With only essential services being permitted during the lockdown, CGS Hospital in Gurugram, remained open to deal with all sorts of veterinarian crisis. From feeding the strays to handling emergency surgeries, all vets were on duty with staff, in spite of the possibility of Covid-19 exposure on a regular basis, writes Dr Salisha Whitney Correia
“We are serving a mission much greater than ourselves, and in helping the voiceless at this time of strife, we are truly following the Veterinarian’s Oath”
The novel coronavirus, COVID-19, has caused a sudden change in the operations worldwide. With the lockdown commencing March 22, 2020, citizens were urged to stay at home to contain the spread of the virus. To keep ourselves entertained, many of us resorted to watching online films, many of which were ironically based on Virus outbreaks! One noticeable feature in most of these ‘End of the world’ themed movies is the absence of the adversities faced by animals/pets.
The sudden home confinement of the human race has altered the lives of animals, pets and strays alike. On the one side, nature was its best with self purification of rivers, migratory birds returning to nest, turtles seen on the Mumbai coast after decades, multiple sightings of peacocks, etc. and then, you have the species that has domesticated itself over the years, namely, cats and dogs suddenly left stranded without a constant source of food owing to closure of restaurants and malls. Pet dogs had to be restricted to relieving themselves on a balcony or a diaper mat at one end of a room due to confinement constraints. All outdoor activities for pets came to a halt. Many pet owners have mentioned that their pets were initially overjoyed to have their parents home all day. As with us, everyone wants their space, and pets started demanding some quiet at home. Then came the question of pet health care..
With only essential services being permitted during the lockdown, veterinary clinics remained open for limited hours with curtailed staff. CGS Hospital (a unit of CGS Charitable Trust), which is a part of the philanthropic wing of DLF Ltd., situated in Gurugram, remained open only for emergencies primarily only during the first week, but later due to increased number of pet illness cases, surgeries, pet hospitalisation and critical care requirements, the hospital was routinely functional. Most of the pet clinics being closed or running for a few hours only with shortage of staff caused an increase in footfall at CGS during the lockdown period. All vets were on duty with staff, even though it was difficult at times for veterinary nursing staff to cross the Delhi border and no public transportation in Gurugram as well. Veterinarians at the hospital were extremely committed to helping pets in need in spite of the possibility of Covid-19 exposure on a regular basis.
The Pasha wing, a dedicated unit of CGS Hospital committed primarily to serving destitute dogs and cats was also functional daily to help stray dogs and cats as most NGOs also were providing only Emergency cases. A notable mention is the successful surgery of stray dog, Ruby, who was struggling to deliver at the side of the road for two days, and owing to the lockdown, her regular feeders and caretakers couldn’t reach her. However, one family managed to bring her in the wee hours of the morning for an emergency Caesarean section that managed to atleast preserve the life of one puppy after rigorous veterinary neonatal care. The jubilant cries of that healthy puppy gave reward to the attending vet’s sleepless night!
With restaurants and roadside eateries shut, as an initiative to help the hungry and starving stray dogs and cats, CGS Hospital provided fresh food to approximately 300-500 stray dogs. These strays were fed twice daily by the hospital team.
It is only when one believes that there is light at the end of the tunnel, can one emerge as one’s best self and truly help another selflessly. This was aptly showcased by two daily wage labourers who when rummaging through the garbage at Sikanderpur found an emaciated sickly puppy. They immediately rushed on foot to the hospital for urgent veterinary care and continued to bring that puppy for the next five days, both in the morning and evening for necessary treatment. “Blessed is the man who has nothing and yet gives”. They even managed to rustle up a small leash and collar and gave the chap a name — Lucky! And indeed, lucky he was! This incident moved me to tears and reinforced our belief in the goodness of humanity.
“Fearing Pandemic Covid-19 is not the answer to the current situation. CGS hospital is here to help you and your pets. We are reaching out to both pet owners to quell doubts regarding the spread of Covid in pets,” says Dr. Samar Singh Mahendran, Director, CGS. The CGS Vets also provided free tele-OPD assistance to our regular clients who were unable to bring their pets to the hospital.
During the 100 days of lockdown, the hospital kept even functional advanced diagnostics like Computerised Tomogragaphy (CT) Scan, which was exceptionally beneficial to diagnose a disc prolapse in suddenly paraplegic Labrador, Max. Dr. Vikash Chauhan, a certified veterinary radiologist at CGS hospital said: “ Unfortunately due to the lockdown, many veterinary clinics and external labs weren’t open routinely and pets were affected. We managed to diagnose three cases of long standing intestinal perforations via abdominal CT Scans and successfully operated and saved the lives of those pets. The joy and satisfaction of a life saved is the ultimate reward.”
Outdoor pets sometimes find it hard staying indoors and numerous reports of falls of cats and dogs from high rise building terraces and balconies during the lockdown was strange. Three cats had to undergo surgery to repair their hard palate injuries. Mirza, the yorkie who had a Humpty-dumpty like fall and fractured his femur, has recovered well post fracture stabilisation surgeries at the Hospital. It is best that pets aren’t allowed to venture out onto roof tops on their own and are supervised when left on balconies to relieve themselves.
Stray dogs seemed to have claimed the streets during the initial lockdown phase but as the lockdown opened, a drastically high number of road accidents resulting in fractures were noticed sadly.
Pet shops in most areas were closed and even online supply of pet supplies was lagging behind. Regular deworming and ectoparasite treatment was not easily available to pet owners and thus began the vicious cycle of intestinal worm infections.
Lyla, a friendly Dobermann was presented with the complaint of chronic vomiting. She was diagnosed with oesophageal nodules via an Endoscopy and is getting the appropriate medical treatment she deserves. Minimally invasive diagnostic and surgical options have been in focus in the medical world recently. Lyla and many other pets have benefitted from Endoscopic and laparoscopic procedures at the hospital.
Richard, the diabetic Labrador, had his vision restored just this month at the Ophthalmology Unit of CGS hospital.
Dr. Shriram Ganesan, the veterinary ophthalmologist has treated many emergency eye trauma cases, corneal ulcers, glaucoma and cataract cases in pets during this lockdown period, referred from far and wide. Some pet owners have crossed state borders with special permissions just to treat their pets’ ocular issues due to lack of such expertise at their towns.
Loneliness and a need for companionship has lead to a sudden surge in the number of puppies adopted or purchased in Delhi NCR. Sadly, many of them tend to fall prey to viral infections like Parvo virus and require hospitalisation. The hospital infectious ward was filled during the lockdown phase but thankfully, most puppies emerged triumphant over the disease. There is always a special bond between each vet and a Parvo survivor puppy. Having personally treated quite a few during this phase and now vaccinating them post recovery, it is always a special experience for me. There is no thank you as heartfelt as seen in the eyes of a Parvo survivor pup!
These are only a few examples of pets helped by dedicated vets at CGS Hospital. Veterinarians all over the world need to be applauded for the wonderful work they are doing inspite the odds. It is our profession, but also our passion to serve the voiceless.
With resilience and peer support, not only the vets, but each and every employee of veterinary hospitals and clinics continue to brave the odds, providing valuable service to the dogs and cats that come to them. We believe in our hearts that we too are COVID Warriors!
The writer is a post graduate veterinary surgeon practising at CGS Hospital, Gurugram.