There is currently no evidence to suggest that companion animals become ill from COVID-19 nor that they can transmit infection to people. 

Veterinary care and services should be considered essential operations for both the preservation of human and animal health as well as for the preservation of animal welfare. 

However, like other medical facilities, not all services provided by veterinarians and veterinary practices are essential functions.  Under the Shelter at Home order, veterinary practices should restrict their services to essential functions - those that are necessary for the immediate preservation of life, health, and welfare of their patients and clients. Preventative care and elective procedures should be deferred until normal operations are allowed to resume. 

Essential and non-essential services

Essential services would include:

  • Emergency medical treatment (trauma, toxin exposures, acute and severe medical conditions, etc.)
  • Humane euthanasia of animals for medical or significant and unmanageable behavioral conditions
  • Examination and treatment of active health or medical concerns (illness, injury)
  • Dental services with immediate health and welfare implications (dental fractures, severe oral infections, medically necessary dental floating)
  • Sale and distribution of specialized and medically necessary food or grooming products
  • Pharmacy services 

Non-essential services would include:

  • Routine vaccination
  • Microchipping
  • Spay - neuter surgeries
  • Elective surgery
  • Routine dental cleaning and care
  • Routine dental floating
  • General wellness exams
  • Minor dermatological conditions
  • Bathing and grooming services
  • Reproductive services 

To the extent possible, practitioners should utilize alternatives such as phone or video conference applications like Skype to minimize the need for in person appointments. In the event that an in person appointment or consultation is necessary, measures should be taken to limit direct or close contact between individuals, avoid congregation of multiple people in one location, and to comply with social distancing recommendations of public health officials.

  • Providing house call service may be considered as an alternative to having clients come into the clinic
  • Schedule appointments in a manner and at intervals which will allow clients to avoid arriving at the same time.
  • When clients arrive for their appointment, have them wait in their vehicle while staff check them in and collect their information. Escort them directly to a exam room when they are ready to be seen.
  • Ensure staff and clients are encouraged to maintain an appropriate interpersonal distance (6 feet). 

In addition to addressing physical health and welfare issues, it is important to recognize that animals play a critical part in the emotional health and well being of their family members. Attending to their needs and fostering that bond is an important part of helping people cope with the stress and uncertainty which can come along with the current public health crisis. This is especially true for older adults who may be particularly isolated during this time and who are  also among the most vulnerable members of our community. Veterinarians should give special consideration to addressing the needs of these individuals and their pets by making make concerted efforts to minimize their potential exposure to COVID-19.


Additional resources for veterinarians

American Veterinary Medical Association for veterinarians

American Veterinary Medical Association for pet owners

California Veterinary Medical Associaion

University of California - Davis