New Covid-19 Guidelines from Minister for Agriculture and AVA
(disclaimer – clarity still being sought by AVA, and updated daily so who knows how long this will be current for)

1. Can I take my pet to the vet?

a. YES you can if there is a genuine animal welfare issue.

i. This means that your pet is unwell, in pain, has a condition requiring ongoing management, will suffer if the issue is not addressed, or may be put at risk.
ii. Recommendation is that you should attend the closest available vet AND you are permitted to travel more than 5km if this is required.
iii. There are practical issues with this where an alternative practice may not have a full understanding of the pets needs/case (even with the provision of records) meaning your pet may be better managed and assisted at your usual practice OR the practice may not have the resources (time, staff, equipment) to deal with your particular needs, in which case we feel at you should be able to attend your usual practice OR one you have been referred to.
iv. What would NOT be covered at this time? Serious interpretation and guess work required here folks. Here’s my personal take (good or bad in the absence of concise guidelines on this one)

1. Routine annual vaccinations where your pet does not have any other medical concerns.

a. Exemptions (in our interpretation) –

i. puppies as they would be at risk of Parvo and other vaccinatable diseases.
ii. Kittens at risk of Flu and FIV.
iii. Adult dogs – where they are more than 4 months overdue (as per manufacturers guidelines) or have other illnesses that may increase their risk including geriatric animals.
iv. Adult cats –where that are more than 1 month overdue if they are vaccinated for FIV or FeLV as part of their protocol OR more than 4 months overdue if they are vaccinated only for cat flu (as per manufacturers guidelines).
v. Where the pet is undertaking an initial course of vaccines, where suspending that course would place them at greater risk.
vi. Where the patient has other medical conditions that would increase its risk of contracting vaccine preventable diseases, ie immune system diseases, chemotherapy patients.

2. Routine nail clips, anal glands, grooming etc where the animal is not at risk of pain, suffering or disease if this is not done. You also need to bear in mind that even where permitted clinics may not have the equipment, staff or skills to be able to undertake grooming in particular even if deemed necessary – not all of us have grooming blades or set ups or even the spare time, so be kind if your vet is unable to assist.

3. If your pets’ case can be managed by Telemedicine. Ie can we video conference with you for the case management? This could include things like medication reviews where your pet’s condition is stable on existing medications and needs those drugs for ongoing management. Post-operative wound checks may also be appropriate, however this would depend on the nature of the surgery, so we will provide you with guidance on this one. Suture removal may also fall into this space where appropriate. Response to initial treatment for some conditions may also fit into this group, however if we need to ensure adequate response that requires physical examination of samples then this would not be practical via a Zoom consultation.

2. Am I able to take my pet to the vet outside of curfew hours (8pm – 5am)?

a. If your pet has a genuine emergency where any delay in treatment would cause substantial pain, suffering, deterioration or death then YES you can seek the services of an Emergency Centre outside of curfew hours.
b. This will be triaged by the Emergency Centre staff over the phone if you’re not sure and they may advise you that it is OK to wait until your regular vet opens OR they may request you attend. If they suggest you come in lease ask them for an SMS or email to confirm your attendance in case you are stopped by police.

3. Can I leave home to collect a pet?

a. Under guidelines issued 13/8/2020, you are able to leave home to collect a pet from the breeder, a pound or shelter. You should make an appointment, abide by all appropriate PPE and social distancing guidelines and return home immediately upon collection of the pet.

4. What types of consultations can be covered by telemedicine?

a. Firstly, you MUST under vet board guidelines have a pre-existing relationship with the clinic.
b. The clinic must provide you with options for a hands-on clinical examination for the patient. This does NOT mean that you the client need to be present with the patient and I will cover this in a little more detail shortly.
c. The Board states that YOU the client should provide “informed consent” in writing (ie via email) “including recording their knowledge and understanding of who is providing the service (name, location, practice affiliation and any conflicts of interest) and the limitations of remote advice. Whilst that is ideal, those of us in practice realise that it is not entirely practical to a certain extent. Therefore, I hope to put together a script for our vets that we will read at the start of your call and ask for verbal consent which can be witnessed by staff members and recorded.
d. Vet conducting the remote consult can ensure themselves that history and subjective information (your opinion on what you think is going on and what you can see) is sufficient to implement a therapeutic plan.
e. A full medical record is maintained by the clinic including all information about the case including those things that cannot be determined remotely (ie temp, heart rate, sounds etc………….) and recommendations and the client’s decision in respect to those recommendations and the reasons why a hands-on examination was not performed (derr COVID Restrictions – sorry now loving how much I am enjoying my day off today preparing all of this!)
f. “It is the Boards’ view that remote consultations may be used to provide general advice or health information and to undertake some general triage to determine the urgency or need for immediate referral to a veterinary practitioner for direct care. The Board reminds practitioners that they must exercise caution in offering any presumptive diagnoses, prognoses or therapeutic recommendations remotely, and must clearly communicate any limitations in doing so and alternative options to the owner”.

5. When would we consider Telemedicine appropriate?

a. Have we seen this patient and carried out a physical exam recently to have a reasonable understanding of its overall health?

i. This will vary with the age, overall health, any medical conditions and whether these have a record of being stable and managed conditions.
ii. Is this a new or pre-existing condition?
iii. Can this condition be adequately assessed remotely?
iv. Is a physical examination needed?
v. Are samples required and if so, can this samples be reasonably obtained and submitted by the owner without compromising patient wellbeing?
vi. What is the scope of advice that we can give with limited access to the pet and without physical examination taking place?

6. Will I be allowed in the practice with my pet?

a. In general, we will NOT be permitting client access to the clinic in order to keep clients and staff alike safe from contracting Covid-19. As you can imagine in this line of work it can be quite the challenge to remain 1.5m apart and despite PPE we are seeing workers in the Human medical field contracting Covid-19. For this reason, we are not willing to increase the risk to staff from a OH&S perspective or the fines from a legislative perspective. We also do not want to increase the risk of exposing staff and therefore having to shut the doors leaving all of your pets at risk. Please be respectful of our position under the circumstance and that we need to think of the greater good and not just the benefit to a single client or patient.
b. Exceptions MAY be made for:

i. Euthanasia’s, where attendance will be limited to 2 DIRECT family members only. You must be masked, use hand sanitiser as you come in the door and before leaving and maintain a distance of more than 1.5m at ALL times. This cannot be negotiable as we need to be here for everyone.
ii. Where an animal is aggressive and cannot be safely managed by staff, placing them or the pet at risk. Under these circumstances WE may choose to see you animal out in the car park OR may ask one owner to come into the clinic with the pet, again you will need to be masked, use sanitiser and maintain social distancing at ALL times. AGAIN, this will be at our discretion NOT the clients.

7. Client behavior.

The vast majority of our clients are beyond understanding of the restrictions currently in place and we would like to express our thanks and gratitude to you all. We are doing our absolute best and will not always get it right; the phones are ringing off the hook with worried pet parents and we are doing our best to help you all. However, sadly this is not always the case.

Whilst we understand this a stressful time for all we WILL NOT TOLERATE and abuse of the staff or students at Direct Vet Services. This needs to be a safe workplace, we not only have the same concerns for ourselves, our friends and family’s health during this pandemic, we also have the stress of keeping ourselves safe so that we can service ALL of your clients and their pets NOT JUST YOURS! We have also seen unprecedented increase in our workload up 60% last month alone, we are seeing more cases with several other clinics pushed beyond capacity and other clinics not seeing any non-emergency cases we are doing or absolute best. We cannot pull trained and professional staff out of the woodwork to allow us to cope with the increased demand, we just need to push through. This may mean that we run behind schedule or that we may delay seeing your pet for something that is a little less urgent (ie routine annual vaccinations). Our staff are turning up every day FOR YOU! We also have the assistance of 9 amazing veterinary nursing students at present, they are learning. If they need to ask one of the other staff for clarity to provide you with the right advice, please be patient and respectful, because without their support right now, we would have to turn many of you away.

If you want to behave badly please feel free to forward the email address of your new veterinary care provider and we will be happy to forward them your pets records. We are a family here and NO-ONE treats my family that way!

Please stay safe, keep us safe and if we do a good job let us know whether over the phone, Facebook review or google. Mention the staff or students by name if you know it. You have no idea the positive impact that this can have in what is an incredibly stressful work environment, but I do.

Love and big virtual hugs to you all,
Your Direct Vet Family – we got this!