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Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Ooltewah Veterinary Hospital Dr. Micah Woods examines Izzy in an ambulance outside of the dog's owners, the Leslie's, home on Friday, March 27, 2020 in Ooltewah, Tenn. Dr. Woods was seeing the Leslie's dogs in an ambulance Ooltewah Veterinary Hospital is using for curbside "concierge" service.

Like all businesses trying to keep their doors open during the coronavirus pandemic, businesses targeting pets are adapting their services to limit human contact as much as possible in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Some local veterinarians are having staff members meet clients in the parking lots of their offices, reducing the number of people inside the buildings.

Last week Ooltewah Veterinary Hospital began to offer house calls for clients who are unable to leave their homes, but the calls don't involve entering the client's home. All care is provided inside an ambulance equipped for any procedure that could be done at the office, right outside the client's home.

"Our tech happened to own a full-size ambulance," said Ooltewah Veterinary Hospital owner Karla Woods. "We thought it was a great opportunity to remain open and relevant and help out the community at the same time."

The house calls are available Mondays and Fridays, with hospital veterinarian Dr. Micah Woods otherwise seeing patients in his office through its curbside "concierge" service.

The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends that clinics limit in-office visits to acutely ill animals and emergencies, a recommendation many local clinics are following.

On March 24, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced it is temporarily suspending its requirement that vets physically examine their patients. This allows vets to offer telemedicine, and gives them the ability to prescribe medicine to animals for off-label uses without physical examination.

Along with veterinary clinics, other pet-focused businesses such as grooming and boarding facilities are deemed essential by local government and allowed to remain open while others have been shut down to prevent spread of the coronavirus.

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Veterinarians adapt during COVID-19 pandemic

The Ark Pet Spa & Hotel is continuing operations at two of its four grooming and boarding facilities, the Red Bank and East Brainerd locations.

"Our business is built on people going to work or traveling," said business founder and owner Jay Floyd, who made the difficult decision to lay off some of his employees.

Since many clients are staying at home, the business launched the Go Wagn, a pet transportation service providing people quarantined or working from home with the ability to get their pets the care they need.

"We're just trying to make it convenient for our customers," said Floyd, adding that the Go Wagn has been popular so far. "It's nice that people are really responding to the service."

He said the Ark staff members frequently get calls from clients concerned about pets' ability to contract or spread the coronavirus.

According to the World Health Organization and the CDC, to date there is no evidence that a dog, cat or any pet can transmit COVID-19. COVID-19 is mainly spread through contact with droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or speaks.

Transmission may also occur by touching a contaminated surface or object and then touching the mouth, nose, or possibly eyes, but that appears to be a secondary route, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. Porous materials — such as paper money and pet fur — absorb and trap the virus, making them less likely than smooth, non-porous surfaces — such as countertops and door knobs — to transmit viruses through simple touch, said the association's website.

Contact Emily Crisman at ecrisman@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6508.

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