People with pets that need veterinary care will find limited services and new protocols in place at Outer Cape clinics during the Covid-19 crisis.
Most of what’s new will feel familiar by now — there’s curbside service to minimize up-close interaction between pet owners and clinic staff. Most vets are trying to diagnose at a distance, practicing telemedicine. But for urgent cases, when a visit is needed, owners should expect to hand off their animals to gloved and masked technicians who will meet them at their cars. Later, diagnosis and treatments are discussed with the vet by phone.
Lower Cape Veterinary Services, which operates four clinics — Herring Cove in Provincetown, Duck Creek in Wellfleet, Stony Hill in Chatham, and Eastham Veterinary Hospital — is referring all calls and visits to its Eastham location. They are offering appointments for emergencies only, but they are taking questions over the phone. They are not giving shots to new puppies and kittens at this time.
Dr. Sadie Hutchings at Herring Cove Animal Hospital said that, although her clinic has shifted its support staff to Eastham, there will still be someone at Herring Cove taking calls on weekday mornings, and she will be available for telemedicine.
“We want people to reach out to us and communicate with us to see how we can help them,” she said, “but our availability is drastically reduced.”
Ark Angel Animal Hospital in Wellfleet will remain open just until the end of April. Dr. Daniella J. Schutzengel said that she is retiring and closing down her clinic at the end of the month, unrelated to Covid-19. She has been a veterinarian for 35 years. Between now and then, she said, she is taking emergency appointments and previously scheduled routine visits.
Hutchings said the reason for reduced hours and emergency-only appointments in her network is not solely about reducing contact between humans. Veterinary clinics everywhere, she explained, are trying to limit the use of drugs and supplies like masks, gloves, and disinfectants that are already in short supply or will be increasingly hard to find because they are needed by doctors who are treating humans.
One of the most emotionally difficult aspects of animal care during the pandemic, Hutchings said, has been performing euthanasia procedures. In these circumstances, people are being allowed to stay with their animals. “It’s hard not hugging people now, though,” she said.
If pet owners on the Outer Cape have emergencies during this time, Hutchings said, the closest animal urgent care clinic is Cape Cod Veterinary Specialists Buzzards Bay. Pet owners here may be used to going to the CCVS Dennis location for emergencies, but this location has shifted to telemedicine due to the pandemic. The Buzzards Bay location is still open around the clock.