Mumbai: Some of the city’s veterinary clinics have started offering virtual and tele-consultations owing to staff constraints or because pet-owners are finding it difficult to stop by at clinics due to the lockdown. Though veterinary services and pet food come under essential services, there are practical difficulties in keeping these services going.

A veterinarian practising in South Mumbai messaged her clients that she would be providing consultations through video call, Zoom or WhatsApp, as the demand for such consultations has increased in view of the need for social distancing and self-isolation during this time. The message further said, these consultations too would be by appointment only and chargeable through a bank transfer.

The clinic is however open for emergencies and patients requiring daily saline. Dr. Deepa Katyal, a veterinarian practising for the past 23 years and having a clinic in Chembur, said she is inundated with patients as most charitable trusts are not seeing outpatients, so she has too and in addition to her usual patients, she is burdened with their patients too.

“Though telephonic consultations are not new to us as veterinarians as some animals are aggressive and cannot be handled, nowadays requests for such consultations have increased as sometimes police are not allowing people to travel to clinics,” she said.

Though there is a fee expected for such a consultation, some people try to avoid paying, she says, as the concept is new and generally there is a thinking that veterinary service is not as significant as that of other doctors, she added.

Katyal is short on staff since the lockdown and has been struggling to manage the clinic. “We are also encouraging such consultations due to staff shortage reasons and prefer if people come to clinics only for emergencies. It is also safe for us too due to fear of exposure to the virus,” she said.

A veterinarian who runs a private vet clinic in Juhu, Dr. Hitesh Swali too said that the demand for such consultations has now increased. “We are also telling them not to come unless necessary,” he said. Dr. Swali’s clinic is running with only three out of 20 staff, most of his staff having gone to their native.

Dr Manilal Valliyate, PETA India CEO and veterinarian said that veterinarians providing consultation through online platforms, audio and video calls and other means seems to be the need of the hour and added that since there are potential risks for both humans and animals by visiting public places, it is advantageous for guardians of companion animals and care takers of community animals to choose e-consultation over a physical visit to a veterinarian for minor issues. “

During this time, there is increasing number of veterinarians and para-veterinary staff providing field veterinary services and home visits to clients,” he said, in cases where the animal is unable to be brought to the clinic during an emergency.

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