‘Helicopter’ pet owners keeping vets busy in lockdown

The coronavirus may have brought Melbourne to a standstill, but vets say they are busier than ever.

From new puppies requiring urgent vaccinations to owners becoming more attuned to changes in their pets’ behaviour, there’s been a surge in vet visits across the city.

Jessica Ierardo, the regional clinical director for Greencross Vets in Victoria, says clinics have experienced a 15 per cent increase in the number of patients coming through the clinic compared to this time last year.

Jane Collins says she keeps a close eye on her dogs Aila and Soda (pictured) while stuck at home under lockdown.Credit:Elsie Lange

“We’ve definitely seen a huge increase in clients, not only in existing clients but also in new clients coming through the doors,” she says.

With more time at home during lockdown, people are paying closer attention to their pets’ wellbeing and taking action more quickly than they would have previously.

“People are spending more time with them than they ever have before, so they are noticing more subtle changes earlier,” Dr Ierardo says.

“What might have been a problem which may not have been picked up for a few months, they are picking up those problems in the first few weeks and bringing them in to the vet to be checked."

Greencross vet Dr Lindsay Evans treats cairn terrier Oscar.Credit:Simon Schluter

Pet owner Jane Collins agrees the extra time at home has meant she’s taken her dogs, Soda (a pug) and Aila (a French bulldog-pug cross known as a "frug") to the vet more often.

“I’m just watching them constantly, they’re like my children – my brother calls me a helicopter mum,” she said.

“I have been taking them to the vet a lot more than usual – I noticed Aila was a bit anxious.

“I’m just focusing on it so much because I’m at home doing nothing all day every day.”

Dr Julie Paris from the Port Melbourne Veterinary Clinic says the increase in the number of puppies being bought during lockdown has placed pressure on the system.

“There’s a lot of dogs living in apartments, they have to go to the toilet out in the park, so it’s very important that the puppies get their vaccinations,” she says.

“Many diseases including parvovirus are spread in faeces so it is important that puppies are protected with vaccinations before socialising.”

Dr Ierardo says Greencross clinics are working to educate new puppy owners about ongoing separation anxiety issues their pets may face when coronavirus lockdown ends and people return to work.

"One of the big focuses for us is going to be around behaviour, because eventually life will return to normal," she says.

“That is something we are really trying to focus on, so that we don’t end up with a generation of dogs with behavioural and separation anxiety issues.”

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