Guidelines on Essential Medical and Surgical Services for Shelters and S/N Clinics, a summary*

As states have issued varied executive orders and shelter in place guidelines across the nation, shelters have been tasked with deciding what tasks are truly essential while minimizing risk to staff and volunteers. The National Animal Control Association (NACA) took the lead in defining essential services for animal control and animal care operations**; a collective of shelter veterinarians have now released guidelines for essential services for shelter medical programs and spay/neuter clinics.  As always, this is not intended to be an exhaustive list, or replace legal requirements issued by individual states, but to provide guidance in creating and evaluating protocols.

Continue essential direct care services:

  • Spay/Neuter for emergency conditions (pyometra, dystocia, testicular disorders)
  • Neuters for male cats, if social distancing can be maintained during the procedure
  • Surgeries and treatments for life-threatening conditions, and conditions that will cause permanent dysfunction or unmanageable pain and discomfort
  • Diagnostic testing for illness (parvo antigen tests, hemograms and chemistry, etc)
  • Vaccinations at intake for preventive care (DHPP, FVRCP, BB/Pi vaccines)
  • Re-vaccination for pediatrics on an every 2 week schedule if they are in the shelter, or on a delayed schedule for those in foster depending on risk of exposure to infectious disease
  • Rabies vaccination whenever possible given state laws around administration
  • Humane euthanasia to relieve suffering

Employ telemedicine and remote/ curbside dispensing of medications:

  • Management of medical conditions that are conducive to a remote exam and dispensing medication (eg. URI, corneal ulceration, diarrhea, skin conditions, etc)
  • Behavioral conditions conducive to behavior modification recommendations and/or behavioral pharmaceuticals
  • Preventive medications, including flea treatments, dewormers, and heartworm preventives
  • Medication refills

Postpone these services:

  • Routine spay/neuter for dogs, cats rabbits.  Practice sex separation of sexually mature animals.
  • Return to Field/TNR/ SNR spay/neuter programs
  • Medical treatment for conditions that are unlikely to progress to a negative patient outcome within 30-60 days. (eg. heartworm disease, moderate dental disease, benign masses, etc)
  • Routine screening tests (e.g. fecals, FeLV/FIV testing, HW tests etc)
  • Grooming, nail trims

*Link to the full document

** NACA Guidelines for Essential Animal Services during COVID-19.

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