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Curbside service helping JBSA vet clinics protect pets, staff, clients

By Robert Goetz | 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs | July 24, 2020

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas —

Joint Base San Antonio’s veterinary clinics are taking a curbside service approach to pet care during the novel coronavirus pandemic, allowing only pets and clinic staff members into the facilities to reduce close contact.      

“Currently, we are working as curbside service for wellness appointments such as vaccines, heartworm tests and annual blood work, but sick calls are being referred off-base at this time as we are minimally manned,” said Dr. Daniela Roberts, Public Health Activity-Hood/South Texas Branch veterinarian. “The pets are collected from their owners, brought into the clinic for their appointment and payment is collected over the phone.”

Staff members are wearing face masks, in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, in the clinic and any time when social distancing is not possible, such as when a technician collects and returns pets to their owners outside the clinic, Roberts said. They are sanitizing areas in accordance with CDC guidelines as well. 

“We are also only running one room for appointments so that we do not have multiple clients’ animals in the clinic at the same time,” she said. “We sanitize the room and all equipment we use between each patient, and wipe down frequently touched surfaces multiple times throughout the day.”

Since most of the clinics’ personnel are communicating with clients over the phone, clients should keep their phones close by and anticipate a call during the appointment time, Roberts said.

“We also ask that clients who are coming for appointments remain in the parking lot during the appointment time so we can finish the appointment and return their pet in a timely fashion,” she said. “Also, since we are taking payment by phone, we are currently only accepting credit cards.”

While there have been a few documented cases of pets living in COVID-positive homes testing positive, Roberts said there is currently no research to support that pets can transmit COVID-19 to people.

“In order to protect your pets, it is still a good practice that if you are sick with COVID, limit contact with your pets, and have a healthy individual care for the pet if possible. If not, be sure you practice good sanitation,” she said. “In addition, limit exposure of pets to people outside of your household, since social distancing can help protect our pets, too.” 

It appears that pets infected with COVID-19 so far have only shown mild upper respiratory symptoms, Roberts said.

“If your pet develops any symptoms and has had contact with a COVID-positive individual, contact your veterinarian for further guidance,” she said.

Although dealing with the threat of the coronavirus is of primary concern at this time, pet owners should also stay focused on their pets’ routine care.

“It is extremely important to keep up with your pet’s preventative care,” Roberts said. “As we socially distance, our pets’ exposure to other animals is also limited, but it is still important to keep their vaccines up to date to protect them from illness.”

Several other diseases in pets can cause upper respiratory symptoms similar to COVID-19, she said. These include feline rhinotracheitis, bordetella, parainfluenza and canine influenza.

“Vaccination is the best way to protect them from these diseases,” Roberts said.

Pet owners should also keep their pets up to date on heartworm, and flea and tick prevention.

“Although COVID has slowed or shut down certain aspects of our daily life, mosquitoes, fleas, ticks and intestinal parasites aren’t taking a break and it is just as critical to keep our pets on year-round preventions to keep them protected and healthy,” Roberts said.

Wellness appointments for pets are being booked at the veterinary clinics at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston at 210-808-6101 or 210-808-6104, and JBSA-Randolph at 210-652-3190, but due to minimal manning and safety protocols, appointments are limited. The JBSA-Lackland Veterinary Clinic is referring all wellness appointments to JBSA-Fort Sam Houston and JBSA-Randolph at the present time.

“We ask that our clients please not wait until the last minute. Call early to book appointments for future wellness visits so we can do our best to keep everyone up to date,” Roberts said.

JBSA veterinary clinics are open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday; however, the JBSA-Randolph clinic will be closed on Mondays during August.

Roberts asked that clients be flexible and have patience during the pandemic.

“We are working hard to continue to provide exceptional pet care while using our new protocols to reduce COVID-19 risks for our clients and staff members,” she said.