Pet owners worry as COVID-19 outbreaks among staff close veterinary hospitals

Pet owners in the Ottawa area may have tough decisions this holiday season if their pets need veterinary care after the city’s three emergency clinics were forced to close due to illness. COVID-19 outbreaks among staff.

The Ottawa Veterinary Hospital and the Ottawa Emergency and Specialty Hospital will only be open for life-threatening illnesses, but the two companies told CBC they cannot guarantee everyone will be seen. .

The Alta Vista Animal Hospital, the largest of three hospitals that provide emergency care, only offers curbside pickup for pet food and life-saving medicine prescriptions. lives.

“It was emotionally very difficult for the staff. We want to open as soon as possible, ”said Julie Dwyer, Area Manager at VCA Canada, which operates Alta Vista Animal Hospital and the Ottawa Veterinary Hospital.

A sign on the door of the Alta Vista animal hospital tells customers the hospital had to close Thursday night due to a number of COVID-19 cases among employees and other staff who had to isolate themselves. (Félix Desroches / CBC)

She said the Alta Vista location never closed in its 70 years of operation, including during the 1998 ice storm when most of eastern Ontario was without power for several days, nor for the first 21 months of the pandemic.

Even with 165 employees, including 30 veterinarians, the current outbreak has strained staff as other employees have also had to self-isolate under new Ontario guidelines.

“When you have a positive employee, it can expose 12 to 15 to 20 people and so when it starts to spread, we just don’t have the staff… to run the hospital.”

Take Extra Precautions To Protect Pets, Hospital Urges

Dwyer urged people to be extra careful with their pets while on vacation, being careful not to give them plants or toxic foods, like chocolate.

In an emergency, people can either call the animal poison control hotline or access an online triage system where they can speak to a veterinarian.

If someone has a real emergency, they can call the Ottawa Veterinary Hospital or the Ottawa Emergency and Specialty Hospital, but there is no guarantee that a pet will be seen. People can be redirected to clinics in Montreal, Laval, Quebec or Toronto.

Mr Meowgi’s owner worried

The closures worry Katie O’Rourke whose cat, Mr Meowgi, has to take a pump twice a day because of asthma, and also relies on a rescue inhaler, for emergencies.

Katie O’Rourke’s cat, Mr Meowgi, has to be inhaled twice a day because of asthma, and also has a rescue inhaler in case of an attack. (Submitted by Katie O’Rourke)

“It’s a little scary for me because I don’t know, if there was an emergency, if I could get to Montreal,” she said. “And if your pet is stressed, it’s usually something that needs immediate attention.”

O’Rourke said she understands vets and clinics are doing their best and need to take care of themselves, especially as the Omicron variant is spreading rapidly across Ottawa.

“We need to give them a little slack, but we also need to know that our pets can be taken care of in an emergency.”

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Lillie Berry

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