A day in the life of...

by TV vet Steve Leonard

Most dogs are creatures of habit and all this disruption to their, and our routines can really upset them. Like everyone else the veterinary profession is trying to find a new normal so I wanted to offer some insight into life as a vet in the current situation and reassure you that we are still here, if your dogs need us.

We’re all certainly living through very strange times at the moment and having to make some major adjustments to how we live and work. Of course all the changes that affect us as humans have a knock on effect on our pets too. Most pets are creatures of habit and all this disruption to their, and our routines can really upset them. Like everyone else the veterinary profession is trying to find a new normal with looking after our furry family members.

As vets and nurses we understand disease control and hand hygiene all too well, having dealt with diseases such as parvovirus and leptospirosis. I am so proud of my team who continue to work alongside me to help the pets in our care. We are all pet owners too, so understand that pets don’t pick the best times to get injured or sick – but veterinary teams will be on hand up and down the country to ensure animals are patched up where needed.

Many of my clients have apologised for calling us to see to their pets in the last couple of weeks, but I reassure them that they must get in touch if they’re concerned. Vets are finding new ways of working to provide the care required by their clients. Here at my practice we haven’t let a member of the public into the actual building for over 3 weeks now. Our days are filled with speaking to clients on the phone to see whether we can solve issues remotely or if we need to see the animal face to face. We’re seeing a lot of painful conditions that cannot be diagnosed over the phone. Common issues are related to sore eyes or ears. Both these areas of the body are super-sensitive so if they are sore we need to see them. We ask the owners to call us from the car when they arrive. They then hook up their pet to the lead holder outside the door and step away so we can pop out and take the pet indoors. It's so strange for the pets, clients and us - it feels like a hostage handover sometimes! The pets usually cope really well but we’re totally reliant on our excellent nurses to help hold and reassure wriggly or anxious patients in the absence of their owners. If we need more information we call the client from the room or pop out into the car park again (thank goodness we’ve had some good weather at last). Our days are now getting even busier as we are now starting to do some vaccines based on an individual risk assessment for the pet involved. Do they swim outdoors, or live on a farm, or does the owner potentially have rats nearby? – a common issue with backyard chickens. These are all risk factors for leptospirosis, so postponing a dog’s booster is not a good idea. If we can delay vaccines for some animals, we will continue to do so to try and minimise the risks of Covid 19 for the clients and our teams.

What has been the biggest revelation for the veterinary nurses and vets themselves is just how hard a job a veterinary receptionist is! All our receptionists have been furloughed to protect the team and the practice through this difficult time. Without them, the small teams of vets and nurses are also fielding all the calls, queries, prescription requests and managing the diary. Our days are full and the teams are frazzled by the sound of ringing phones by the end of each shift but it does feel good to still be there for the thousands of pets and owners who need us on the end of the phone. It’s great to see so many vets offering video consultations for added reassurance to help manage with triage and checking to see if pet do need to be seen. For many this is proving hugely reassuring. Many of our clients are in the ‘vulnerable’ category due to age or infirmity and it’s so important that their pets are looked after as best they can be during the weeks and possibly months ahead.

Crises such as this one, are when the true nature of humanity really comes to the fore and it has been incredible to see friends, family and neighbours assisting with collecting and delivery medication and food for pets when needed. It seems pet owners are finding their new normal too and hopefully some positives will come from this in that our relationship with our pets will be stronger than ever.

Stay safe.

Steve Leonard