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Memphis News & Weather | Memphis, TN | WATN - localmemphis.com

Veterinarians stay open during COVID-19 pandemic, report increase in business

Pet hospitals are considered an essential service.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — During the coronavirus pandemic, local veterinary offices are still working to keep your four-legged friends healthy and cared for.

Animal hospitals are considered an essential business.

At The Pet Hospitals' seven locations in the Memphis-metro, lobbies and exam rooms have been closed to pet owners. Instead, they're asked to stay in their cars until an employee greets them and takes their pet inside for an appointment.

Dr. Jimmy Murphy, a veterinarian at The Pet Hospitals, said pet parents should continue pet care as normal and not only consider their vet an emergency service during the pandemic.

"When we feel a little bit bad, we can go into the doctor's office and say, "Hey, this hurts," Dr. Murphy said. "Pets often times come in for routine checkups and we find something potentially life-threatening with that pet like an abdominal tumor or skin cancer."

With more people at home, Dr. Murphy said they have seen a surprising increase in business.

"People are home and recognizing problems with their pets. They're interfacing with their pets a lot more than they normally would and noticed the pet licking a foot or limping or not eating as much, losing weight," he said.

Another reason for the uptick, adoptions and fostering numbers have gone up locally and across the nation.

"That's one of the fruits of this crisis is pet ownership has increased," Dr. Murphy said.

The Pet Hospitals partners with Memphis Animal Services to provide free appointments and check-ups after adoptions.

"We've seen amazing support and turnout from the community. In fact, our population is at an all-time low," MAS Executive Director Alexis Pugh said.

Pugh said the shelter is down to a consistent 25 dogs and 15 cats left in cages. Giving a rough estimate, Pugh said hundreds of animals have left the shelter since the pandemic for adoptions or to fosters.

The shelter has limited its intake but not in emergency cases in an attempt to keep numbers low.

"It's a lot easier for these animals to be cared for in at-home environment rather than in a centralized facility by a bunch of people and so keeping that population low allows us to prepare should we have a positive test result," Pugh said.

The shelter has suspended owner surrenders during the pandemic. However, Pugh said the shelter is still providing relief to owners.

If pet behavior is the issue, an intake specialist is still working with people to provide free consultations with a behavior expert. If it's a medical issue that an individual can't afford, Pugh said they will provide access to medical care.

"The best thing people can do to help is to take on some degree of responsibility. If you do find a stray pet in your community rather than try and seek out the shelter, try and hold on to that pet, post that pet on social media to Lost and Found Pets of the Mid-South," she said.

In that case, the shelter will also provide cross-posting help and any supplies needed.

To adopt, an appointment is needed at MAS. Only one person from the public is allowed in at a time. Animal pickups will be done curbside.

Both Pugh and Dr. Murphy encourage adoptions and fostering despite the stress of what's happening in the world. Both agree that pets are good for people's mental health and can help alleviate stress.

"I never thought the animal-human bond could ever get any stronger than it was previous to this crisis but I think this is an opportunity for it to get any stronger because we need our pets and our pets need us," Dr. Murphy said.

Pets can get coronavirus but this specific strain of COVID-19 hasn't shown yet to transmit in pets or get them sick according to the CDC.

Dr. Murphy said pets are still fomites, meaning like clothes and utensils, they can carry infection on their fur. It's recommended to regularly bath your pet and wash your hands if they come into contact with others.

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