Veterinary Care in the Age of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic is evolving quickly and you need to find information at the appropriate depth and credibility level. To that end we have started a webinar series to address the academic and practical aspects of the COVID-19 crisis as they pertain to the veterinary world.

Dr. Gerry Post, The Internet
Dr Bob Cook, VMD, MPA

Veterinary Care in the Age of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic is evolving quickly and you need to find information at the appropriate depth and credibility level. To that end we have started a webinar series to address the academic and practical aspects of the COVID-19 crisis as they pertain to the veterinary world.

Our first webinar featured Dr. Bob Cook,  a world renowned Wildlife and Zoo Veterinarian with expertise and experience with zoonotic diseases in the first segment. In the second segment, veterinary oncologists Drs. Barbara Kitchell, Mona Rosenberg, Mary Kay Blake and Trina Hazzah joined us to discuss practical aspects.

Dr. Bob Cook, VMD, MPA

Dr. Cook is a world-renowned expert on zoonotic disease.  Bob previously served as the head of the Wildlife Conservation Society, which oversaw the Bronx Zoo, Central Park Zoo, and the NY Aquarium. Dr. Cook was part of the Team that identified some of the nastiest diseases on the planet (e.g. West Nile Virus, Ebola, etc), and is closely watching this novel Coronavirus. Dr. Cook has extensive expertise in wild animal markets and the transmission of zoonotic diseases from animals to people.

Question: Talk about your work with wild animal markets/transmission of disease to people, what’s relevant about COVID-19?

  • The Ebola outbreak in the US in 1989 (read more in the book Outbreak, by Richard Preston) and the West Nile in 1999 epidemics were a wake-up call for the public health infrastructure as there were no rules about these matters. There was a significant failure of bureaucratic systems because the federal agencies weren’t talking to each other or the states.
  • To solve the problem, the first One Health Conference (2004) was convened to discuss how governmental agencies can work together to fight animal-borne diseases. The goal was to understand how diseases move through populations, not just people, but including domestic and wild animals.
  • Countries that dealt with SARS in 2005 (like Singapore and South Korea) have since invested and built health infrastructure to cope with such epidemics. These countries are better prepared today to combat COVID-19 than the US, which didn’t suffer any casualties from SARS. SARS has informed much of today’s work with COVID-19.
  • Dr. Cook co-authored the article “The Human-Animal Link” in Foreign Affairs to warn of very similar situations to COVID-19 today. The policymakers heard and governments started funding research of animal networks to prepare for the future (for example, Global Pandemics Threat Program). By sampling animals from open-air markets, the researchers found over 1,000 viruses that could jump to humans as well as domestic animals (like the avian flu)
  • Sadly, in the last two years, the global network (Pandemics Threat Program and others) have been defunded and eliminated over the past years.

Question: How are veterinarians contributing to public health, especially related to COVID-19? What lessons were learned with Ebola/West Nile?

  • Veterinarians are looking across the expanse of life sciences and medicine like no other medical professional.  Veterinarians have a unique role to play in the crisis. Regardless of specialty, veterinarians ask different questions of their community and offer special insights.
  • Veterinarians are uniquely qualified to notice risks to both animals and people. For example, this is how they identified and educated the local community on Ebola. During the Ebola outbreak, progress was made by helping communities understand that they could get sick from eating animals killed by Ebola.

Question: what is the role of the one health movement today?

  • In the 21st century, diseases can quickly enter major cities even if the risk of transmission seems low, such as a disease emanating from isolated communities. Without coordination between the human public health community and veterinarians, there would be lots of shortcomings in response to this kind of disease. In addition, environmental stressors on human society certainly play a role in looking at disease transmission in a holistic manner.
    Clinical Applications - Vet Oncology Clinics Best Practices
    Contributors: Veterinary oncologists Dr. Mary Kay Blake DVM, DACVIM (Medical Oncology), Dr. Trina Hazzah DVM, DACVIM (Oncology), CVCH, Dr. Barbara Kitchell DVM, DACVIM (Oncology), Dr. Mona Rosenberg DVM, DACVIM (Oncology), Dr. Gerry Post DVM, MEM, DACVIM (Oncology)
  • Know your staff. Some members of the staff are better in crises than others - be aware
  • Rearrange the clinic. Spread out staff throughout the physical building of the hospital or clinic.
  • Clients staying outside. Meet pet owners in the parking lot. Rotate to balance who goes out to meet owners at their cars. Usually, the front desk staff or veterinary technicians go to the car, but sometimes the veterinarians go and stand six feet away to have conversations with owners as well. Histories can be taken over the phone.
  • Shifts. Divide technical and CSR teams into two and alternate shifts.
  • Protective. Glass/plastic screens have been proposed/implemented. The staff should wear gloves/masks. Use washable cloth leashes. Clean patients’ carriers. Keep doors open to avoid handle-touching.
  • Preserve supplies.
  • Incorporate sedation for patients that need to be held down, so fewer people need personal protective equipment.
  • Preserve personal protective equipment for staff on the front lines.
  • Share personal protective equipment?
  • Not reordering supplies
  • Not using gloves for basic exams
  • Phone. Conversations with owners exclusively over the phone.
  • No non-critical cases. Postpone bloodwork if not critical. Close “non-critical” departments like Behavior and Rehab or work from home
  • Educate clients. Owners are appreciative of the precautions. Strengthen ties with clients, colleagues, and community - be known as someone who responded best

If you would like to get our webinar invites, please send us a note using our veterinarian contact us form.


Dr. Gerry Post

Dr. Gerry Post has been practicing veterinary medicine for over 25 years specializing in veterinary oncology. He currently serves as Chief Veterinary Officer at the One Health Company.

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