Veterinary clinics across the islands are facing shortages and other challenges because of the coronavirus.

“I now spend two hours a day trying to track down face masks and sanitiser online,” says Kevin Camilleri, who owns Pets Veterinary Clinic in Żabbar.

He’s seen the price of face masks go up from 0.60c to €3.80 each, “which is ridiculous”. The cost of disinfectants has risen by 300%.

“I have even started to look up recipes on how to make my own hand-sanitiser. I have enough supplies for a month and a half but if I can’t source them before then, I won’t be able to practice,” says the vet.

He’s not alone. Happy Paws Clinic, in Marsa, has had to go a step further, cancelling many non-essential surgeries because of a shortage of anaesthesia.

A spokesperson for the clinic said: “We had to postpone dozens of procedures two weeks ago because we only had a certain amount of anaesthetic left, which we wanted to keep for any emergency cases brought in. This was the right thing to do as we ended up having a couple of animals which needed urgent attention.”

The clinic is hoping to have a fresh supply of anaesthesia by Thursday or Friday, which it buys from Żebbug-based company Agrimed.

A spokesperson for Agrimed, pharmacist Antoine Sciberras, confirmed the company was experiencing difficulties with its supply chain.

“One particular anaesthetic we procure for vets is currently unavailable,” he said.

“Although a shipment by air was expected around March 14, it seems the consignment was held up in Frankfurt following Lufthansa’s decision to ground its fleet even for cargo-only flights.”

Pets safe... but can act as ‘fomites’

Veterinary clinics have seen a surge in the number of calls asking if pets can contract COVID-19.

“We’ve had to spend a lot of time reassuring clients their pets are safe,” says Camilleri.

“There was a lot of misinformation at the start of the outbreak but thankfully the media have been able to reassure people that pets are safe.” However, he adds, pets can act as “fomites” – a surface that has the ability to carry infections. 

“While the science shows that animals can’t get sick from coronavirus, they can carry it on their fur and skins,” he said.

“I’ve been advising people to disinfect their pets’ paws, especially after bringing their dogs in for a walk.”

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