Tysons, VA

Two weeks into Northern Virginia’s reopening under Phase 2, veterinary offices are still seeing a steady stream of the new pets in need of routine care.

“We’ve definitely noticed a lot of people adopting pets,” said Sarah Angermeier, a veterinary assistant and receptionist at the Oakton-Vienna Veterinary Hospital. “It’s a blessing. We have so many puppies right now.”

Angermeier mentioned that appointments are filling up to a week-and-a-half in advance. 

“We book up so fast now,” she said, adding that the dogs are more rambunctious after being stuck at home for weeks. 

The Vienna Animal Hospital has also noticed similar trends. They reported that the number of appointments and the number of people adopting pets have “skyrocketed.” 

In the spring during the strictest point of the coronavirus stay-at-home order, pets were the big winners as people rushed to get stay-at-home companions. Places like Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation in Falls Church have seen a large increase in cat and dog adoptions — compared to April 2019, adoptions went up about 60% in late April of this year, according to Lost Dog.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, one of the leading organizations providing guidance to veterinarian practices, precautionary strategies — like the ones in Northern Virginia — are making visits safer.

“Veterinary practices have made tremendous changes to ensure patients continue to receive essential veterinary care and new safety measures are implemented to protect team members and clients,” said the AVMA in an April 2020 survey of U. S. veterinarians.

The Vienna Animal Hospital, for example, has taken added precautionary measures such as increased sanitation; requiring masks and gloves; and making a switch to curbside appointments to decrease contact. Currently, owners are not allowed in the building.

Similarly, the Oakton-Vienna Veterinary Hospital has been using teleconferencing to hold appointments. Owners drive their pets to the practice and wait in their cars, talking on the phone with doctors while the pets are cared for inside.

However, as of a week ago at Oakton-Vienna, one owner at a time is allowed inside the building with their pet. In addition, the practice has crews deep-cleaning the hospital.

According to the AVMA survey, other adjustments include contactless payment processing, taking patient history by phone or virtually and drive-thru pick up and drop off. About 30% of veterinary practices are using telemedicine and close to 20% of practices were only seeing emergency-related cases at the time of the survey.

The Oakton-Vienna Veterinary Hospital began using teleconferencing on March 2. “It was definitely an adapting period,” said Angermeier. 

Cristal Wheeler, the office manager of the Animal Dental Clinic in Vienna, says that their office is also following a variety of new protocols. 

“We’ve extended our cleanup after every patient to include where clients are sitting and touching,” said Wheeler. She mentioned handles and doors are high contact surfaces that are receiving extra sanitation. 

As practices continue to pivot with the changing coronavirus pandemic, offices like Oakton-Vienna are staying focused on the mission — serving customers and taking care of pets.

“We’ve gotten thank-you notes for staying open during COVID. We’ve had a lot of really really grateful people.”

Photos via Oakton-Vienna Veterinary Hospital/Facebook

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