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May 15, 2020

Equine veterinarians focus on essentials, keep distance

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Some equine veterinarians are changing how they practice as recommendations on physical distancing and shelter-in-place orders continue in most U.S. states.

The American Association of Equine Practitioners has released several resources for equine veterinarians who are working amid the COVID-19 outbreak. These include a guide to safe interactions with clients and a fact sheet on equine coronavirus. The resources can be found at jav.ma/equinecovid.

Dr. Erin Trawick-Smith, an equine veterinarian in Connecticut, said she is trying to interact with people as little as possible.

For example, her full-time veterinary technician is currently working from home doing paperwork so they don’t have to share a car. Dr. Trawick-Smith is only doing visits to administer core vaccines and treat emergencies, but she has also asked that only one owner be present during a visit.

“I don’t want to expose (the owners), and they’re pretty isolated, and I am out and touching things, (so) I am more exposed,” she said. However, not exposing owners is difficult sometimes because some people don’t respect the rule to stay at least 6 feet away.

She said most people she has interacted with have been nice about keeping a distance, but she’s talked to friends who have not been so lucky.

Dr. Rob Franklin, a partner at Fredericksburg Equine Veterinary Services in Texas, said that the clinic has made appointments very easy for clients so the clinic can provide patient care and protect both clients and the staff.

“This includes offering drop-off appointments, farm calls, and telemedicine appointments. We have also minimized our appointments to have only one owner representative per horse and no more than two people in our waiting room at a time,” he said. “We don’t handshake, fist-bump, or have contact with the client in any way. It is a very socially awkward time when trying to build trust with new clients or saying hello to old friends.”

Dr. Trawick-Smith said the way equine veterinarians interact with their clients is one of the big differences between equine and small animal practice.

“You are on their property,” she said. “With small animal, it is your facility. ... Equine veterinarians have our own set of anxieties with our clients because of the strange, 24/7 relationship we have with them, and this is compounding it.”

Dr. Trawick-Smith said she isn’t too nervous about the future of her business because she has so many primary care clients, but she thinks a lot of businesses are going to be hit hard by the COVID-19 outbreak.