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Taking the family pet to the vet, during a pandemic

Our veterinary technician and Bear, the (new) family cat.

In the era of COVID-19, taking the family pet to the vet just feels more like dropping off a car to be fixed.

First, the back story, and a warning: I don’t recommend you do this at home. One night, my teenage daughter and I decided to do some online research, thinking googling cute local kitties might lessen our cabin fever. Just looking, we promised ourselves. Less than 48 hours later, “Bear,” a spunky gray-and-white Persian kitten, was purring happily next to us on our couch.

The newest member of our family needed a microchip and his next round of shots. During a pandemic, how do you take the family pet to the vet? I called several veterinary practices. Some were open only for emergency or essential services. No-can-do on non-urgent stuff. But Banfield Pet Hospital said they could provide routine pet care through “curbside service.” I thought that was just for takeout food — but sure, why not?

I booked the appointment over the phone as usual. At the appointed time, I drove into one of the practice’s designated parking spots and waited. Like a lot of things, veterinary care has become a no-contact sport.

The cheery, masked technician came out to ask questions and have me fill out paperwork. She collected Bear from the car, all with safe social distances enforced. She explained that she would bring him into the office for his exam, shots and micro-chip with the vet. Just like a usual visit. Oh, and don’t forget cutting those needle-like kitty nails.

My credit card and I couldn’t go inside, but like everything else, there’s an app for that. Payment problem solved.

It was simple enough. The technician carried Bear in, and I went to the Safeway next door for some much-needed groceries (still no paper towels or toilet paper, though). Twenty minutes later, I received a phone call from the doctor for the consultation part of the program. We discussed the exam results and the procedures. Same conversation as usual, just virtual.

Then the technician reappeared outside with Bear to put him in the car. By the time I drove home, I had received an email with a link to records and an invoice from the visit. (No extra charge for the pandemic process.)

So there you have it: Drive-up vet care in the time of COVID-19. I dropped off my pet, he got a tune-up, I received a report on what had been done, I paid up and drove off. Not so different from the last time I got my car’s tires changed.

Is this another “new normal”?

Over the last few weeks, drive-up vet visits have become a solution for four-legged family members needing care in the time of self-isolation.

And the approach might be here to stay, at least through summer, according to Mandy Price, certified veterinary practice manager with Ingleside Animal Hospital in Phoenix and a healthcare team member for the Arizona Veterinary Medical Association. Few vets are still doing in-person office visits (with social distancing precautions) or attempting telemedicine, she said.

Patients are fans of the new curbside approach for the most part, she said: “It’s like red carpet service for them — they’re loving it. You just sit in the car, we bring everything to you, you wait for a phone call, and you’re done!”



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