Veterinarian’s plea to public: Keep pets safe as medical supplies run low


AUSTIN (KXAN) — Dr. Stephen Kerpsack is the head surgeon at Central Texas Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Hospital. The hospital has three locations across Central Texas serving as the backup for most veterinarian clinics.

“We’re the backup for the other veterinarians across town,” Kerpsack said, “and if we get the virus we’re going to be shut down.”

That’s why Kerpsack asking pet owners to take extra care of their pets during the coronavirus pandemic.

He said the three animal hospitals aren’t just dealing with a shortage of personal protective equipment, but they’re also dealing with fewer resources. They’ve had to reduce their use of “relief” veterinarians, those across Central Texas, who have helped out in the past filling in on a shift or two in hopes of reducing the risk of the spread of the coronavirus.

“Many of our shifts were filled by veterinarians that only worked part-time, that maybe worked one or two shifts a month. We had to eliminate them from our staffing because we didn’t want them to contaminate a shift,” he said.

However, the work hasn’t slowed down. Last week, Kerpsack said he had to treat four dogs with rattlesnake bites, five dogs hit by cars, and others over the weekend for heatstroke.

Kerpsack is pleading with people to stay home and keep your pets home, so pet owners don’t put them at risk.

“Pets that may not be able to wait and that are going to need those supplies because they are diabetic or have heart failure and they can’t wait and it’s not their fault or their owner’s fault,” Kerpsack said.

As other primary care animal hospitals close, the remaining staff at the Central Texas Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Hospital are beginning to feel overwhelmed.

“We’re the backup for the other veterinarians across town and if we get the virus we’re going to be shut down,” Kerpsack said.

The American Veterinary Medical Association said veterinarians should do their best to conserve personal protective equipment until supplies become more readily available.

Association representatives said postponing elective procedures that require the use of PPE is one way of conserving. They added other conservation strategies can also include safely extending the use of disposable PPE, re-using disposable PPE, or increased use of washable PPE.

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