For many of us, our pets are keeping us sane while we stay at home. But what if they need a bit of care?

Vets are allowed to remain open as “life-sustaining” businesses. But many are taking extra precautions, limiting services, and changing how they operate.

Here’s how to see a vet right now, during the coronavirus pandemic.

Are offices changing how they operate?

Yes, and that is the first thing you should ask when calling: What services are available, and which ones are limited? The University of Pennsylvania’s Ryan Veterinary Hospital announced that it will only be able to accommodate medically necessary urgent and emergency patients at this time due to the coronavirus. The hospital advises to call to determine whether the pet needs to be seen and its staff will advise you on the best plan of action. Many vets are continuing to provide urgent care, but call to check first.

Make an appointment first

All the veterinarians we spoke with urged that you call or make an appointment online; don’t just bring your pet to the office. Some vets won’t take an animal without an appointment during these times, and while others might, they don’t recommend it. As with anywhere in public, you will have to wear a face mask, even if you never set foot in the office.

Ask about the vet’s social distancing plan

Will you be able to stay with your pet? Will you have to wait outside? You should know how the visit will go, whether you will be able to physically come into the office or must stay outside due to social distancing.

Lauren Robinson-Weiss, a veterinarian who works at both 2nd Street Animal Hospital in Philadelphia and All Creatures Veterinary Care Center in Sewell, Gloucester County, says both places aren’t allowing pet owners inside their offices right now. A staff member will come to your car, ask you questions about the animal, and then take your pet inside while you stay in your car.

“[After the exam] we will call the client and go over the treatment plan,” she said. “They still get a full exam and we are doing the same thing, but we are limiting the number of people in the office.”

She said payments are done online, and she urges people not to pay with cash, again so there is less person-to-person contact.

What if my pet needs to be spayed or neutered?

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has recommended delaying elective procedures. It’s hard to say that all vets are adhering to this practice, but the ones we interviewed for this story were not providing elective surgery at this time.

Veterinarian Lauren Robinson-Weiss in a photo with Lucy, a coatimundi, that was taken last summer well before social distancing rules were in place.
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Veterinarian Lauren Robinson-Weiss in a photo with Lucy, a coatimundi, that was taken last summer well before social distancing rules were in place.

Can I have a virtual appointment?

Can you get care without even going into the office? Yes, some vet offices will do this. Robinson-Weiss said her clinics are doing assessments by phone or video.

How about getting medicine delivered?

What about medicine? Robinson-Weiss said you can use an online pharmacy to get medicine delivered to your house.

Are there vets who do house calls?

Yes, some veterinarians will come to your home. One of those places is Vetter Pet Care, which operates in Philadelphia and Baltimore. Ryan Connell, who founded the business in 2017, says that the company offers mobile veterinary services (think annual wellness visits, vaccines, ear, eye, and skin issues, and other common ailments), but not emergency care.

“There are people who don’t want to pack their pet up and go to a vet and we offer the convenience of coming to their home,” Connell said.