Pandemic safety protocols developed for animals and veterinarians across Canada were made possible thanks to the work of a professor at the University of Guelph.
Dr. Scott Weese is a veterinarian and a professor in the department of pathobiology at the U of G Ontario Veterinary College and an infectious disease specialist for animals.
Since the pandemic started, Weese has been working with the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association (OMVA) to form a guide for veterinary clinics to operate safely during the pandemic, including advice on safe procedures for offering services, safe disinfecting and social distancing practices.
For this work, Weese has been awarded the 2021 Award of Merit from the OMVA.
“It’s an honour,” he says, “Awards are always a nice recognition, but when they’re coming from peers there’s an extra value there.
“The fact that we’ve gotten an award proves that what we’re doing is important.”
Being one of two infectious disease specialists for animals in North America, Weese says it felt obvious to him he needed to step in and help create these guidelines.
“We knew from the previous SARS that there were some animal issues, so that’s how we started it from there,” Weese recalls, "And then we started writing a series of guidance documents, because we needed preventionary practices to figure what the risks are and how to maintain veterinary medicine."
"Plus, we were doing surveillance on animals at the same time, on exposed animals, and trying to find out what the implications are."
When it comes to operating a veterinary clinic during the pandemic, Weese says they face similar challenges around human interactions as other industries.
“We have to balance our protection, as well as being practical and being able to provide care,” he explains.
Additionally, he mentions they have to factor in the risk of animal exposure to COVID.
“At the start, we didn’t really know anything about them,” says Weese about an animal's ability to spread the disease, “So we had to involve those as we went and what the animal risks were and how to mitigate those risks as we went.”
As new information on COVID-19 continues to change protocols, Weese says the industry continues having to adjust its advice to clinics.
“There’s still a lot we don’t know, so a lot of the time, we’ve had to make recommendations without any evidence,” he says, “So they’re not necessarily the strongest recommendations, but the concept of what we can say no is better than nothing and we will evolve them overtime."
“In a pandemic situation, we’ve have to be able to adapt to new restrictions and new evidence.”
Along with helping update safety protocols, Weese continues to post information about the pandemic on his Worms & Germs blog. He also participates in webinars with veterinarians across Canada.
“It’s been quite a bit, but it’s important stuff because we don’t have a lot of expertise in the infectious disease side, when it comes to animals and infection control, and it is an area that we’re building.” says Weese about these experiences.
“We need to make sure that information is getting out as much as it can.”
With COVID and the possibility of future outbreaks, Weese says veterinarians will need to develop more expertise and infrastructure in order to respond to these types of situations.
“We need a better ability to respond to infectious disease challenges, regardless of the species.”