecto and endoparasite treatments.
  • Ensure their prescribed medication has been arranged, should it run out, arrange with the veterinary clinic to arrange for collection/delivery or make use of online delivery services.

Should there be an instance where a pet owner does test positive for COVID-19 and there are domestic pets in the house, SAVA suggests the following good practices to ensure all members of the house are kept safe and healthy:

  • Handwashing before and after handling animals, their food, waste and supplies.
  • Clean up after pets properly.
  • Practice social distancing from animals as one would do with humans (in a high-risk household).
    • Avoid contact with pets including snuggling, petting, being kissed or licked and sharing of food.
    • And if possible, have another healthy member of the household look after pets.
  • Do not use sanitizer on pets and avoid touching them just after you use any form of sanitizer.

For more information, please visit the South African Veterinary Services (SAVA), or follow them on Facebook or their Twitter page.