There is a lot of emphasis on taking care of oneself during the COVID-19 pandemic, but what about pets?The Fort Gordon Veterinary Clinic is open for the latter, and its staff is taking measures to ensure both human and animal patrons are treated with utmost care.“Our number one priority remains the health and wellbeing of our community and the pets we serve,” said Capt. Theresa Hubbell, Fort Gordon Veterinary Services OIC.While many other services remain temporarily closed, the Fort Gordon Veterinary Clinic is considered essential, and therefore open, albeit with fewer personnel and limited hours.“Many of our Soldiers are providing assistance to Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center to help with the COVID-19 screening process due to their experience with biosecurity principles and client communication,” Hubbell explained.The clinic is accepting appointments but unable to accept walk-ins due to current circumstances.Hubbell said they are following American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) guidance and subsequently have limited services to include sick call and urgent care (but no overnight hospitalization), health certificates allowing pets to accompany owners during travel, and time sensitive wellness appointments (to include juvenile puppy vaccine series and vaccines for highly infectious diseases/those that can be passed to people).The clinic is not conducting any surgical or dental procedures at this time, but can assist pet owners with coordinating a transfer of care to another clinic.“We can stabilize patients in emergency situations during our working hours, but we cannot hospitalize them,” Hubbell said. “Once stabilized, they would be referred off post to a civilian veterinary clinic.”The only exception is military working animals, for which the clinic continues to maintain 100 percent medical capabilities.The clinic can also provide referrals to outside clinics as needed, and prescription refills (in person or via telephone).Hubbell recommends that patrons research local veterinary clinics and establish a relationship with at least one of them to have as a backup in case their animal requires a service currently not offered at Fort Gordon or in the event it is outside of normal business hours.“There are many quality veterinary clinics in the local area whose services can be found online with a local search,” Hubbell said.If a pet owner is concerned their pet might have contracted COVID-19, Hubbell advised they take the animal to a veterinarian for evaluation and treatment, but added that it’s highly unlikely the pet would have it. To date, there have not been any confirmed local cases in pets.“The disease in pets is so rare that we must responsibly rule out every other likely cause of upper respiratory infection prior to testing for it,” she said.Despite the slim odds of a pet contracting COVID-19, as with humans, there are preventative measures that should be taken to keep from getting it, to include washing hands before and after interaction with pets, their waste, food, or equipment, Hubbell said.While all animals’ health and wellbeing are undoubtedly important, Hubbell said she wants to emphasize that the clinic’s primary mission is the care of Fort Gordon’s military working dogs.“We have an obligation to maintain our staff and supplies for their care, and with the current restrictions on staffing and personal protective equipment, we are being directed to limit the services we provide and save these resources for our working animals,” she said.Fort Gordon Veterinary Services’ current hours for phone calls, prescription refills, and referrals are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to noon, and 1 to 4 p.m. Patients are scheduled for appointments from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3:30 p.m., also Monday through Friday.Patrons should call 706-787-3815/7375 during those hours to speak to a staff member. Those who wish to communicate via email may do so at FortGordonVTF@gmail.com.Did you know?Along with providing critical animal care services, the Fort Gordon Veterinary Clinic has a food security mission that extends to every person who eats or shops for food on the installation.“Our food inspectors continue to perform regular inspections at installation food facilities to ensure our food supply is safe and wholesome from the farm where it is grown to the kitchen where it is served,” Hubbell said. “We provide several key public health services not only for the military working dogs, but in the commissary, military dining facilities, and all other food vendors on [Fort Gordon].”