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A student pays attention during an online class session. There has been an increase in advertisements on social media threatening to disrupt classes.

COVID-19 has meant adaptation for every single member of the Trinidad and Tobago society. This adaptation basically involves technologies that bring people together virtually. Legal cases are heard via video-calling, students are attending classes using Google Classroom, office workers are meeting on Zoom and medical professionals are in contact with clients on their phones.

Tele-medicine may be defined as the practice of medical arts and sciences while the medical practitioner and the client are separated.

Tele-medicine in the local setting is often facilitated by WhatsApp.

So what should an owner know in the time of COVID-19 when it comes to reaching out to the veterinary professional?

Call or WhatsApp your veterinary professional for any unusual behaviour or change in the habits of an animal. However, call within reasonable hours.

For less experienced owners, it may be hard to tell what might be considered “normal” in their animals. Therefore, it is better to seek veterinary advice early on and have the veterinarian direct you.

Not every case is urgent, and late-night calls should be reserved only for those cases that an owner might think is a genuine emergency.

Regardless of the owner’s perceptions, it is the veterinarian that determines the severity of illness.

Veterinarians, like everyone else, will not want to potentially expose themselves to the novel coronavirus unless that risk is likely to provide significant benefit.

Therefore, veterinarians may merely give advice, suggest further observation and updates, or decide that no action at all is warranted.

Owners should be prepared to get their hands dirty and administer first-aid. Veterinarians may direct owners to clean wounds, stop bleeding with tourniquets, apply ice to inflamed tissue, or even assist in the delivery of a lamb. Do not be surprised if you are asked to step out of your comfort zone.

Vets expect that you will fully employ the tools at hand. Why describe a situation when you can film it? Why exhaust yourself giving tedious directions, when you can send a location? Vets want you to help them help you. If that requires learning how to use new technologies, then so be it.

Clinics are still open but limit the numbers, social distance, use masks and employ good hygiene. You can visit most veterinary practices at this time but should call first.

If you choose to show up unannounced, you may be asked to wait outside until there is a safe space available for you indoors.

House calls are available. Veterinarians are providing house calls for clients but vets determine their schedules based on where they think they could deliver the most help.

Owners should be prepared to wait and to pay for the convenience of having the vet come to them. Owners should also note that house calls are limiting and specific basics at the office will not be immediately available to patients seen at their homes.