The approach to veterinary care during the COVID-19 pandemic is variable. Veterinary medicine has been declared an essential service in many areas, but all aspects of veterinary medicine aren’t lumped in with that. That’s causing confusion. In Ontario, the essential services guidance from the provincial government was revised to indicate only “urgent” care should now be provided. We need to consider what constitutes urgent vs important, but it’s tough to draw a line. It’s impossible to come up with a list of every scenario and circumstance and say yes or no, and there’s no great way to provide guidance on urgent vs non-urgent. Too much detail makes it seem prescriptive and doesn’t allow for much needed case-by-case evaluation, but if there’s too little detail it’s not really useful anymore. Hopefully we’ve found some middle ground to help veterinarians provide truly necessarily care while being socially responsible during this critical time in the pandemic.

Here’s a simple triage algorithm that might help tease out what’s urgent vs non-urgent. There’s still lots of grey and professional judgment is certainly required. However, it’s useful to approach things this way to make sure we’re balancing patient care and the absolutely essential need for social distancing and reduced activities.

A slightly different version (we keep tinkering) is also available in the revised OVMA document “Veterinary medicine during a time of restriction of elective services and social distancing” (07-Apr-2020).

The British Small Animal Veterinary Association has published a related 1-page document, “Assessing the need for a physical examination,” which has a similar overall sentiment to our triage algorithm.  An associated and much more comprehensive document is also available, “Dog and cat triage guidance for use during COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom.”

We also have some more translations of the owner contact decision tree for veterinary clinics, provided by Clinician’s Brief:








Traditional Chinese

Plus we have a Russian translation of “Pets of people with COVID-19: What to do if the owner can’t care for them?”  courtesy of Dr. Varvara Solovyeva (click here to read the original post in English).