Grand Forks, area veterinarians keep pushing to help furry patients during pandemic

Vet tech Sara Peltier checks in Cosima Lopez' toy Australian Shepherd at Kindness Animal Hospital for an appointment Friday. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Dr. Rick Odegard has seen some strange, serious diseases in nearly 40 years as a veterinarian, but the owner of Kindness Animal Hospital said the coronavirus pandemic is unprecedented in its scope.

Odegard hasn’t seen anything similar to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“I don’t think anyone has,” he said, noting that although veterinarians receive broad education on public health in veterinary college, they don’t learn about issues that are as specific as coronavirus.

Odegard, like other veterinarians across the region, has taken recommended precautions to ensure the safety of his staff and clients during the pandemic.

While the coronavirus is not a health threat to pets and livestock, the oath veterinarians take includes vowing “to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health and welfare … the promotion of public health and the advancement of medical knowledge.”


The current protocol at Kindness Animal Hospital includes only accepting scheduled appointments. If clients show up for a walk-in appointment, they will be asked to schedule an appointment and return at that time.

Only one family member – one who has had no known illness or fever during the past 14 days – is allowed to accompany the pet to Kindness Animal Hospital for the scheduled appointment. When the family member has arrived with the pet, he or she is asked to call the clinic and let staff know they have arrived. A staff member will meet the client and pet patient at the car and accompany them into the clinic exam room.

The staff member then will accompany the client back to their car, where they will wait until the clinic calls to tell them their pet's appointment is finished. Then a staff member will return to the car and take the client into the clinic, where they will go to an exam room, pay for the veterinary services and receive discharge instructions. The pet then will be returned to the owner and a staff member will accompany the client and owner to their car.

The protocol could change, depending on the number of local COVID-19 cases diagnosed in the immediate area, Odegard noted.

Meanwhile, some other veterinary clinics in northeast northeast North Dakota and northwest Minnesota are not allowing any clients in the building, according to their web sites. Petcetera Animal Clinic, for example, posted on its website that as of March 20, the clinic no longer will allow clients or deliveries within the building and that it postponed all elective surgeries, comprehensive dental cleanings and wellness appointments.

Petcetera said it would, however, evaluate and treat pets with medical concerns and examine and vaccinate animals that have time-sensitive vaccines due. Those animals include kittens and puppies, pets that need Lyme disease boosters or pets that require vaccinations before admission to another facility.

Under Petcetera’s protocol, clients will not be allowed to enter the clinic with their pets. Instead, a Petcetera staff member, dressed in protective equipment, will come to the owner’s car and take the animal into the clinic. Once the examination and treatment are completed, the staff member will return the animal to the car.

Northwest of Grand Forks, near Park River, N.D., Golden Valley Veterinary Clinic also is doing “curbside service” for its small animals, said Dr. Nathan Kjelland, the clinic's owner. The clinic has separated its staff into two teams, each headed by a veterinarian; the teams work on alternate days, so the number of people in the clinic at one time is limited as much as possible.


Golden Valley Veterinary Clinic, which also serves large animal and livestock owners, continues to make on-site farm visits, Kjelland said.

For example, Dr. Casey Wollangk, also a veterinarian at Golden Valley Veterinary Clinic, this past week made a middle-of-the-night farm call to assist a cow with a breech birth. Because the call was in a rural area and he didn’t come in contact with anyone but the cow’s owner, he wasn’t concerned about the potential for exposure to coronavirus, Wollangk said.

“It’s that time of year farmers need our help, so it is our job to get up, go out there and get it done,” Wollangk said.

More complete COVID-19 protocol at area veterinary clinics is available on their websites.

As a public service, the Herald has opened this article to everyone regardless of subscription status.

Ann is a journalism veteran with nearly 40 years of reporting and editing experiences on a variety of topics including agriculture and business. Story ideas or questions can be sent to Ann by email at: or phone at: 218-779-8093.
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