HAMPSHIRE'S hard-pressed doctors and nurses are facing an unprecedented challenge as they struggle to cope with the escalating Covid-19 crisis.

But the people responsible for treating illnesses which afflict the county's animals are also being stretched to the limit - largely as a result of the social distancing rules imposed by the government.

Like their NHS counterparts, vets are having to devise new ways of working.

A spokesperson for Seadown Veterinary Services in Frost Lane, Hythe, said: "The world has literally been turned upside down. It's like living in a disaster movie, but one that seems to have no end."

As the virus spread the 100-year-old practice was confronted by a raft of issues, including the best way to manage vets and staff working remotely.

Problems started to multiply after the government was forced to announce even stricter regulations in a bid to halt the spread of the virus.

Laura Trigg, an equine vet and one of directors, said: "The use of the phone to help advise worried clients - and indeed online consultations - has never been so important.

"At least we've been able to deal with emergencies - cases such as colic, acute lameness and respiratory issues."

Since the start of the crisis Seadown has had to cancel a large number of routine operations and appointments as well as setting up a "virtual" practice.

Fellow Seadown director Kate McMorris, working from home, was suddenly faced with the task of setting up new online booking systems and arranging video consultations.

She said "The few weeks have been a roller coaster of emotions - thinking outside the box, always being there for staff, clients and patients, and relying on everyone to do their bit.

"I've never been prouder to be part of the truly special Seadown family.

"Never before has it been so important to help one another and work together. A big 'thank you' to everyone - staff, patients and clients for their patience, understanding and loyalty.

"They have been amazing. Together we will continue to treat and care for as many precious animals as we can and get through this difficult period together."

Veterinary nurses at the practice have had to take on the role of receptionists.

In a message to clients they said: "Thank you for being patient and kind to us, and also making us laugh and giving us your support."