As COVID-19 cases rise in Tioga County, veterinarians are taking extra precautions to protect both their employees and their patients’ human families.

“We are still here to help you and your furry family; we just must do so in a less conventional way for a little while,” read a post on Grand Canyon Veterinary Hospital’s Facebook page last Friday.

The clinic in Wellsboro announced it’s back to curbside-only services, as it was earlier this year during initial pandemic shutdowns. Dr. Kristine Shaw said though clients are not allowed in the building and staff collects pets from cars, the same services are offered inside.

“I think people get concerned that their pet may be afraid without them,” she said. “Know that we are all there because we love animals and we try our best to reassure them. I think owners would be surprised how well even the most timid dog or cat does back there for their exam.”

Pleasant Valley Veterinary Care in Elkland also announced last week the office is back to curbside-only, with Dr. John Weiner offering telemedicine appointments as needed.

“We can be as low-tech as a phone call or texting me a photo or as high tech as Zoom calls. We’ve even done some consultation through Facebook,” said Weiner. “I’ll come out to your car or we can go in the yard if someone’s more comfortable that way. Basically, we’re pretty adaptable. If an animal needs something, we can figure it out.”

Weiner said the telemedicine appointments help not only if a patient is quarantined at home, but also if he gets sick and can’t come in the office.

“If I’m home, my staff can see the animal and call or text me,” he said. “We’re prepared so we won’t have to shut our doors completely.”

Wellsboro Small Animal Hospital did shut its doors for a week due to COVID issues, but both its Middlebury and Mansfield locations were back to normal operations as of Monday.

“It was mostly for our staff because people can get kind of concerned about possibly bringing the virus home,” said Raina Gruver, veterinary technician and practice manager. “Since we’re also short-staffed, we opted to give our staff a mental break.”

She said both locations have adopted stricter safety protocols, cleaning practices and mask requirements for clients entering the building. Even though curbside services aren’t mandatory right now, Gruver said they still bring challenges.

“It gets hard when we’re running in and out the door and keeping track of who’s in what car,” she said. “It takes a little longer for each appointment.”

Mansfield Veterinary Clinic has been operating as curbside-only since earlier this year with no plans to reopen the office to clients right now, said Pam Burket, veterinary assistant. She said the system has worked well, despite the office being busier.

“It seems like we’re seeing a lot more people,” she said. “We have more cat spays than normal and we’re seeing a lot of new pets. I guess people have needed some company during all this.”

Due to a similar influx of appointments, Grand Canyon has brought in two veterinarians from Troy Vet Clinic – Dr. Greg Cook is there once a week and Dr. Keitha Olthof comes in as needed. Dr. Weiner also said Pleasant Valley has been much busier than usual.

“It seems to be a nationwide thing. Cornell (University’s College of Veterinary Medicine) did a study on it and they don’t even understand the exact reason,” he said, offering two possible causes. “One, people have had to slow down their lives and are home more now so they’re noticing things about their pets. And, people are adopting new pets. We’ve seen three new puppies just in the past week.”

Dr. Shaw said keeping pets on consistent diets and using quality flea and tick prevention all year can help avoid unnecessary vet visits, especially if owners are sick or quarantining. She also said owners should continue to refill medications and prescription foods as normal and that Grand Canyon and many other local clinics offer online pharmacies and home delivery.

“So far we are continuing to see pets as normal because we don’t see a quick ending in sight for this pandemic,” she said. “We don’t want to put off less urgent appointments at this time, but this guideline may change as we go through the days and weeks ahead.”

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