Delaware veterinary hospitals taking special steps during crisis

Brenford Animal Hospital employee Billie Stapleford accepts a dog at the front door on Thursday in Dover .(Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe)

DOVER — First comes the pet owner’s call to a trusted veterinarian.

The doctor determines whether there’s a true emergency at hand.

If so, the pet owner drives to the animal hospital and parks.

A staffer in full surgical gear – gown, cap, gloves and mask – comes out and takes the pet.

The pet is brought inside for whatever service is needed as the client waits outside in his or her vehicle.

Once the procedure is completed, the staffer emerges and returns pet to owner.

The owner drives away and the room used inside is thoroughly sanitized.

Such is the process at Brenford Animal Hospital in Dover as the deadly coronavirus emergency continues globally.

“That’s the way we’ll do it for the foreseeable future,” hospital manager Aubrey Edwards said this week. “Our safety protocols have been doubled and tripled, contact is limited and there’s no routine appointments made.”

Like everyone else, veterinarians are living with a new normal routine for an undetermined time.

“We’re all in the same boat — trying to protect staff and clients while at the same time trying to provide the best care for patients,” according to Dr. Sharon Little of A. Little Veterinary Clinic in Harrington.

Last week in Bridgeville, Western Sussex Animal Hospital limited clients’ inside visits for euthanasia cases only. Cancellations included well visits and most procedures, Dr. Craig Metzner said.

Staff calls clients waiting outside with results. Technicians then return the pet outside, Dr. Metzner said.

“Our clients have been amazingly trusting and understanding,” he said. “We’ve had little to no push-back. It’s a lot of change but everyone has to take steps to meet the challenges we’re all facing.”

Selective services

From All Creatures Veterinary Service in Harrington, Dr. Christina Dayton said elective procedures such as nail trims are canceled and surgeries have been scheduled further out than ever before. Vaccinations can wait too.

Dr. Dayton travels to farms in Kent and Sussex counties, Denton, Preston and Ridgely, Maryland and asks safety screening questions — Any symptoms? Travel out of country? — upon arrival. Social distancing and working outside are key, she said.

“We certainly didn’t predict this but I don’t think animals are in danger,” she said. “Pets still have ample care but do receive it in different ways.”

Selective care cuts down on revenue, but Dr. Little accepts the tradeoff for greater health and safety.

“We could be busier but are not hurting so much because people still want to come in,” she said. “They might bring their pets in for a broken toenail or something they themselves wouldn’t see a doctor for, but we’re not going to have them come in just because we’re open here and we plan to maintain that policy.”

Some of the 12 employees have elected to stay home “because they wanted to and we respect that,” Dr. Little said.

Some local veterinarians have scaled back employee hours and vow to keep staff on the payroll by all means and as long as possible.

“This is an absolutely unprecedented situation and there’s obviously plenty of stress involved because of the unknown of how long this will continue and the uncertainty of how tight things well get,” Ms. Edwards said.

VCA Dover Animal Hospital officials said its online store to buy food, medications and products is vital, along with a CareClub live chat for clients.

There’s an app that allows opportunity to communicate with a doctor 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Curbside service is available too and phone payment is being utilized.

VCA uses its own leashes to bring pets inside and doctors call clients to get a history and report examination findings.

Said Dr. Michelle Crosier of Companion Animal Veterinary Services in Middletown, there’s “concern that owners will not have the expendable income to provide basic wellness care and services for their pets over the next few months

“Concern that more owners with financial hardship due to unemployment will delay treatment or be unable to afford treatment for sick pets and emergency situations, forcing more owners to choose to euthanize their pets,” she said.

“Concern that some owners will be forced to relinquish their pets due to financial hardship.”

Dr. Bob Thompson of Lums Pond Animal Hospital in Bear reported, “We are finding the need to update/modify implementations (in place) as things develop.”

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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