|The Safe Veterinary Office Call
Veterinarians should be observed washing their hands before every case. If they don't wash their hands as they walk into the room they probably don't.
A guide to a safe outbound visit
When you take your Corgi somewhere, you probably take every precaution to nake sure that the trip is a safe one. Some owners use seatbelts made for dogs to ensure a safe ride. A retractable lead ensures that the Corgi can have a wide berth when the coast is clear, but the pet can be reigned in when it's more appropriate. All of these precautions are important, and advanced, but they are pretty obvious. Some other precautions also apply, and particularly when your pets go to the Vet.
First, let's define a few terms.
Fomites are surfaces, or objects, that can be contaminated with germs and then transmit their germs to your pet. Floors, doorknobs, etc. all function this way if not regularly disinfected. The rub comes when the floor is carpeted.
Aerosol transmission occurs when germs are carried on the air. Usually, a sneeze or cough is the most effective form of aerosol transmission because the outburst of air is usually contaminated and it is under pressure.
Fecal oral transmission occurs when the tiniest micro-remnants of stool or bowel fluid are on the hands as they find the mouth, for example, to eat. It can also occur when a Veterinarian performs a procedure on one pet in which contact with bowel fluids or stool has occurred, and then performs an oral exam on another pet. Handwashing severely limits this form of transmission.
In Veterinary medicine, we see sick animals every day. It could be argued that we see more sick animals each day than we do healthy ones, because even vaccinated animals become immune carriers of certain viruses and bacteria. For that reason, it is important that the Veterinarian, and our technical support staff who handle your pet has washed our hands. If we are handling a pet in one exam room with infected respiratory discharge, and then go next door and examine another pet, we may be transmitting disease from the first pet, to the mouth and face of the next. It is therefore important that if you don't see me wash my hands between patients, that you speak up and ensure that I do.
Aerosol transmission of germs is another common area of cross-infection. In well planned clinics, there is no contiguous airspace between the exam rooms and the kennel/hospital area. This ensures that a sick pet cannot be sharing the airspace with animals in the waiting room. Also, when a coughing dog is entering a waiting room, you should see the pet hurried into a closed examination room, instead of leaving the pet in the waiting area to cross-infect the other pets waiting for the doctor. Once the coughing pet has been removed from the waiting area, it is customary to see a technician with a mop swabbing down the deck where the coughing pet was handled.
By having a slick, linoleum or Corium® flooring, sterilization of the floors can be conducted as needed or as part of a regular protocol to limit cross infection by all means.
In most clinics, floors are mopped with Chlorine disinfectants, or Quaternary Ammonium compounds twice daily; at the start of the business day, and at the very end of the business day, this ensures that the floors are clean when your pet enters the clinic. Then, as a matter of common sense, if there is an accident, the entire region of the floor can be mopped with a disinfectant to ensure that no pathogens remain to infect future patients. This way, a visit to a clinic can be a safe and rewarding experience.
If the floors of a clinic cannot be mopped because of carpeting or oriental rugs, there are chemicals that can be applied, not un-like a steam cleaning, that can disinfect these textiles, however, performing that kind of cleaning even once daily can be an expensive chore.
Some folks might even consider it a safer option to solicit the services of a housecall Veterinarian. There is alot to recommend this type of service, because your pet is seen in the comfort of its own home, and the risk of exposure to a contaminant is nominal, particularly if the practitioner washes hands before examining the pet. Still, most housecall practitioners do not perform surgeries or other advanced medicine cases on site. Housecall practice often carries a higher pricetag as the practitioner cannot see as many cases in a day and so may make up the difference in the housecall fee.