The COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenge that extends to our furry friends and their doctors.

Local veterinary clinics have had to adopt new measures and precautions to safely take care of pets – this is on top of the high workload that existed prior to the pandemic.

"There is simply not enough medical and veterinary (personnel) to meet the needs of Guam," said Dr. Bob Hildreth of Guam Pet Hospital in Hagåtña. "We all work our butts off, and eventually the physical strain of long hours of busy patient care leads to exhaustion."

Adding to the high demand are the public health restrictions on capacity and other issues that impact operations. It all means that veterinary doctors and nurses have been working longer, ranging from 10-16 hours in a given day.

In order to adapt, Wise Owl Animal Hospital in Tamuning split into two teams – DOC and Weaver, each with a veterinarian and support staff. Each team works three days, Monday through Wednesday, or Thursday through Saturday, while alternating Sundays.

"Thus when or if one team gets COVID the other team can step up," said Dr. Joel Joseph of Wise Owl.

However, even with the new adaptive measures to mitigate the effects of COVID-19, Dr. Joseph believes there is an even bigger, broader concern that has arisen from the pandemic – misdiagnosis by "Dr. Google."

"Though Googling is great and provides tremendous information, when people Google, they are essentially looking through a keyhole," he explained. "They cannot see the entire room, just the portion visible through a keyhole."

Joseph has seen many cases with pet owners relying on Google's diagnosis and remedies, only to find out they were mistaken and have been hurting their pet even more. Some cases are even fatal.

Despite the misdiagnosed cases by Google or the tremendous amount of stress now put on veterinary workers, Hildreth believes that because of the pandemic, pet owners are spending more quality time with their pets because of the pandemic.

"We strive to give our clients a deeper understanding of their pets' health, and by association, their own. Our staff is very proud of the job we do in regards to client education – it is one of our principal goals at our practice," Hildreth said.

He believes the pandemic has educated many people about viruses and vaccines for their pets.

Wise Owl Animal Hospital and Guam Pet Hospital continue to provide support during these uncertain times. Wise Owl Animal Hospital can be reached at 646-2273, and Guam Pet Hospital can be reached at 682-8890.

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