COVID-19 FAQs for veterinary practitioners

The Veterinary Practitioners Registration Board of Victoria (VPRBV) provides general information only. It is your responsibility to inform yourself and continue to remain updated including as circumstances change. You should exercise your own personal and professional judgment and seek appropriate advice as to what is appropriate to your circumstances.

In response to enquiries from registered veterinary practitioners in Victoria, we provide a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). The FAQs direct you to third party websites of organisations which are responsible and/or able to assist you with the subject matter of an FAQ. As it is general information only, this list is not intended to be complete and you may need to make further enquiries based on your own circumstances. The VPRBV has no control over and is not responsible or liable for the content of any third-party website.

This general information was updated on 12 May 2020.


Where can I get personal support during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Physical health: General support:

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Where can I get the latest information on COVID-19?

App download: General: For businesses: Veterinary-related:

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Are veterinary services classified as essential services?

The Hon. David Littleproud MP, Federal Minister for Agriculture has stated, 'The Federal Government considers the role of veterinarians essential to the agricultural sector and therefore to our nation’s food security but also in protecting companion animals and our nation’s wildlife. The Federal Government has not put any restrictions on veterinarians other than the practice of social distancing and hygiene practices during the COVID-19 crisis.' (Sent to Australian Veterinary Association 27 March 2020).

In addition:
  • services provided by veterinary clinics are listed under 'other necessary goods or services' which 'a person may leave their premises to obtain' in the current Stay at Home directions issued by the Victorian Chief Health Officer (clause 6(1)(c)(vii))
  • the website of the Federal Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment states, ‘veterinarians who support farming, food and beverage production are not impacted by restrictions on non-essential gatherings and businesses’, and
  • veterinary clinics are NOT listed in the types of places not currently allowed to operate (e.g. entertainment facilities, places of worship, restricted retail facilities) in the Restricted Activity directions issued by the Victorian Chief Health Officer.

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Can veterinary practitioners go to work under the 'Stay at Home' directions issued under the State of Emergency?
Can I keep my practice open?
Are there restrictions on gatherings in a veterinary workplace?

  • Veterinary clinics are NOT listed in the types of places not currently allowed to operate (e.g. entertainment facilities, places of worship, restricted retail facilities) in the current Restricted Activity directions issued by the Victorian Chief Health Officer. 
  • Clauses 8(1)(a) and 8(2)(a) of the current Stay at Home directions indicate that persons may leave residential premises to attend work where it is not reasonably practical to work from home. 
  • Under clause 6(1)(c)(vii) of current Stay at Home directions, 'a person may leave the premises to obtain ... goods or services provided by a pet store or veterinary clinic'.
  • Under clause (7) of the current Resticted Activity Directions, 'A person who owns, operates or controls an open retail facility during the restricted activity period must not permit the number of people in a single undivided indoor space to exceed the density quotient.' Under clause 4 of the Restricted Activity Directions, 'The density quotient of a single undivided indoor space is the number calculated by dividing the total area of the space (measured in square metres) by 4.'
Note Worksafe Victoria requires employers to take steps to identify, and eliminate or reduce, risks to the health of employees from exposure to coronavirus at their workplace. See What action should I take to protect myself and my team when clients attend the practice?

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Can animals be brought to my practice under current 'Stay at Home' directions?

Yes, under clause 6(1)(c)(vii) of current Stay at Home directions issued by the Victorian Chief Health Officer, 'a person may leave the premises to obtain ... goods or services provided by a pet store or veterinary clinic'.

The Australian Veterinary Assocation has the following client communication resources at Coronavirus (COVID-19) AVA updates:

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Can animals infect humans or other animals with COVID-19?

Following is a policy statement issued by the Australian Government's Animal Health Committee dated 22 April 2020:

'The World Organisation for Animal Health advises that currently there is no evidence to suggest that animals infected by humans are playing a role in the spread of COVID-19. The current spread of COVID-19 is driven by human to human transmission. There have been no reports of the virus in domestic animals or wildlife in Australia.

[The Animal Health Committee] is aware that commercial entities have developed tests for SARS-CoV-2 in animals. Diagnostic testing and surveillance in Australian animals for COVID-19 is only recommended on the advice of human and animal health authorities. If testing is required, it should be undertaken at the CSIRO Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness (the former Australian Animal Health Laboratory).

Animal owners/handlers should continue to implement good hygiene and farm biosecurity practices where animals are kept, including washing their hands before and after contact with animals.

People who are sick or under medical attention for COVID-19 should avoid or minimise close contact with animals as a precaution.

This policy statement will be reviewed and updated as further information comes to hand.'

Information on animals and COVID-19:

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What action should I take to protect myself and my team when clients attend the practice?
How can we comply with social distancing guidance?
How can we keep the veterinary clinic sanitised and hygienic?

Worksafe Victoria requires employers to take steps to identify, and eliminate or reduce, risks to the health of employees from exposure to coronavirus at their workplace.

It is your decision about which measures to implement to protect yourself and your team, comply with social distancing guidance and keep a clinic sanitised and hygienic - exercising your professional judgement and taking into account government rules and recommendations on minimising the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

Measures to minimise the risk of transmission may include:
  • telephoning clients before an appointment to assess the risk they pose (e.g. are they sick?) and advise any changes to consultation procedures
  • where appropriate and safe, implementing “carpark consultations” to limit the number of people in waiting rooms and minimise interaction between clients and clinic staff
  • setting up drop-off points at clinic entrances where animals can be placed in a secure area to be collected for examination then returned afterwards
  • postponing provision of non-critical or urgent services that will not impact an animal’s health or welfare if delayed, e.g. grooming services
  • undertaking remote consultations - see Remote Consultations (telemedicine and assisted-technology consultations)
  • wearing PPE (personal protective equipment), particularly masks and goggles, when interacting with clients
  • deep cleaning the premises regularly
  • if possible, splitting staff into two or more teams, each working at different times; so if a person in one team becomes ill the other members in that team can self-isolate while the other unaffected team(s) continues to work.

If you decide to limit direct contact with clients (e.g. by clients leaving their animal at a drop-off point or another person presenting the client's animal to the clinic), you must ensure you communicate directly with the owner via telephone or video during the consultation to obtain the animal’s full and correct history and provide the animal’s owner with clear veterinary advice or direction (see Board Guideline 6 - 'Supply and use of drugs, scheduled drugs and other medications in veterinary practice' and Board Guideline 8 - 'Communication with clients').

Resources to help you implement measures to minimise the risk of COVID-19 transmission to staff and clients:

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How can I use telemedicine during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Refer to the Board's information on remote consultations during the COVID-19 pandemic emergency at: Remote consultations (telemedicine, technology-assisted consultations).

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Do I have to get written consent from clients during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Yes, but instead of asking the client to sign a paper form with a pen, veterinary practitioners may choose to email or text the client a copy of the consent form, along with any important supporting information. The requirement under Board Guideline 8.3.2 to obtain informed consent for any treatment or procedure undertaken applies in all circumstances, and it is important that clients are sent clear and understandable information about the proposed treatment or course of action. For a remote consultation, consent should record the client's knowledge and understanding of who is providing the service (name, location, practice affiliation, if any; and any conflicts of interest) and the limitations of remote advice.

The client could then either download and sign the document and email the signed document back (a preferred step for new clients) or reply by email/text advising that they understood the information and providing their consent. Copies of all communications - yours to the client and the client's return communications - should be attached to the veterinary record.

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How can I treat an unwell animal if a client is self-isolating or unwell?
Can I go to someone's house to treat their animal?
Can I continue my mobile veterinary practice?

Clause 9(1)(d) of current Diagnosed Persons and Close Contacts directions states that persons in self-isolation and self-quarantine, 'must not permit any other person to enter the premises unless that other person ordinarily resides or is required to self-isolate or self-quarantine at the premises under these directions'. A similar direction applies to people arriving in Victoria from overseas in compulsory quarantine (clauses 4(2) and 4(3) of current Direction and Detention Notice). Call the coronavirus hotline (1800 675 398) if an isolating or quarantined client says there is no way to treat a sick animal other than attend the premises.

In other cases, it would be your decision whether to continue your mobile veterinary practice and/or attend a client's premises to treat an animal - exercising your professional judgement and taking into account government rules and recommendations on minimising the risk of COVID-19 transmission, e.g. social distancing guidance and isolation and quarantine rules. You may want to consider limiting the services you provide to what you judge to be critical, urgent and time-sensitive services and, where appropriate, delaying provision of services that may be able to be postponed.

Other possible options may include to:
  • undertake remote consultations, having regard to the Board's information at Remote consultations (telemedicine and assisted-technology consultations)
  • having established a bona fide client relationship, get the client to arrange for someone else who is well, not isolating, and has not been in contact with the person who is sick or isolating, to bring the animal to the clinic and wait outside while you see the animal.

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Do I have to work during this time?
Who can I speak to if I don’t feel safe practising in my place of my employment?
I am concerned that my practice/employer is not following government guidelines. What can I do?

Worksafe Victoria requires employers to take steps to identify, and eliminate or reduce, risks to the health of employees from exposure to coronavirus at their workplace.

You will find resources to assist you with work-related questions at:

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How can I complete required Continuing Professional Development (CPD) if I have to self-isolate or if CPD events are being cancelled?
Do I have to do my CPD this year?

You should still be able to undertake Continuing Professional Development activities in the form of online assessed courses (which count as structured CPD units) and reading and other informal activities (which count as unstructured CPD). Board Guideline 13.1.2 specifies that over each three years (a triennium) at least fifteen (15) units of structured activities and at least forty-five (45) units of unstructured activities should be undertaken. The Board encourages you to look at your CPD record and determine how much CPD activity you need to complete to make up the three-year requirement – you might have enough CPD accumulated from last year and the year before. More information: Fillable CPD form

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DISCLAIMER

The external sites on this page are controlled and produced by third parties. Links to these websites are provided by Veterinary Practitioners Registration Board of Victoria (VPRBV) for user information only, and do not constitute an endorsement of any material, product or service that may be found at those sites. The VPRBV makes no warranty, guarantee or representation in relation to the accuracy, currency, correctness, reliability, usability, suitability or any other aspect of any information and/or materials contained in external links. The VPRBV does not accept any liability for any form of loss or damage that may result from any person’s reliance on the information and/or materials contained in any external links.

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