Norwalk veterinary hospitals institute COVID-19 protocols

Vet tech Tom Brown picks up a feline patient, Thursday in the parking lot at Norwalk Animal Hospital. (Paul Lanning)

NORWALK, Conn. —Many owners consider a trip to the vet among the more stressful events in their pets’ lives. Indeed, the waiting room is often filled with dogs trying to burrow themselves into their owners’ laps and cats meowing miserably inside their carriers. But along with the coronavirus pandemic have come new protocols not only for us, but for our four-legged family members as well. In the interest of health and safety, they now must go it alone.

Owners pull up in the parking lot and hand over their pets to animal hospital staff, after calling in to announce their arrival. They’re not allowed in the building, generally.  

“A technician will come out to the car to pick up the pet. Doctor-client communications during the exams are done over the phone.   Payments are also done over the phone, and receipts are either emailed to the client or brought outside to the client with any products going home with them. The only personal space interaction we have with the clients is retrieving and delivering the pets and products on our entrance ramp outside of the building,” Norwalk Animal Hospital (NAH) Head Technician Mollee Kranes said.

Strawberry Hill Animal Hospital, Norwalk Veterinary Hospital, and Cannondale Animal Clinic all adhere to similar protocols, according to their respective Facebook pages.  Broad River Animal Hospital’s Facebook page offers clients a choice between staying in their cars or entering the premises and being ushered “directly into a room to minimize traffic in the reception area.”

Cannondale Animal Clinic said on its Facebook page that it’s allowing 20 minutes between appointments to “help with social distancing and to allow us time to thoroughly clean the hospital with a strong virusidal agent.”

“In most cases, this will mean taking history and triage over the phone or in the parking lot. We will bring your pet in to the hospital to provide any needed medical care while you remain in your car… We sincerely hope that everyone is okay and remains that way. We want to be here for you and your pets while being safe and responsible. Please also note that we recommend you apply social distancing practices to your pets as well. This is not a good time for them to get sick!” the clinic said.

At Norwalk Animal Hospital, “Clients are staying in their vehicles,” Kranes said. “On the occasion someone does come in, social distancing seems to be in effect, and immediately after their departure, doors and doorknobs are wiped down, counter tops and anything else they could have come into contact with is cleaned.  The hospital is constantly being wiped down with appropriate cleaning products, vacuumed, and mopped as a standard, but we are doing it much more now.”

The hospital’s staff is down to a third of its normal complement, she said. Hours of operation have been reduced.

“Our appointments run for 45 minutes now (15 minutes longer), and for sick patients/time sensitive boosters/rabies vaccine updates only (rabies vaccine is required by law),” she said.  “…The flow of patients have reduced since our appointments run longer, and many appointments we saw on a daily basis were wellness visits. We also have stopped seeing groom clients at this time, and since families’ vacations have been canceled, we have had no boarding clients.  Our surgery schedule is reduced as well, elective procedures are requested to wait at this time.”

Animals can carry a coronavirus, but not this specific strain, she said, calling SARS-CoV-2 “a mutated strand that originated by improper handling of an animal/human interaction, making it specific to people ONLY.”

Like other medical personnel nationwide, the animal hospital staff is finding it difficult to obtain paper products, masks, gloves, and intravenous fluids, she said. “The list for medications like antibiotics and prescription eye drops on back order is pages long.  We had to stock up on things ourselves, as well.”

This comes on top of personal strains.

“As a parent, this is a very overwhelming time,” she wrote. “There are so many emotions and thoughts {you’re} constantly juggling, where will my kid go when we go to work? How can I survive off of my reduced hours and make sure she has everything she needs? What if I can’t go to work because there are no childcare options at this time.  It’s a constant circling of things in my head, it’s hard to get a grasp on.  I honestly feel bad for her, not being able to play with her friends, not being surrounded by her classmates.  How do you explain this to them without breaking their hearts?”

But, at work, “You and your pets health and safety are our number one priority,” she wrote. “We appreciate your patience and understanding during this time, and your loyalty and support will help keep us going.  Stay safe, Stay strong.”


2 responses to “Norwalk veterinary hospitals institute COVID-19 protocols”

  1. Steve Mann

    Not necessarily hawking for this store, but Petco will accept orders by phone and bring your pet food out to your car. Just let them know you’re there when you arrive.

  2. Claire Schoen

    For those who use veterinary practices for grooming services, one way to show support is to pay for the grooming even if it didn’t happen.
    Haircuts are the same thing — if you’ve skipped a haircut, that’s money lost for the salon. Gift cards are great, but they won’t replace that lost revenue. If you can afford it (granted, a big if for many these days) go ahead and pay for the phantom haircut or dog grooming…

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