Veterinarian’s Take on Covid-19: Week One

A vet’s perspective on the Coronavirus life
By Alicia Kennedy DVM, March 2020

It’s been a week of hand sanitizer, social distancing and official responses. Policy, protocols, processes. (As you know, these are a few of my favourite things). Communications and reviews. Precautions. Preparation. Triage. Risk assessment.
Change. Uncertainty. Change.


Dear Tilly came to stay and wasn’t sure what to make of it all either!

Our inboxes have been flooded with COVID19 updates and responses from every company. Read our’s here.

In the meantime, people are still getting sick, not from COVID19, but because other shit still happens. And their pets still get sick too.

Pets are playing an almighty role in the COVID19 crisis. Not just as working from home buddies, for the army of people who are moving their employment to home-based. But now more than ever for our vulnerable folk, many of whom are already isolated. Their companion pet is often a sole source of touch and comfort.

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At Cherished Pets we are continuing our service in an adapted form (for now) according to industry guidelines, to ensure that our vulnerable clients receive the support they need to keep their pets healthy and well through this uncertain time. We call ahead to ensure everyone is willing and safe for the appointment to proceed, and explore if there is a remote alternative.

Our vets, community vet nurses and volunteers are following precautions as outlined in our statement and taking advice from the Health Department and other home service providers. Our home pet care assistance includes delivery of supplies, health checks and dog walking.

For some of our clients our visits are their only contact with the outside world, even if it is through a front door, or over the phone. Most of them are not internet savvy, they don’t access social media, and their main source of information is the TV news outlets. We are checking in on our people and ensuring they are ok. Our Community Vet Nurse last week was taking loo paper with her on her rounds.

So as our first week of COVID19 living draws to a close, here is some of my perspective:

  • I saw a lady who was really really scared. Literally shaking. Dry mouth. Staggered speech. She feels alone and unsupported, and more vulnerable than ever. Throw a sick cherished cat in to the mix and you have a genuine cry for help. She is one of the 4% who are in the highest risk category for COVID19. We are prioritizing care for her cat, who needs surgery.
  • She is not alone in her fear. I am witnessing heightened anxiety across all age groups especially our kids. 2020 has not been a good year for mental health. If anything our older people, who have endured war and depression, are less fazed about it all. Or perhaps less aware (as they are not on social media?).
  • Alternative arrangements are possible when providing veterinary care for pets. For example, I performed a couple of consultations on door steps, with the owner letting their pet outdoors and us talking, from a safe distance, through the door.
  • On Monday I found myself in a Palliative Care ward to collect a cherished dog from her human, J. He didn’t really give a hoot about COVID19. His main concern is having a safe and secure plan in place for his cherished girl Tilly, so that he can die with peace of mind that she will be ok. As I walked the corridors of the ward, having used sanitizer multiple times and called ahead to get approval for my visit, I noticed that life in this ward felt much the same as always. An energy of peace and calm; nurses, doctors, allied health professionals doing their thing; family and relatives visiting, and patients receiving the care they need. I wondered how this might change in the months ahead.
  • Some vulnerable people seem oblivious to the recommendations in place. For example, we had a 96 year old fellow visit our hub, telling me he is in self-isolation due to recent lung illness. He didn’t seem to understand the terms of self-isolation. Click here for a fabulous resource for older people and COVID19.
  • People under stress sometimes need support to make the better decision. This week we were called to euthanase a dog called Radar, as his elderly owner is very unwell and unlikely to return home. In her angst she arranged a request for euthanasia. Read more about Radar and what happened here. (Happy ending assured!).
  • It was a week where we witnessed appalling behavior by fellow humans, and at the same time, creative and marvelous acts of citizenship and altruism. Those who behaved badly hurt others. I met one beautiful client who is the full time carer for her son living with serious disability. He has very specific dietary requirements and she was getting quite stressed about the lack of availability of essential items. Being able to tell her about community groups working towards solving this problem reminded me of the good in people. That’s going to get us through this.
  • Pets are still dying, and our compassionate home euthanasia service continues as normal. Being able to offer pets a peaceful and pain free passing, in the comfort of their own home and surrounded by loved ones, is an honour and my purpose. In these moments COVID19 has been forgotten, which is perhaps a good thing.
  • A word about social distancing. I am a huggy person. Anybody who knows me knows this about me. I love hugging and need to be hugged. It’s the primate in me. So this social distancing thing is creating discomfort, but I know it’s for the collective good and I am abiding. Those awkward “I want to hug you but I can’t” moments are becoming less awkward, and the hand on the heart gesture is working as an alternative. However, during times of emotional crisis we can forget. This past week I have helped several cherished pets pass. Hugging is often a natural part of this process. I’ve been mindful of the social distancing in these visits, but did just once completely forget. I felt sorry about that. And then responded to myself with loving kindness. It will be ok. It has to be.

For me, last week was a week that saw everything change, and yet in other ways, nothing changed. The need for our service, according to guidelines, is perhaps greater than ever. The opportunity to be creative and collaborative in our response very strong. The shift in our community heart palpable.

Together we can flatten the curve. No doubt about it. We must batten down the hatches as this storm has just begun. And it will be ok.

Dr. Alicia Kennedy of Cherished Pets Community Veterinary Care, Victoria, Australia