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Coronavirus
Impact of Covid-19 on veterinary care
  1. Rebecca Littlehales, SAVSNET,
  2. PJ M Noble, SAVSNET,
  3. David A Singleton, SAVSNET,
  4. Gina L Pinchbeck, SAVSNET and
  5. Alan D Radford, SAVSNET
  1. Institute of Veterinary Science, University of Liverpool, Leahurst Campus, Chester High Road, Neston, South Wirral CH64 7TE
  2. Institute of Infection and Global Health, University of Liverpool, Leahurst Campus, Chester High Road, Neston, South Wirral CH64 7TE
  1. email: a.d.radford{at}liverpool.ac.uk

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The Covid-19 pandemic has affected all aspects of society. In April, the RCVS and the BVA produced guidelines for practitioners to help define emergencies, and suggested a transition to telemedicine where possible. These changes led to profound reductions in veterinary consultations.1 Here we summarise discussions about Covid-19 recorded in consultations in companion animal practices, as a way to further assess the impact on veterinary care provided.

Health narratives containing the term ‘Covid’ were obtained from the Small Animal Veterinary Surveillance Network (SAVSNET), a sentinel network of UK veterinary practices. The narratives were de-identified and the resulting 648 consultations were categorised.

Most ‘Covid’ conversations (n=406, 63 per cent) related to practical issues associated with social distancing. These included telemedicine consultations involving remote prescription of previously prescribed medications (n=332) and practical issues of clients attending the practice while maintaining effective social distancing (n=74).

One hundred and eighty-eight (29 per cent) consultations related to changes that might have an impact on animal health or welfare (Table 1).

Table 1: Description of consultations (n=188) where changes associated with Covid-19 might impact animal health and welfare

Only one consultation related to owner concerns that their animal may contract Covid-19

Only one consultation related to owner concerns that their animal may contract Covid-19, despite significant media coverage suggesting this might be possible.

While these observations are likely to underestimate the true impact of Covid-19 on veterinary care, they highlight some of the unique challenges faced by practitioners and owners during ‘lockdown’. As in human healthcare, there will be a gradual need to return to routine health consultations to minimise the risks of, for example, vaccine-preventable disease2 and poor socialisation.

We hope these observations can help prioritise efforts to mitigate any longer-term implications of the Covid-19 lockdown on animal welfare.3

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