The provision of veterinary services during COVID-19
The Board has not placed any restrictions on veterinary practice. The purpose of the information the Board has provided to vets was to assist them in understanding their obligations for providing services to clients during this pandemic.
The list of essential and non-essential services published in the April 2020 edition of VetRegister (and repeated below) is meant to be a guide only. Individually, veterinarians need to exercise their professional judgement in deciding what services they can provide in a safe and compliant way (based on the government’s COVID-19 restrictions and directives).
Should QLD veterinarians be restricting what they do?
Veterinarians whether in a professional or personnel capacity must comply with general COVID-19 restrictions such as social distancing and limits on public gatherings. This means that all veterinarians need to consider developing Covid-19 operating plans to guide which services and procedures might continue to be offered and how staff can deliver veterinary services while appropriate managing Covid-19 risks.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a human health emergency and veterinarians should keep this in mind when determining which services to provide. The provision of veterinary services at this time should adhere to the following principles:
- Mitigation of the risk of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 to humans and animals (noting transmission to and from animals is an emerging area that requires further research)
- Appropriate use of PPE and other essential goods that may be in limited supply.
There is a risk of reputational damage to the veterinary profession if non-essential services are undertaken and potentially undermine efforts to control the COVID-19 pandemic.
There is no listing of veterinary procedures or activities that may be considered to be essential vs elective. There are a number of sources that provide guidance for veterinarians.
Below is a non-exclusive list of services that the Board currently views as being critical or essential veterinary services and should be used as a guide for veterinarians when determining which patients should be seen. Veterinarians should exercise their individual professional judgment when deciding which essential services they will conduct during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Board regards this as an individual responsibility of registered veterinarians.
A guide to essential services includes but is not limited to:
- Initiating and continuing to provide veterinary care for animals:
- in pain
- with conditions which require constant or ongoing treatment to prevent deterioration in well-being
- at risk of serious animal health/wellbeing consequences if the animal is not examined and treated in a timely manner
- with, or at risk of, conditions or diseases that pose a public health risk.
- Emergency and urgent services including:
- consultations and surgeries (including dental treatments) where pain, suffering or significant deterioration in condition is considered likely without immediate or timely intervention
- diagnostic procedures required to assess the need, type and urgency of treatment
- continuing treatment programs including: chronic disease management, chemotherapy, initial course of vaccinations in an at-risk patient, continuous parasite preventions, ongoing medication and food supply
- assessment of animals to monitor, treat or reduce public health risks or animal disease outbreaks, maintain food safety standards and meet export and biosecurity requirements
- monitoring and administration of animal health measures at animal welfare shelters, research facilities and events requiring a veterinarian by law.
- Consultancy and other services with a role in:
- food supply chain
- public health
- maintenance of health and wellbeing of animal cohorts, such as individual research animals or colonies, flocks, herds and systems of research animals.
A guide to non-essential services include but are not limited to:
- Adult vaccination boosters, unless there is a high risk of disease to animal or humans
- Routine wellness checks, dental checks and blood tests where possible
- Desexing surgeries, except in cases of illness or high risk thereof
- Pre-purchase examinations
- Aesthetic grooming and nail trimming
Additional information on this topic may be found at:
Coronavirus: Message from Queensland’s Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr Allison Crook
Coronavirus (COVID-19) is a disease of people. Its continued global spread is due to transmission between people and there is no evidence animals are responsible for this ongoing spread.
Some coronaviruses infect animals, some infect people and some are zoonotic and can pass between people and animals.
While many coronavirus strains are well recognised and common in people and animals, COVID-19 refers to the disease caused by the newly discovered SARS-CoV-2 virus.
There is evidence COVID-19 emerged from an animal source, possibly a bat, and transferred to an intermediate animal species before it was transmitted to and infected a person.
There is still much to be understood about this particular coronavirus because it is new.
However, as there is no evidence animals are responsible for the continued spread of COVID-19 to people, there is no reason for anyone to take measures against animals that could impact their welfare.
To date, COVID-19 has not been reported in domestic animals, livestock or wildlife in Australia.
While there have been reported cases of pet dogs in Hong Kong testing positive for COVID-19, there is no evidence the virus can be transmitted from a domestic animal to a person, or between domestic animals. Further studies are needed to understand if different animals could be affected by the virus.
For more information visit the World Organisation for Animal Health’s website.
The canine enteric coronavirus recently confirmed in greyhounds in Queensland only infects dogs and is separate to COVID-19.
As a result of COVID-19 there is a shortage of availability of some personal protective equipment (PPE). PPE is a vital part of protecting you and your staff from the risks of zoonotic diseases and a shortage may impact the services you are able to deliver.
I encourage you to review your infection control plans and ensure that risks associated with zoonotic infection are prevented or minimised.
A stocktake of your current PPE supplies should be undertaken and plans implemented to ensure the longevity of supplies.
If you cannot source required PPE you will need to review which procedures you can no longer undertake or need to postpone. Horse owners should be reminded of the importance of Hendra virus vaccination. A shortage of PPE may mean veterinary staff are not able to safely attend to unvaccinated horses with clinical signs consistent with Hendra virus disease.
The option to provide consultations remotely via telemedicine should be considered as part of your infection control planning. Veterinarians must use their professional judgement to decide whether using telemedicine is appropriate in particular circumstances. Please refer to the Veterinary Surgeon’s Board of Queensland Veterinary telemedicine guidelines for advice on this matter.
As always it remains important to continue to take effective hygiene and biosecurity measures including washing your hands regularly and well, regularly cleaning your premises and disinfecting and cleaning equipment.
For health advice about COVID-19 specifically I encourage you to remain aware of the information provided by Queensland Health and check this website regularly for updates.
Caring for animals during COVID-19
Anyone responsible for caring for animals should develop a plan to ensure their animals’ welfare in the event that COVID-19 affects their ability to care for their animals. Animal owners should review and update this plan as the situation changes.
Information is available on the Queensland Government’s website about planning for the welfare of animals during COVID-19.
- Australian Veterinary Association COVID-19
- COVID-19 economic relief package
- Lifeline Australia - Mental health and wellbeing during the coronavirus outbreak (call 131 114)
- Beyond Blue - Looking after your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak (call 1300 224 636)
Last updated: 22 Jun 2023