A lot of things change during times of crisis, whether due to a natural disaster or a widespread heath concern. The last thing you need on top of the fear or stress you might be feeling is a pet health problem to deal with!
Crises affect veterinary care just like any other service, which can make scheduling your pup’s annual checkup or addressing your cat’s health emergency much more challenging. It’s important to be prepared when limited availability, procedure changes and new protocols affect the vet processes you’re familiar with.
If your pet needs care during trying times, use these tips to make the appointment faster and easier for everyone.
How veterinary care might change in a crisis
There are a lot of ways that vet practices might be impacted by a crisis. In some cases, they might have to close down entirely, meaning you’ll need to seek care from another provider. Other situations might force practices to change their procedures, impacting the way you interact with your preferred vet.
In the case of the COVID-19 pandemic, pet parents have been frustrated to discover that appointments are harder to schedule because their vets have limited availability each day. Although this might be mildly annoying when your pet is due for a checkup, it could be dangerous if your pet is experiencing a severe health problem!
There are a few potential reasons for the delays. First, quarantine led to an uptick in pet adoptions, followed by pet owners having more opportunities at home to notice strange behaviors or symptoms they want their vets to examine. Staffing shortages are another potential cause. But an even bigger reason is that vets have to change their examination processes during crises. More vets have turned to curbside drop-off procedures, rather than inviting pet parents inside, or have enhanced safety and cleaning procedures between patients, which takes up time.
One more way veterinary care might change during a crisis is by relying more on telemedicine—phone or video calls with a vet—rather than in-person visits. Telemedicine for pets works slightly differently than telemedicine for people, though, since you’ll need to explain things for your pet. Therefore, it’s important to understand how to make these appointments go smoothly.
Tips for preparing for your pet’s appointment
In order to make sure your pet is receiving the best possible care while helping to make your vet appointments easy, simple and fast, you’ll need to prepare. Use these tips to smooth out the process.
- Schedule early: If you know your pet is due for their annual exam, a dental cleaning or booster shots, schedule their vet appointment a few weeks in advance. This ensures that you secure a spot and your pet gets all their healthcare needs met on time. If your pet seems like they’re sick, don’t wait it out. Call and make an appointment early, so you aren’t in a bind if their symptoms get worse.
- Take observation notes: Is your cat or dog showing symptoms of illness that you want your vet to examine? Pay close attention to them at home and write down all of their symptoms. A log of your pet’s behavior and symptoms can easily be sent or communicated to your vet for telehealth, and you won’t forget anything during your visit.
- Record your pet’s symptoms: If your pet has a visible symptom of illness, take a photo or record a video of them. You might be able to send this to your vet over text or email, allowing them to diagnose your pet virtually or confirm that they need to examine your furry friend in person.
- Make a medications list: During rushed visits, it can be difficult to remember all the details. Help your vet out and compile a list of any medications and supplements your pet is currently taking and their dosages.
- Write a list of questions: Whether your pet needs their usual checkup or a diagnostic exam, you’re bound to have questions. Write your questions down ahead of time so you don’t forget any. You might even be able to send them to your vet through email or text to save time.
- Inquire about telehealth: If making an in-person appointment is difficult at your preferred veterinary practice, inquire whether they offer telemedicine appointments. If they do, ask about their usual procedures and what you’ll need to do with your pet at home. You’ll definitely need a strong internet connection and a camera for video chats. You should also be aware of the limitations for telemedicine—not all providers will be able to prescribe medications or make diagnoses, but they will likely be able to offer advice to care for your pet at home.
- Identify nearby emergency clinics: In some instances, getting your pet into their usual vet won’t be possible if they have an immediate health concern. During times of crisis, it’s important to identify the closest animal hospitals or urgent care clinics where your pet can get rapid care. Keep this list accessible, such as on your fridge, as a reminder.
During the stress of a crisis, preparation can make a big difference in getting your dog or cat the care they need. Take care to plan ahead for vet visits for the best experience possible.