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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — It may seem hard to believe but there is a bright side to the pandemic. Just ask your furry friend on four feet.

It turns out all this at home time is prompting us to pay more attention to our pets and their health.

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A national study by BluePearl Speciality and Emergency Pet Hospitals indicates 79% of pet owners are more likely to seek veterinary care if their pet is acting out of sorts.

Dr. Mike Hutchinson at Animal General in Cranberry is seeing that first hand, “Because we’re around them all the time. We don’t let things go you see that bump on the dog and every time you pet them, you feel that bump, the people want to take care of it and they don’t want to wait.”

Dr. Jenn Fox at the Franklin Animal Clinic in Franklin is seeing it too, “People are keying into catching illnesses sooner and jumping faster and calling us sooner.”

And Dr. Mike says its not just for the big things.

He hears from clients things like, “Yeah you know, he’s got bad breath and he’s in front of you all day, you want to get his teeth taken care of.”

Dr. Fox says it is making for some hectic days at the clinic, “I feel like I was sort of like the family practitioner when I started and now like ER doc, is you know, going a million miles a minute and, you know, juggling multiple things.”

And both vets agree they are getting better information about a pets condition from more attentive pet owners. Dr. Mike says, “I think it’s elevated the care for pets.”

Plus its not just the long time four legged patients, Dr. Fox says people during the pandemic have been adding more pets to their families. “We see a lot of them, there’s a term for it, COVID puppies.” Part of the reason for that is people are home and have a better chance to train a new puppy or kitten.

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But Dr. Fox points out there is a flip side to the attentiveness. “Sometimes when folks are home. Then they may focus on their pets and sort of be obsessive about the little things or worry about things that sometimes aren’t a concerned.”

But those cases are the exception and what vets know is their work is constant and by state order being done without the pet owner in the room due to COVID concerns for the clients and the staff.

That has created an unusual benefit says Dr. Mike, “We’re able to see actually more pets. During the day because it just makes it more efficient.”

That’s true in Franklin too, “I feel I can handle more appointments; I think it streamlines things for us a lot,” says Dr. Fox.

But both say what Dr. Mike put this way, “I want to go back to being in front of the people, I prefer that. But its pretty efficient the way its going now.”

One downside of the pandemic for the health of our pets, weight. Just as humans have put on a few pounds Dr. Fox says, “I think, you know, we are seeing pets, on the average come in several pounds heavier, this year than last year.”

The prescription for that, ‘grab one leash at least once a day.’ Dr. Mike says its good for the pet and us. “That’s the good thing. That’s part of that bond you spend more time, it helps us, you know, helps bring down that depression, it helps bring down the blood pressure, it helps you to be happy too.

But Dr. Fox how do you walk a cat? “You pretty much just follow the cat.”

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The veterinarians hope the bonding during COVID will carry over when things return to normal and humans will continue to be as attentive to the health care of their furry best friends.

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South Africa to Spend $172 Million on Mass Vaccination Drive

By MOGOMOTSI MAGOME, Associated Press

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South Africa plans to spend $712 million to vaccinate some 67% of its 60 million people to control the country's COVID-19 battle and get the economy to rebound from its decline of 7.2% last year.

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni said the vaccination drive will help South Africa's economy, the most developed in sub-Saharan Africa, to rebound by 3.4% this year.

Mboweni announced the annual budget Wednesday, a day after the country’s unemployment rate reached 32.5%, according to the national statistics agency. The unemployment rate among the youth is more than 60%, a staggering figure in a country where more than 16 million people receive welfare grants.

South Africa’s economy was already in recession before the COVID-19 pandemic hit and the government imposed a strict two-month lockdown. The shutdown and continuing restrictions caused a serious economic contraction in 2020. An estimated 2 million jobs have been lost, according to the country’s official statistics.

“With this framework we provide the budget for South Africa’s vaccination campaign. This campaign allows us to emerge from the restrictions to economic activity. We are allocating more than Rand 10 billion ($712 million) for the purchase and delivery of vaccines over the next two years," said Mboweni, delivering his budget to parliament.

Mboweni said the vaccines would be given to all South Africans free of charge and his budget did not have any tax hikes for businesses or individuals in order to stimulate the economic recovery.

Last week South Africa launched the first phase of its vaccination campaign in which it is inoculating an estimated 500,000 front-line health care workers with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, as a large-scale observational study. The J&J vaccine is authorized for testing purposes in South Africa but has not yet been approved for general use

South Africa had earlier planned to use the AstraZeneca vaccine and had purchased and received 1 million doses. But then a small, preliminary study showed that the AstraZeneca vaccine provided only 22% protection against mild to moderate disease caused by the COVID-19 variant now dominant in South Africa. South Africa quickly switched to the J&J vaccine which tests indicate provides 57% efficacy against mild to moderate disease caused by the variant here, and 85% protection against severe disease.

South Africa is selling its AstraZeneca vaccine doses to the African Union which will distribute them to countries on the continent where the variant is not a factor, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has announced.

South Africa is the country hardest hit by the pandemic in all of Africa, with a cumulative total of more than 1.5 million confirmed cases and nearly 50,000 deaths.

As the finance minister presented the budget, members of the South African Federation of Trade Unions staged a protest near parliament over growing inequality and looming job cuts in various sectors.

Police reportedly used stun grenades to disperse a crowd that attempted to make their way to parliament. Under the COVID-19 lockdown level 3 regulations, no political gatherings are allowed.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Tags: Associated Press

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