Virtual veternarian helps daughter save choking dog
May 7, 2020
Haines and Yukon veterinarian Dr. Michelle Oakley said she was in tears by the time her Haines-based daughter, also her vet tech, successfully intubated the choking dog, allowing the animal to breathe again. “We had been on the verge of putting the dog down it was so awful,” said Oakley, who coached her daughter through the procedure via videoconference.
At the time of the dog incident, Oakley had been quarantining at her home in the Yukon after returning from a koala rescue mission to Australia. Like most business owners these days, Oakley has had to adjust her veterinary practice to meet government mandates and new social-distancing requirements.
During her quarantine in the Yukon, Haines Junction animal owners were able to drop off pets like the vomiting goat with a broken leg that Oakley treated with intravenous fluids. For Haines residents, she said she was able to offer teleconference consultations coupled with in-person assistance from her daughter. Since then, Oakley has arrived in Haines and is able to see drop-off patients as well as videoconference patients in accordance with her state-approved plan of protection.
Videoconference consultations are not ideal, Oakley said, but she said it is a step up from what she’s normally able to offer pet owners when she’s out of town. In compliance with U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidance, the state of Alaska lifted restrictions on veterinarians to allow them to deliver Telehealth. Oakley said this gives her the ability to consult with pet owners using platforms like Zoom to determine whether their animal’s issue is an emergency requiring immediate attention or if it is something that can wait until travel restrictions ease. She said, in addition to consultations, while she was out of town, she was able to provide a limited number of physical treatments like refilling prescriptions, administering booster vaccines and gathering samples of potentially dangerous growths for further testing, by coordinating with her daughter.
Oakley said there are limitations on what services she is able to offer remotely. Her daughter is not able to administer vaccines for parvovirus, a canine disease that tends to have a resurgence every spring, or rabies, Oakley said. In an emergency, she recommends that owners travel to a veterinary clinic in Whitehorse or Juneau. Of course, for the choking dog, that would have taken far too long, she said.
As a vet, there is a possibility that Oakley would have to treat a coronavirus-infected animal at some point during this pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed a small number of COVID-19 cases in pets. Oakley said the state of Alaska has told veterinarians they can request COVID-19 testing for an animal displaying respiratory symptoms if their owner is a confirmed coronavirus case.
Pet owners who would like to schedule an appointment should email Oakley at email@example.com.