Pet care amid Covid scare: Challenges and the road ahead
The fierce second wave of Covid-19 saw a sharp spike in cases, impacting many more people than the first wave. The constant fear of contracting the virus, curbs restricting outdoor movement and a work-life balance that’s gone for a toss – all these factors increased irritability and anxiety among many individuals. However, the ill-effects of the pandemic aren’t just limited to humans but have also led to many challenges for our four-legged friends.
“Since April first week, I haven’t been able to take my dog for a walk which was routine for him for years. It isn’t easy for him to adjust to this new life, where almost all of his time is spent indoors. There is a palpable change in his behaviour but I don’t think we can do much about it. My father had contracted the virus in May, and it was a very tough phase. Luckily other family members have managed to stay safe from the virus so far, but we don’t want to take any risk. We are trying to avoid going out as much as possible,” says Kriti Gupta, 42, a homemaker from Noida.
Amit Thakur, a certified dog walker from New Delhi, agrees that there has been a significant decline in demand for his services and most pet parents have safety concerns that often make them override the essential needs of their pets. “Most people don’t want to let us in their homes or take their dogs for walk, as they think that any outsider can be a carrier of the virus. But one has to understand that this virus is going to remain for quite some time, and one shouldn’t compromise with the needs of their pets. A walk is quite an important activity for a dog, and they wait for that throughout the day. Putting it completely on hold may impact their well-being,” says Thakur, adding, “Agar logon ko khud baahar jaane mein dikkat hai to wo professional dog walkers ki help le sakte hain. We are following all precautions.”
The challenges have only intensified for those individuals who had got their first pet in recent months. Even as they were adapting to the new responsibilities, the pandemic-induced changes caught them completely off-guard. Sharing her experience, Swadha Jaiswal, 29, a freelance academician from Delhi says, “We got a German Shepherd pup in February first week. He is our first pet and has brought so much happiness into our lives. Every pet requires a lot of vaccines in their initial months of growing up and this pandemic has made it so difficult. In May we had to miss his vaccination schedule as we were both down with Covid. Now our veterinarian has said the whole cycle of that medicine has to be repeated again, as we can’t have such long gap in the booster dose.”
And even though pet care and veterinary centres remained open during the lockdown — as part of essential services — most of them catered to only essential requirements. Akshay Mahendru, 35, owner of Pet Point, New Delhi, that provides pet grooming facilities, boarding options as well as veterinary solutions, says, “Being part of the essential services, our centre wasn’t closed, but yes, given the enormity of the second wave of Covid-19, we had heightened our precautions. We do not entertain walk-ins and only important services are available on appointment basis. As vaccination of pets, deworming etc are important services, hence we continued to provide these. Parents accompanying their pets aren’t allowed beyond a specific point to ensure social distancing and masks have been mandatory for long.”
Talking of how it impacted their services, he adds, “Start of the summer is when most pets come for grooming; however, given the Covid scare we are only able to serve those for whom it’s medically important. We are only providing essential services for now but wish for things to get back to normal soon, so that we can start serving our four-legged friends with complete efficiency.”
Elaborating on the challenges of the new normal, New Delhi-based veterinarian Dr Abhay Triguna, 51, says, “While our clinics remained operational, it was a challenge for many pet parents to come to us as many policemen aren’t well sensitised about the need of pets and why even a vet visit is very important. Moreover, unlike super-speciality hospitals, most veterinary clinics in the country don’t have large waiting areas. In the dimensions that they function, maintaining social distancing is a challenge. Yet, every veterinarian did their best to serve during the pandemic. We would take the history of pet parents too and ask them if they have any symptoms of Covid.”
He further shares that pandemic-induced precautions are still being followed and they are avoiding routine surgeries at the moment. “What’s important is being done but if something can be delayed without aggravating the problem, then that’s also an option. Telephonic consultation is also available for the issues that don’t require a physical examination,” he adds.
While the pandemic situation seems to be improving now, experts have warned of a third wave, urging people to not be complacent about Covid-19. So, how does one ensure good care of their pets without comprising with one’s own health and safety? Dr Sanjeev Kumar, 34, from Panacea clinic, New Delhi, shares, “We have to strike a balance between ensuring our safety and well-being of our pets. Dogs are sensitive to sanitisers and using them in spray form may impact their lungs, hence that should be avoided. Also, if one is taking them for a walk outside the house, make sure to wash and clean their legs before getting them inside. If someone in the family has Covid-19, ensure that the pets too – dogs or cats – maintain same distance from them as you do. Following precautions may help us all sail through these trying times.”
Author tweets: @kediashish