I have been actively following TV news reports as well as reviewing news articles regarding pets during this pandemic. I intend to continue to provide important, useful information to my readers during this difficult time.
The governor recently ordered the lock down of Luzerne County. Like most, I was unsure as to what rules applied specifically and would be enforced during this time. I was relieved when I read the governor’s order that residents were permitted to leave to obtain food for themselves or their pets, or to leave if a resident had a medical appointment, or if their pet needed veterinary care. I was very happy to see that pets were remembered and included. After all, they are family. It is good to know that this was recognized and addressed.
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) issued a statement detailing why veterinary practices should be considered ‘essential businesses.’
The AVMA noted that veterinary practices provide the following:
“1. Front-line veterinary practitioners and staff are among the healthcare professionals who provide surveillance for diseases deemed reportable by state and federal governments, including zoonotic diseases, such as rabies, influenza and Lyme Disease. They are also responsible for issuing certificates of veterinary inspection that are required for the movement of animals between states and countries, including those entering the food supply.
“2. Veterinarians are an integral part of our nation’s food and fiber industries. Veterinary care is critical to ensure that only healthy animals enter the food supply. While primarily housed on farms, food animals are also present in urban areas.
“3. Veterinary practices provide medical and surgical care daily for critically ill and injured animals.
“4. Veterinarians provide care for service and therapy animals, supporting both animal and human welfare.
“5. Veterinarians care for rare, threatened, and endangered animals in zoos, aquaria, wildlife rehabilitation clinics, and wildlife facilities. Even if such entities need to be closed to the public for COVID-19 mitigation, veterinarians and animal care staff must continue to care for these animals.
“6. Veterinarians and our support staff are trusted professionals involved in disaster situations. While perhaps different from a statutory and regulatory perspective, the training, education, and experience of veterinarians and our staff in disasters are clearly transferable skills in whatever COVID-19 risk mitigation is deemed necessary.
“For the reasons listed above, we urge lawmakers and state executives to protect and preserve public health and ensure that veterinary practices are clearly stated to be ‘essential businesses’ and thereby allowed to continue to provide critical services in our communities,” the AVMA said.
FDA allows veterinary telemedicine
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an advisory on March 24 easing some requirements to allow veterinarians to use telemedicine when applicable instead of in person office visits.
As part of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s efforts to combat the pandemic and providing flexibility across FDA-regulated industries, the agency announced it intends to temporarily not enforce certain requirements in order to allow veterinarians to better utilize telemedicine to address animal health needs during the pandemic.
The FDA, noting the vital role veterinarians play in protecting public health, said it needed to provide veterinarians with the latitude to expand the use of telemedicine in the care of animals, not only pets but also the animals that produce food. “The FDA is providing flexibility that will help veterinarians maintain the health of animals during the pandemic, while allowing for the social distancing that is so important in limiting the further spread of coronavirus disease across the country and the world,” the FDA noted.
The agency intends to temporarily suspend enforcement of portions of the federal veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR) requirements relevant to certain FDA regulations. The VCPR is the professional relationship between the veterinarian, client (e.g., animal owner or caretaker), and the animal patient(s). The federal VCPR definition requires that veterinarians physically examine animal patients and/or make medically appropriate and timely visits to the location where the animal(s) are kept. Therefore, the federal VCPR definition cannot be met solely through telemedicine.
In order to help veterinarians utilize telemedicine to address animal health needs during the COVID-19 pandemic, the FDA generally does not intend to enforce the animal examination and premises visit portion of the VCPR requirements relevant to the FDA regulations. This will allow veterinarians to prescribe drugs or authorize the use of drugs without direct examination of or making visits to their patients, which will limit human-to-human interaction and potential spread of COVID-19 in the community.
For example, the owner of a sick dog could share a video with a veterinarian. If necessary, the veterinarian could then prescribe a drug not approved for use in dogs or for that illness (extralabel use). Although the FDA intends to temporarily suspend certain federal VCPR requirements, veterinarians still need to consider state VCPR requirements that may exist in their practice area.
Great news for pets
During this time of self-isolation and social distancing, it is great news that we can currently have a phone conversation with a veterinarian, and he or she is able to consult and prescribe, if necessary, without the need that the animal be physically seen in the office. If you are unable to get in touch with your veterinarian during a critical time, the telehealth option is available to you.
I am currently working from home, and my dogs (cats and birds) have quickly become accustomed to this new lifestyle in the past two weeks. This became painfully obvious when I left the house to take out the garbage. Before I reached the first step of my deck, I heard a very audible chorus: Rue loudly barking, Smudge howling, and Swayze mournfully whining. Wow, it is amazing how quickly a new routine can be learned!
My good friend, Carol, recently shared a beautiful story with me about a Christmas gift she had received. It was a silver hummingbird pendant, and engraved it said that it was a visitor from up above bringing well wishes to the one that they loved. It represented all of the animals that Carol had cared for and been loved by through the years. What a thoughtful, and well-deserved treasure. Carol actually is visited regularly as a result of the multiple hummingbird feeders on her porch.
Talk to you next week. Be strong, and be safe.
Judy Endo is the author of Paws-itive Pet Tales. A lifelong resident of the Wilkes-Barre area, she has been a professional dog trainer/competitor as well as a lifetime animal lover and strong supporter of animal rescue. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org