How is it possible, with dogs stuck at home with their owners during the pandemic, that many vets report an uptick in ailments usually associated with hanging out with other dogs – visits to dog parks and the like?

This includes kennel cough, common during boarding and daycare, and leptospirosis, a bacterial infection associated with puddles and dirty water, two things dogs love wallowing in at dog parks?

Because, say, several vets, being stuck at home and romping around the back yard may simulate just those conditions.

“Everyone is home more, so they’re seeing more things, and especially things they might not have noticed before,” says Jenni Grady, DVM, who works at the community medical center that is part of Tufts University’s Cummings Veterinary Medical Center in North Grafton, Mass. “Plus, since more people acquired pets during the pandemic, they’re seeing behavior they’re not used to.”

In this, pet owners have been rising to the occasion, filling vet offices and emergency rooms. If there were concerns that humans would forgo even the most routine treatment during the pandemic – either because of the expense as layoffs and closings mounted or from fear of disease exposure in vet offices – that just hasn’t been the case.

“It’s just a chance in attitude that we’ve seen for so long,” says Kerry Young, DVM, with Rutherford Veterinary Clinic in Dallas. “They’re willing to go the extra mile because they see their pets as part of the family, so they want to make sure they are healthy.”

Broadly, say vets, pandemic trends have included:
Continuing well care, and especially for heartworms and fleas. Owners have not stopped giving treatments, despite the cost. Dr. Grady reports that flea topical remains popular for cats.

An increase in some immunizations, especially for leptospirosis and kennel cough.Dr. Young says she is advising patients to pay particular attention to shots for their locations, like Lyme disease, in the northeast.

Busy clinics and emergency rooms in some parts of the country. Traffic was down as much as 25 percent at the beginning of the pandemic, reports the AVNA, but quickly rebounded. Dr. Young says she hasn’t seen that in Dallas, but Drew Sullivan, DVM, says it has been common in his Chicago practice, part of the University of Illinois clinic. During the early days of the pandemic, restrictions meant vets scheduled fewer appointments, while an increase in puppy and kitten adoptions last year meant more patients to see. Says Dr. Sullivan: “We’ve been crazy busy, and that’s been a surprise.”