What to do when marine wildlife need help?

Submitted by Michelle Barbieri, DVM


There are lots of ways that you can help Hawaii’s marine wildlife, both as an individual and if your clinic gets calls or inquiries. It may be completely normal for an animal (such as a green sea turtle or Hawaiian monk seal) to rest on the beach, but those sightings are informative even if the animal is safe and healthy. You can encourage clients to report sightings or concerns by calling the state-wide Marine Animal Stranding and Reporting Hotline at (888) 256-9840. This menu-based hotline will divert calls to the island- and wildlife-specific point of contact, and if the call comes in after hours, it will be checked first thing the next day, so always leave contact information for follow up questions. This is the best go-to contact number to keep at the front desk of your clinic or stored in your phone.

Many species (especially sea turtles and marine mammals) are protected by law. That means that even if you are a licensed, practicing, and well-intentioned veterinarian, conducting medical procedures on them requires specialized permits and expertise, so it should always be done by appropriately trained and permitted stranding response personnel. If your clinic gets a call about a marine animal in need, it is best to refer them directly to the Stranding Hotline for assistance. Please do not attempt to treat an animal yourself.

It is also important to give wildlife a safe distance, avoid approaching, touching, or otherwise disturbing them because rest is important to their biology, and they can be a danger to your safety. You can also help by advising clients to keep pet cats indoors, which will reduce the risk of disease spread, namely toxoplasmosis.

Between Jan-July 2020, 18 monk seal pups were born in the main Hawaiian Islands: 5 on Oʻahu, 11 on Molokaʻi, and 1 each on Kaua‘i and Hawaiʻi Island. Encountering female seals that are nursing their pups is a situation in which it is important to be especially cautious, as these seals in particular can be aggressive.

The Fishing Around Seals and Turtles program provides guidelines on how to fish safely around these animals and what to do if a fisherman accidentally hooks one while fishing. Again, if someone contacts you about an entangled or hooked animal please refer them to the stranding hotline.

If you suspect illegal or suspicious activity, it can be reported to: (a) the Hawaii DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources (DOCARE) hotline at (808) 643-DLNR, or preferably on the DLNRTip App for your mobile device; or (b) NOAA Office of Law Enforcement Hotline (800) 853-1964. The Stranding Hotline links to DOCARE as well.

For additional information contact: RespectWildlife@noaa.gov
For immediate assistance or to report marine wildlife emergencies call: 1-888-256-9840
If you are interested in having electronic materials with this information that you can print and post at your clinic, please contact Dr. Michelle Barbieri.

Microchip Regulation Update

On July 1, 2020, the City and County of Honolulu implemented mandatory microchip identification for cats and dogs over the age of four months. This replaces the City and County of Honolulu’s dog license tag requirement, but does not replace the requirement that cats allowed outdoors have visible identification. Any dog or cat without a microchip who is impounded by Hawaiian Humane Society or taken into custody by an animal rescue nonprofit must have a microchip implanted before release. The microchipping obligation does not apply to private individuals returning lost pets or to veterinary clinics, but we hope you will urge your clients to comply with the law. Clients with a new pet who is already microchipped should be informed that they have 30 days to update the pet’s microchip with their owner information.

In addition, the Hawaiian Humane Society will no longer be updating their microchip registry. Instead, they are recommending that veterinarians help pet owners register their information with the microchip manufacturer or with a free online database such as FoundAnimals.org. Pet owners who have microchips implanted by your clinic also have a legal obligation to register their contact information with an online registry within 30 days. Please do not send microchip information to the Hawaiian Humane Society at this time.

Another provision of the new law requires that any intact dog impounded as stray three times in a 12-month period must be spayed/neutered before the dog can be returned to its owner unless a licensed veterinarian finds the dog is medically unfit for sterilization.

Questions or comments may be directed to the Hawaiian Humane Society at info@hawaiianhumane.org or 356-2200.

Update from Hawaiian Humane Society

July 1 marked the implementation of the most significant overhaul of Oahu’s animal welfare ordinance in 25 years. It made changes in three major areas:

  • Stray animal handling
  • Pet identification
  • Routinely stray dogs

The pet identification provisions are expected to affect the greatest number of pet owners.

FAQs

What law has changed?
Revised Ordinance of Honolulu Chapter 7: Animals and Fowl

How did the rules change regarding stray animal holding?
Hawaiian Humane now has legal custody of any stray dog or cat with microchip identification after five days in its care, down from nine. Dogs wearing a current county license tag still must be held for a minimum of nine days. The kenneling fee for stray animals has increased to $10 per day from $2.50. There is still no kenneling charge for animals reclaimed within 24 hours. This is not a legal requirement, but Hawaiian Humane is urging pet owners who travel, particularly if they will not have email or cell phone access, to list their pet sitter or veterinarian as a secondary contact on their microchip registration in the event that their animal gets lost while they are away.

What are the new rules for pet identification?
All dogs and cats are now required to have microchip identification. Pet cats allowed outdoors are still required to have visible identification. That is highly recommended for dogs, as well, but not legally required.

What if you have a current dog license?
Owner information can still be updated with the City and County of Honolulu. No new dog licenses are being sold and licenses can no longer be renewed.

What about microchip registration?
Clinics that wish to upload microchip information should do so with the manufacturer’s database, not Hawaiian Humane. Hawaiian Humane is no longer maintaining a separate microchip database for Oahu and pet owners are no longer legally required to register their microchips with Hawaiian Humane. Under the new ordinance, pet owners who have microchips implanted have 30 days to register their contact information with the microchip manufacturer or a free online database. Similarly, they have 30 days to update any changes to their contact information or to transfer ownership of a pet.

What does the new law say about routine strays, or “frequent fliers”?
Any dog brought to Hawaiian Humane as stray three times in a 12-month period must be spayed/neutered before the dog can be returned to its owner, unless medically contraindicated. Sterilization services will be offered at the Community Spay/Neuter Center, but owners may request that Hawaiian Humane transfer a dog falling under this requirement to a private veterinary clinic upon confirmation of a spay/neuter appointment.

What do we do if someone brings us a lost pet?
Hawaiian Humane remains the official pet lost and found for Oahu. If you need help identifying the owner of a microchipped pet, call the admissions team at 356-2285.

Paycheck Protection Program Update from AVMA

The AVMA Advocacy team worked very hard to influence and improve the Paycheck Protection Program. The Small Business Administration recently released data on the loans and the uptake by the veterinary profession has been significant. About 56% of veterinary practices took PPP loans totaling an estimated $2.1 Billion, with over 80% of the loans being less than $150,000.  Over 200,000 jobs in veterinary practices have been protected. A blog posting with data and an infographic can be found at https://www.avma.org/blog/covid-19-loans-are-supporting-veterinary-teams-and-patients.

Congress is working on additional legislation that will impact the PPP, which could include retroactive changes.  It is expected to pass before Congress leaves for their August recess.  AVMA is actively seeking measures to ensure favorable tax treatment of PPP loan proceeds, and for a streamlined forgiveness process for loans below $150,000, which would include the vast majority of veterinary PPP loans. We have a Congressional Advocacy Network Action Alert out on the tax treatment of PPP funds that can be found at https://avmacan.avma.org/avma/app/onestep-write-a-letter?0&engagementId=508320.

Letter from the President – April 2020

Aleisha Swartz, DVM
HVMA President

I hope this finds you, your ohana, staff and colleagues in good health. I don’t think any of us would have predicted the rapid changes that have occurred across the planet since the January newsletter. Normal as we knew it and our regular daily operations feel like a bit of a distant memory right now. But thankfully in every dark cloud there are many silver linings.

Veterinarians, like other public health stewards, are trained problem solvers and we have been working hard to solve our problems, from those at home to in our businesses and in our communities. I have been amazed seeing the innovation and effort by Hawaii veterinarians as they work to protect their teams, ensure care for animals in need and service to the people of Hawaii and beyond.

The HVMA has been working hard on behalf of members and the animals and citizens of Hawaii during the pandemic. We have proactively and successfully advocated for more flexible use of telemedicine during this challenging time to maintain care for animals while keeping people safe. We have set up a Facebook group for Hawaii veterinarians to keep in touch and share with one another and have hosted weekly virtual meetings where we discuss the current knowledge about SARS CoV-2, its impact on animals and practices. We responded to a request for assistance from HI-EMA and City and County of Honolulu to support pet owners during this emergency. During this time, we have spent many hours each week participating in HI-EMA and Honolulu Department of Emergency Management calls to ensure animal needs are met. The HVMA was able to secure a grant from Greater Good of 22 pallets of dog and cat food and 4 pallets of litter to be used for COVID-related emergency sheltering or for pet owners in need due to financial hardship so many are currently facing. The shipping to Hawaii was graciously donated by a local business and The Salvation Army was instrumental in coordinating the food delivery from California. It has been delivered to animal shelters and human food service distribution partners on Kauai, Oahu, Maui and Hawaii Island. We will continue to seek support for pet owners in financial distress so that they can continue to care for their family members during this challenging time. We know the importance of the human-animal bond is perhaps more important than ever during this time of social distancing.

I encourage you to reach out to us if there is anything, we can do to support your work and businesses. More than at any other time it is essential that we are caring for ourselves and doing what we can to stay healthy. Get lots of sleep, eat good food, enjoy the beautiful outdoors when you can and make time for self-care. We cannot care for others if we do not first care for ourselves. If you have been contemplating taking up meditation for a long time now and need a reason this is a good one. Just sitting quietly and breathing for a brief time can work wonders to help manage the stressful times a little bit better. Take care of your families and colleagues as well. Be kind to one another and give thanks to all of those working so hard to keep us safe. I feel so fortunate to be in a state that has done so much to protect its citizens. I also feel so fortunate to be surrounded by peers in a profession that is critical to preventing and solving this and the next zoonotic outbreak. The importance and need for veterinarians is greater now than ever.

On behalf of the board I wish you health and well-being in the rest of 2020 and beyond. I hope to hear more from you on what we can do to support you as a Hawaii veterinarian.

Aloha,
Aleisha Swartz

SARS-CoV-2 Animal Testing

Routine testing of animals for COVID-19 is NOT recommended by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians (AAVLD), National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians (NASPHV), or the National Assembly of State Animal Health Officials. Nor is it recommended by key federal agencies, including the CDC and USDA.

Current expert understanding is that SARS-CoV-2 is primarily transmitted person-to-person. There is currently no evidence that animals can transmit this virus to people. In rare instances, people have spread the virus to certain animals.

Veterinarians are strongly encouraged to rule out more common causes for clinical signs in animals before considering testing for SARS-CoV-2. The CDC, USDA, and other federal partners have created guidance, including a table of epidemiological risk factors and clinical features for SARS-CoV-2 in animals to help guide decisions regarding animal testing.

The decision to test an animal should be made collaboratively between the attending veterinarian and local, state, and/or federal public health and animal health officials after careful consideration of this guidance as provided.

AVMA-AAVLD-NASPHV-NASAHO Joint Statement on Animal Testing

Hawaii State Dept of Ag Guidelines on Animal Testing


Labs with SARS-CoV-2 PCR Animal Tests

Becoming Antifragile

Author: Holly Sawyer, DVM, Human-Animal Bond Certified, works for GuardianVets, the only after-hours teletriage/telemedicine service to be endorsed by AAHA. The mission of GuardianVets is to keep the veterinary hospital in the center of the Human-Animal Bond while supporting the work-life balance of today’s veterinary professional.

If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it is that life can be wildly unpredictable. Veterinarians tend to be tidy, structured thinkers. That’s not to say we are all compulsive neat freaks. But our chosen profession demands that we master the art of pattern recognition. “Know your normal” becomes the mantra of every lecture and clinical rotation, and the aspiration of every new grad. So we gain expertise in “normal” and work hard to maintain it—in our patients and in our lives.

Duck and Pivot
The pandemic slammed us with a reality that was anything but “normal.” Overnight, we had to launch curbside care, rely on phone consultations and telemedicine, enact social distancing, and otherwise upend our historically stable profession. Let’s face it, a time-traveler from 1950 who walked into your clinic pre-COVID would have ogled at your pretty toys, but not the structure of the appointment, physical exam, or general administration of treatment. In a world of industry disrupters like Airbnb and Uber, consumer desire for choice and convenience is clearly king. In this moment of inertia within our profession, in which we are no longer the object at rest, but the object in motion, let us stay in motion. Just as the fighter in the boxing ring will fare better with quick feet and nimble reactions, we too can capitalize on the left hook that threw us off balance and now pivot into an upper cut that transfers all of that energy against the status quo.

Change Your Perspective, Change the World
What am I talking about here? You could call it a fundamental change in thinking, a mental model that embraces stressors and unpredictability as a catalyst toward improvement instead of detriment. I am talking about becoming Antifragile. This term, coined by risk analyst Nassim Taleb[1], has been applied to systems as varied as bacterial resistance and human psychology. To understand it, we must first look at the other end of the spectrum.

Fragile systems are brittle. They have very little margin for error because they maximize efficiency of time and resources to achieve optimal outcomes. Our modern, globalized society has steadily pushed us toward this ideal. We benefit from cheap food, medical advances, and technological gadgets that rely on tight tolerances of sourcing, shipping, supply, and demand. Enter COVID, and suddenly dairy farmers are dumping milk at huge economic loss because restaurants and schools are closed, while pig farmers face euthanizing pigs before they can be sold due to meat packing plant shutdowns. In our imperfect world, even small stressors can break a system, like a porcelain plate that shatters when dropped.

Resilient (or Robust) systems have built-in redundancies to survive stress. They are the plastic food containers that bounce on the floor. The system survives in its original form despite unpredictable events, but even resilient systems will reach a failure point. NASA’s Space Shuttle Program has learned that the hard way. Twice. Antifragile systems get better with stress and volatility. They are the Hydra of Greek mythology. Lop off one head, two grow in its place. Expose a population of staphylococcus to methicillin, and soon you will have a thriving infection of superbugs. Bad for us, great for them. Likewise, the saying, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” describes the mechanism by which we ourselves become antifragile. When we succeed in the face of overwhelming odds, we tend to achieve greater feats the next time around. The opposite viewpoint “Avoid all risk at all cost”—in turn makes for a very brittle population that fears unpredictability because it doesn’t know what it can overcome. [2]

Choose Your Own Adventure
Veterinary Medicine is at a pivot point in the boxing ring right now. Instead of resisting change, let us grow through it to become better than we were before. It will take energy, patience, creativity, and a willingness to fail small in order to succeed big. Happily, our clients are particularly forgiving of experimentation right now, especially when it is for their benefit. We can establish a new and better normal if we provide our clients the care they want, how they want, when they want it, while reclaiming some work-life balance for ourselves. Offer a digital patient portal, an easy pipeline for communication to bond the client to your clinic, so you remain at the forefront of healthcare decisions before entrepreneurs with far less training fill that space. Schedule differently, cross-train staff to new tasks, and leverage your RVTs and CVTs to legally fill needs previously provided by DVMs. Treat life as an adventure instead of a race to perfection, and don’t panic when you don’t recognize the pattern ahead. That which you fear may become a game-changing opportunity.

[1] Taleb, Nassim Nicholas. Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder. New York: Random House, 2012.
[2] Lukianoff, Greg, and Jonathan Haidt. The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure. New York: Penguin, 2018.

COVID-19 and Your Pet

Updated April 5, 2020

How to Best Protect Your Pet

  • Stay home and follow social distancing orders from authorities. Studies show COVID-19 is often spread by those who are not yet showing symptoms of disease. Consider yourself infected and take the proper precautions to protect your community.
  • DO NOT take your pet to a veterinary clinic for wellness visits, vaccinations, or elective procedures (such as spay/neuter) that may be safely delayed for a few months.
  • If you are concerned with your pet’s health issue, CALL YOUR VET. Many vets are practicing telemedicine with established and new clients and patients, and will be able to make a tentative diagnosis and prescribe medication over the phone or after an online consult.
  • If you are diagnosed with COVID-19 but do not need to be hospitalized, you can still safely care for your pet. Practice good hygiene practices by washing your hands before and after interacting with your pet, not kissing or sharing food with your pet, and avoiding close contact (hugging, sleeping together). If possible, wear a facemask to reduce your spread of virus particles.

Make a Plan for Your Pet

  • You should identify a family member or friend who can care for your pets if you need to be hospitalized.
  • Have an appropriate carrier/crate for each pet, and enough food, medication, and supplies for at least two weeks.
  • Ensure all medications are documented with dosages and administering directions. Including the prescription from your veterinarian is ideal.
  • Pets should have identification: Collar with ID tag and microchip.

COVID-19 and Pets

  • Infectious disease experts and multiple international and domestic human and animal health organizations agree there is no evidence at this point to indicate that pets become ill with COVID-19 or that they spread it to other animals, including people.
  • If you are not ill with COVID-19, you can interact with your pet as you normally would, including walking, feeding, and playing. You should continue to practice good hygiene during those interactions (e.g., wash hands before and after interacting with your pet; ensure your pet is kept well-groomed; regularly clean your pet’s food and water bowls, bedding material, and toys).
  • Out of an abundance of caution, it is recommended that those ill with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus. Have another member of your household take care of walking, feeding, and playing with your pet. If you have a service animal or must care for your pet, wear a cloth facemask; don’t share food, kiss, or hug them; and wash your hands before and after any contact with them.

CDC Recommends Cloth Facemasks

CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and not know it from transmitting it to others. Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure.

Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.

The cloth face coverings recommended are NOT surgical masks or N-95 respirators.  Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance.

CDC: How to Protect Yourself
CDC: Info on Cloth Masks

General information about COVID-19:

  • The betacoronavirus that causes COVID-19 is SARS-CoV-2 (formerly 2019-nCoV).
  • Person-to-person and community spread has been reported in numerous countries, including the United States.
  • Transmission primarily occurs when there is contact with an infected person’s bodily secretions, such as saliva or mucus droplets in a cough or sneeze. Transmission via touching a contaminated surface or object (i.e., a fomite) and then touching the mouth, nose, or possibly eyes is also possible, but appears to be a secondary route. Smooth (non-porous) surfaces (e.g., countertops, door knobs) transmit viruses better than porous materials (e.g., paper money, pet fur) because porous, especially fibrous, materials absorb and trap the pathogen (virus), making it harder to contract through simple touch.
  • There are currently no antiviral drugs recommended or licensed by FDA to treat COVID-19, and there is no immunization available. 
  • Cases of COVID-19 and community spread are being reported in most states.
  • The best way to avoid becoming ill is to avoid exposure to the virus. Taking typical preventive actions is key.

Have Any Pets Been Infected with COVID-19?

On April 5th, the USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratories has confirmed the presence of SARS-CoV-2 in one tiger at a zoo in New York. Read full USDA article.

While two dogs (Hong Kong) and two cats (one in Belgium and one in Hong Kong) living with people diagnosed with COVID-19 have also been reported to have been infected with SARS-CoV-2, other dogs and cats also living with infected people remain uninfected. To date the CDC has not received any reports of pets or livestock becoming sick with COVID-19 in the United States. Infectious disease experts and multiple international and domestic human and animal health organizations continue to agree there is no evidence at this point to indicate that, under natural conditions, pets spread COVID-19 to people. To date, all animal cases have had no or mild symptoms that resolved with supportive care.

Because the situation is ever-evolving, public and animal health officials may decide to test certain animals out of an abundance of caution. The decision to test will be made collaboratively between local, state, and federal animal and public health officials. After the decision is made to test, state animal health officials will designate a state-appointed veterinarian, USDA-accredited veterinarian, or foreign animal disease diagnostician to collect the sample using appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and sample collection methods.

Again, current expert understanding is that COVID-19 is primarily transmitted person-to-person. This supports a recommendation against testing of pets for SARS-CoV-2, except by official order. If dogs or cats present with respiratory signs, veterinarians should test for more common respiratory pathogens.

Pets in homes with owners with COVID-19: Although there have not been reports of pets becoming sick with COVID-19, out of an abundance of caution, it is recommended that those ill with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus. If you are ill with COVID-19 have another member of your household take care of walking, feeding, and playing with your pet. If you have a service animal or you must care for your pet, then wear a cloth facemask; don’t share food, kiss, or hug them; and wash your hands before and after any contact with your pet or service animal. You should not share dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, or bedding with other people or pets in your home. Additional guidance on managing pets in homes where people are sick with COVID-19 is available from the CDC.

Keeping pets safe: For responsible pet owners, preparing in advance is key. Make sure you have an emergency kit prepared, with at least two weeks’ worth of your pet’s food and any needed medications. Usually we think about emergency kits like this in terms of what might be needed for an evacuation, but it’s also good to have one prepared in the case of quarantine or self-isolation when you cannot leave your home.

While we are recommending these as good practices, it is important to remember that, to date, there have not been any reports of pets or other animals becoming ill with SARS-CoV-2, and there is currently no evidence that pets can spread COVID-19 to other animals, including people.

Should any animal showing signs of respiratory illness be tested?

USDA and CDC do not recommend routine testing of animals for this virus. Because the situation is ever-evolving, public and animal health officials may decide to test certain animals out of an abundance of caution. The decision to test will be made collaboratively between local, state or federal public and animal health officials.

Should I avoid contact with pets or other animals if I am sick from coronavirus (COVID-19)?

You should restrict contact with pets and other animals while you are sick with COVID-19, just like you would with other people. Although there have not been reports of pets becoming sick with COVID-19 in the United States, it is still recommended that people sick with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus. When possible, have another member of your household care for your animals while you are sick. If you are sick with COVID-19, avoid contact with your pet, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food. If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wash your hands before and after you interact with pets. More information is available on how to keep people and animals safe at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/animals.html.

What should I do if I think my animal has the virus?

Call your veterinary clinic with any questions about your animal’s health. In order to ensure the veterinary clinic is prepared for the household animal, the owner should call ahead and arrange the hospital or clinic visit. Make sure to tell your veterinarian if your animal was exposed a person sick with COVID-19, and if your animal is showing any signs of illness. Veterinarians who believe an animal should be tested will contact state animal health officials, who will work with public and animal health authorities to decide whether samples should be collected and tested.

COVID-19 RESOURCES

Updated 5/6/2020

Quick Links to COVID-19 Resources:

AVMA COVID-19 webpage
CDC Guidance to Veterinary Practices
Infection Control in Veterinary Practices
Utilizing Telemedicine
Conserving Mask and Gown Resources
Hawaii State Updates on COVID-19
Hawaiian Humane Society Updated Services

US Government Resources:

Coronavirus Response Business Toolkit
Disaster Assistance Loans from the SBA
Disaster Help Desk for Small Businesses

Join the Discussion

https://www.facebook.com/groups/808COVIDvets/

COVID-19 Vet Resource Survey

Please help Hawaii better understand our veterinary resources (PPE, ventilator equipment, staff) by filling out our survey.

If you are looking to immediately donate any PPE or help with sewn cloth mask donations, please see UH School of Medicine’s Masks4HI webpage.

Guidance on Resuming Elective Services

Veterinary Medicine is an essential business that is part of the critical infrastructure of the United States. Many states did not place formal restrictions on the practice of veterinary medicine, while some states and localities instituted restrictions upon performing non-urgent or elective procedures.

During this crisis, veterinarians continue to exercise their professional judgment as to which services and procedures are urgent or potentially urgent (including those that may be necessary to protect certain vulnerable animal populations, prevent adverse effects on public health, or ensure the safety and security of the food supply if not performed) and which might be postponed. The AVMA also developed case management and triage decision trees to help veterinarians determine urgent and potentially urgent cases, using their professional judgment; support social distancing; and assist in conserving personal protective equipment (PPE).

At this time, resuming non-urgent or elective veterinary services is appropriate. There is a backlog of demand for elective or non-urgent veterinary care that is important for the health and welfare of animals. Failure to provide comprehensive  veterinary care places both animal and public health at risk. Veterinarians have adapted to conserve PPE that is in short supply for the delivery of human healthcare, and the original concern that performing non-urgent or elective veterinary procedures would negatively impact the availability of PPE for human healthcare providers has largely been ameliorated. Veterinarians should have also incorporated creative and effective measures that are consistent with social distancing recommendations and limit person-to-person exposure for staff and clients.

As veterinarians resume providing non-urgent/elective services, veterinary practices should continue invoking strategies that conserve PPE and support social distancing as appropriate and practical. Some measures that have been adopted, as appropriate to practice type, include:

  • Triaging appointments by phone or videoconference, and handling via telemedicine as medically appropriate and as permissible under federal and state law and guidance on what is permissible during the COVID-19 disaster declaration.
  • Inquiring as to whether the client or caretaker is ill with, or may have been exposed to, COVID-19. If so, encouraging someone other than the ill client to bring the patient to the hospital, if in-person care is necessary, or providing care via telemedicine if medically appropriate and permissible under federal and state law and guidance on what is permissible during the COVID-19 disaster declaration.
  • Scheduling appointments so that patient flow can be managed, and social distancing of clients maintained.
  • Restricting the number of clients waiting in the lobby for their appointments and enforcing social distancing.
  • Directly admitting clients and patients to examination rooms from their cars, rather than having them wait in the lobby.
  • Curb-side pickup of patients, keeping clients out of clinics except when required. This includes having clients remain in their vehicles in the parking lot while the patient is evaluated, with veterinarian/client communication by phone or videochat.
  • Curbside delivery of medication refills and veterinary diets
  • Encouraging clients who travel to the clinic to don cloth face coverings.
  • Having staff, rather than owners, hold animals during examinations.
  • Extra attention to cleaning of often-touched surfaces, including an increase in frequency.
  • Adoption of PPE conservation strategies, including extended use of disposable PPE (as appropriate) and replacement of disposable PPE with reusable and appropriately maintained/sterilized cloth gowns and masks.
  • Conducting daily health assessments or self-evaluations of employees, requiring staff to stay home if sick, and immediately sending staff home if they become ill while at work.
  • Dividing clinic staff into teams, so that if a team member is known to be exposed to or becomes ill with COVID-19, it largely localizes risk to that team while allowing important veterinary services to continue to be provided.
  • Diligently apply practices to prevent the spread of infectious disease, such as frequent handwashing and wearing gloves whenever appropriate.

CDC Guidance to Veterinarians

CDC has published new Interim Infection Prevention and Control Guidance for Veterinary Clinics during the COVID-19 Response. This guidance is for veterinarians and veterinary staff providing care to companion animals. The intent of this guidance is to facilitate preparedness and to ensure practices are in place in a veterinary clinical setting to help people and animals stay safe and healthy.

SARS-CoV-2 Animal Testing

Routine testing of animals for COVID-19 is NOT recommended by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians (AAVLD), National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians (NASPHV), or the National Assembly of State Animal Health Officials. Nor is it recommended by key federal agencies, including the CDC and USDA.

Current expert understanding is that SARS-CoV-2 is primarily transmitted person-to-person. There is currently no evidence that animals can transmit this virus to people. In rare instances, people have spread the virus to certain animals.

Veterinarians are strongly encouraged to rule out more common causes for clinical signs in animals before considering testing for SARS-CoV-2. The CDC, USDA, and other federal partners have created guidance, including a table of epidemiological risk factors and clinical features for SARS-CoV-2 in animals to help guide decisions regarding animal testing.

The decision to test an animal should be made collaboratively between the attending veterinarian and local, state, and/or federal public health and animal health officials after careful consideration of this guidance as provided.

AVMA-AAVLD-NASPHV-NASAHO Joint Statement on Animal Testing

Telemedicine Expansion Order

On March 29th, Governor Ige signed an executive order allowing veterinarians to practice telemedicine without a previously established Veterinary-Client-Patient-Relationship (VCPR) or physical examination of the patient to establish a VCPR. This order remains in effect only during the COVID-19 emergency period. Read full executive order here.

We are extremely appreciative that our local government is enabling us to continue to care for patients while we respect the current social distancing and shelter-in-place orders to prevent the spread of COVID-19. AVMA has laid out specific guidance on Telemedicine.

On March 24th, FDA announced that they are taking steps to temporarily suspend enforcement of certain federal VCPR requirements as it relates to allowing veterinary telemedicine during this period of social distancing. This change only affects regulations regarding extralabel drug use in animals and veterinary feed directives. Read press announcement here.

AVMA Resources

Interim recommendations for intake of companion animals from households where humans with COVID-19 are present

Considerations for food animal veterinarians during the COVID-19 pandemic

AVMA Social Media Posts/Images

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  • CARES Act small business loan programs
    Learn how to prepare for the new Paycheck Protection Program launching Friday, and understand how it compares with the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Economic Injury Disaster Loans.
  • COVID-19 Insurance Claims and CARES Act Leave Provisions
    Understand the paid leave and unemployment insurance provisions in the stimulus package and how they might apply to you and your business in this webinar with insurance and employment law experts – sponsored by AVMA LIFE and AVMA PLIT.

Essential vs. Non-Essential Services

HVMA and AVMA are working to educate our state and local governments on the essential services that veterinarians provide. We strongly discourage veterinarians from offering non-essential services during this period as this undermines our efforts. Continuing to offer or promote non-essential services during this period of government-mandated social distancing increases the risk of virus transmission to our staff, our clients, and our communities at large. Additionally, continuing to perform non-essential procedures and surgeries uses up limited resources that are in short supply and may be necessary for essential procedures and surgeries in the near future. Please consider the serious consequences of continuing practice as usual in the face of the rapid and undetected spread of COVID-19. Below are several guidelines to help you determine which services are essential.

“As restrictions in elective or non-essential services are put in place, either voluntarily or through government or regulatory body mandates, careful consideration of what is considered essential is needed. Essential procedures include those required to alleviate animal pain and suffering, to prevent imminent threat of death of the animal, and matters pertaining to public health (e.g. vaccination against rabies). Other considerations may be involved, including supply availability, the ability of the clinic to practice appropriate social distancing, and factors related to management of specific cases either in the clinic or at home.

“Recommendations may change based on our growing understanding of this disease, changes in messaging from governments and regulators, and as this pandemic evolves. Veterinarians and owners must understand this is a fluid situation and the goal cannot be maintaining “business as usual” but rather providing the optimal outcomes for animals, owners and veterinary facilities, while doing our part to support social distancing efforts. Any consultations that do not absolutely require physical contact with the animal should be done via telemedicine.”

Read full OVMA guidelines including owner risk assessment and social distancing in practice (pdf).

WSAVA Vaccine Guidelines During COVID-19

The World Small Animal Veterinary Association has released guidelines advising veterinarians on routine prophylactic vaccination (pdf) during the COVID-19 pandemic response.

DIY N95 Replacement Mask

The University of Florida Health’s department of anesthesiology has developed 2 prototypes for respirator masks that can be produced in large quantities using materials already found in hospitals and medical facilities. The makeshift mask uses Halyard H600 two-ply spun polypropylene that cannot be penetrated by water, bacteria, or particles. It blocks 99.9% of particulates, making the masks about 4% more effective at blocking particulate material than the N95 masks. Read more and see tutorials here.

Federal CARES Act

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) was passed and signed on Friday March 27th. The CARES Act seeks to:

  • Support businesses to retain their employees and maintain operations
  • Expand unemployment insurance benefits in light of COVID-19 emergency
  • Provide individual support

AVMA has provided resources here to help veterinarians understand and interpret this legislation.

Statewide Stay-At-Home Order 3/25 – 4/30

Effective March 25 through April 30, 2020, everyone in the State of Hawai‘i is required to stay at home or in their place of residence. This supplement to Governor David Ige’s emergency proclamation was announced on March 23, 2020. Read more here.

Under the proclamation, individuals may leave their home or place of residence only for essential activities, to engage in essential businesses and operations, and only if their work cannot be conducted through remote technology from home.

Veterinarians are currently considered essential businesses. Please continue to refrain from offering non-essential services during this period so we can maintain this status. Offering or promoting non-essential services uses up limited resources that are in short supply and may be necessary for essential procedures and surgeries in the near future. Additionally, encouraging clients to come into public spaces during this period of government-mandated social distancing increases the risk of virus transmission to our staff, clients, and communities at large.

Self-Quarantine for Travelers Arriving After 3/26

Effective, Thursday, March 26, 2020, all persons entering the State of Hawai‘i must self-quarantine for 14 days or for the duration of their stay in Hawai‘i, whichever is shorter. Residents returning to Hawaii must also self-quarantine in a designated location in their residence. If you are assisting with pet travel into the state of Hawaii, please notify pet owners of the self-quarantine requirement.

The Rabies Quarantine Station in Halawa Valley is currently closed to visitors. Pets may be released from quarantine as soon as the mandatory quarantine period is completed.
Details on self-quarantine procedures (pdf)

State and Federal Tax Relief

Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and State of Hawaii Department of Taxation have postponed the due dates for payment and filing of 2019 Federal and State income tax returns to July 2020. Additional action is not needed by Income taxpayers to participate in this tax relief program.
IRS Website
State of Hawaii Department of Taxation Website
State of Hawaii Department of Taxation Announcement 2020-01 (pdf)

Am I Doing the Right Thing?

During this time of undetected spread of COVID-19, please protect your staff, your clients, and your community. If you or one of your staff becomes ill or is known to be exposed to COVID-19, in addition to concerns about your and their wellbeing, there is the possibility that you will be asked by public health officials to temporarily close your practice for personnel isolation and facility cleaning.

With this risk in mind, veterinarians should work to reschedule all nonessential appointments so as to limit public exposure. This includes wellness visits for vaccinations, spay/neuter procedures, routine dental procedures, and anything that can be safely delayed for a few weeks to months.

Veterinary staff members who have symptoms of acute respiratory illness should stay at home and should not return to work until they are free of fever (fever is defined as a temperature of 100.4F or higher, using an oral thermometer), signs of a fever, and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicine (e.g., cough suppressants).

In addition, veterinary clinics should be aware that the limit on statewide gatherings of 10 people applies to activity in their clinics.

Telemedicine and emergency teletriage within the context of an existing VCPR can be extremely helpful in limiting your staff’s exposure, and enable you to support and monitor the health of your patients and conform to local requirements, while preventing the potential spread of COVID-19. Conducting pre-visit triage can help protect you and your staff as you prioritize and determine which patients need to be seen at the clinic.

Please do the right thing to limit the spread of this disease in our community.

COVID-19 and Pets

  • Infectious disease experts and multiple international and domestic human and animal health organizations agree there is no evidence at this point to indicate that pets become ill with COVID-19 or that they spread it to other animals, including people.
  • If you are not ill with COVID-19, you can interact with your pet as you normally would, including walking, feeding, and playing. You should continue to practice good hygiene during those interactions (e.g., wash hands before and after interacting with your pet; ensure your pet is kept well-groomed; regularly clean your pet’s food and water bowls, bedding material, and toys).
  • Out of an abundance of caution, it is recommended that those ill with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus. Have another member of your household take care of walking, feeding, and playing with your pet. If you have a service animal or you must care for your pet, then wear a facemask; don’t share food, kiss, or hug them; and wash your hands before and after any contact with them.

Managing Veterinary Practice in a Pandemic:

Multiple universities and practices have implemented the following practices to protect the health of their employees, clients, and surrounding communities:

  • Limit patient care to acutely ill animals and/or emergencies. Animals that are sick or injured should receive veterinary attention.
  • Reschedule existing new and recheck appointments that are considered non-essential (unlikely to experience significant harm if treatment is not administered in a timely manner).
  • Reschedule elective procedures.
  • Utilize telemedicine to assess patient condition and needs.
  • If an animal needs to be seen in person, a healthy family member or friend should bring their sick animal to a veterinary hospital or clinic.
  • Have clients drop off their animal and remain in their cars during appointments.
  • When meeting clients, veterinary team members should wear appropriate PPE.
  • In light of limited supply, be strategic in the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), including masks, gowns, and gloves.
  • If a mobile or house call veterinarian must examine an animal in a home where someone is ill with COVID-19 and no other options are available, consult with local public health officials for guidance. Appropriate PPE and access to handwashing and disinfection materials should be considered in all cases.

Keeping Your Veterinary Team Healthy:

  • Veterinary healthcare team members who have symptoms of acute respiratory illness should stay at home and should not return to work until they are free of fever (100.4F or higher, using an oral thermometer) and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicine (e.g., cough suppressants).
  • Communicate about COVID-19 with your team. Flexible sick leave policies are important and team members should be made aware of these policies. Team members who appear to have symptoms of acute respiratory illness upon arrival at work or who become sick during the day should be separated from other team members and sent home immediately.
  • If a team member is confirmed to have COVID-19, the veterinary practice owner should inform other team members of their possible exposure to COVID-19, but maintain confidentiality as required by law. Team members who are exposed to another employee with confirmed COVID-19 should contact their physician or local health department to determine how best to proceed. 
  • Surfaces in the veterinary clinic/hospital that are touched frequently, such as workstations, keyboards, doorknobs, countertops, and stethoscopes, should be cleaned often and wiped down by employees with disposable wipes between cleanings.
  • Provide no-touch disposal receptacles.
  • Place hand sanitizers in multiple locations, including in exam rooms, offices, and conference rooms to encourage hand hygiene.
  • Team members should avoid close contact (within approximately 6 feet) with other people who are ill.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after coughing, sneezing, going to the bathroom, and before eating.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

Families First Coronavirus Response Act:

On March 18, 2020, the President signed into law the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201). 

The final bill included some significant policy changes from the original proposals that were intended to address both the impacts on small businesses and individuals. We expect lawmakers to continue to address economic measures for small businesses and individuals through future legislative packages.

Lawmakers and the Administration remain engaged in ongoing negotiations to produce additional measures, and AVMA continues to ensure the concerns of the profession are heard as this dynamic situation unfolds.

The final bill includes:

  1. FMLA COVID-19 benefit – This benefit provides up to 12 weeks of family and medical leave benefits related to the coronavirus to be paid at 2/3 of regular pay rates after the first 10 days, which are unpaid. The leave is only available for child care in the event of school closure or if the employee’s child care provider is unavailable due to the public health emergency.
  2. COVID-19 sick leave – This benefit applies up to 80 hours of additional paid sick leave for employees related to the coronavirus. There are daily and aggregate caps on the sick leave benefit of either $511 per day and $5,110 in the aggregate if the employee is sick or quarantined, and $200 per day and $2,000 in aggregate if the employee is caring for someone else.
  3. Potential exemption – There is language granting authority to the Department of Labor to create regulations that can exempt small businesses with fewer than 50 employees from the leave requirements when the imposition of the requirements would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern.
  4. Tax credits – There are tax credits for employers intended to mitigate the impacts of the expanded leave provisions; and
  5. COVID-19 testing – It provides for free testing for the coronavirus during the emergency.

Read more about the bill here.

3/24/2020 – The Department of Labor just released Frequently Asked Questions documents on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act:

1) DOL FAQ
2) DOL Fact Sheet for Employers
3) DOL Fact Sheet for Employees

  • Significantly, the FAQ DOL indicates the effective date for the Families First Coronavirus Response Act is April 1, 2020, and applies to leave taken between April 1, 2020, and December 31, 2020. 
  • For the exemption for business with fewer than 50 employees when providing the leave under the act would jeopardize the viability of the business, DOL advises that for now employers should document why they believe this to be the case.  DOL then indicates that more detail will be forthcoming in regulations.

Panleukopenia Cases on Oahu

In recent weeks, several veterinary practices on O’ahu have reported seeing a number of feline panleukopenia cases. Below is a link to a summary on Feline Panleukopenia provided on the AVMA website for review. Veterinarians who have had patients suspected of dying from panleukopenia can contact Dr. Aleisha Swartz for information on further confirmatory testing including necropsy and PCR at president@hawaiivetmed.org.

AVMA article on feline panleukopenia.

Article on sanitation procedures.

Legislative Update – Jan 2020

HVMA has introduced HB 2528 and SB 2985 in the 2020 legislative session. These bills modify Hawaii’s veterinary practice act to 1) provide immunity in the absence of gross negligence to veterinarians who provide emergency care to an animal, and 2) clarify that the duty of a veterinarian includes reporting to law enforcement any cases of animal injury or death where there is reasonable cause to believe that it relates to dog fighting or animal abuse, while granting veterinarians immunity from any civil liability for such reporting. These additions to our veterinary practice act would put Hawaii in line with much of the rest of the United States. A big mahalo to Representative Hashem and Senator Baker for sponsoring the introduction of these bills to the legislature. Please thank them, particularly if you are from their districts!

1/28 Update: First round of SUPPORT testimony needed on this measure by Thursday 1/30! Submit online testimony here. Contact us if you have questions or comments on this measure, or if you are able to go down to the capitol and testify in person.