Pet adoptions soared last year and now vets are understaffed, overbooked and following strict safety protocols.
Two months ago I had to take Lou in for an emergency vet appointment. (he’s fine)
It wasn’t a life or death situation but since most vets across the country are schedule months out for a routine checkup, it would have to be an emergency appointment because he needed to be seen sooner or later.
10 years ago, maybe even 5 years ago, getting into to see the vet on the same day that you called, wasn’t impossible.
In fact, most of the time you could be seen the same day
Right now it is impossible and it’s not because the vet doesn’t want to see your pet, it’s because they literally can’t.
I was lucky with Lou because the veterinarian clinic that we go to is also an emergency clinic, I was able to get in the same day.
I had to wait and I had to pay but I was able to get Lou seen and taken of care.
Our 2 hour wait, while inconvenient to ME, didn’t make me mad.
They obviously had pet’s that needed more urgent care and I was just happy they could fit Lou in.
And we also only had to wait 30 minutes to get called inside.
But I get it.
It can be frustrating when you can’t get your pet into see the vet but keep in mind that your local veterinarian isn’t trying to annoy you or stress you out, they are overwhelmed.
Veterinarians and their staff are also dealing with the lasting effects of the pandemic and all the challenges that come along with it.
They are doing the best they can under the circumstances they have been given and we as pet owners need to be more understanding of that and help out where we can.
So what are with those long wait times at the vet’s office?
Why are they turning clients and their pets away?
Let’s take a look at some of the most common causes of delays veterinary clinics across the country right now.
Common Reasons Why Vets Are Busier Than Ever Before
In 2020, rescues and shelters saw a huge rise in pet adoptions.
Not only did people adopt pet, they also bought more pets from breeders.
Now, a year later, all those pets have to have veterinarian care not only for vaccines but also for emergency care.
When we got Finn last year in the beginning of the pandemic, it was a breeze to get him in for his boosters because the “pandemic puppy” phase was just starting to kick in.
However, when we got Lou this Lou, it was almost impossible to keep him on track with getting his puppy boosters because regular checkups were hard to come by.
Open appointment spots were filling up fast and I watched as our veterinarian brought up the schedule on the computer and tried to squeeze Lou in somewhere in her already packed schedule.
There are too many pets and not enough appointments and staff.
We helped to create the mess that vets are in right now.
We adopted and/or bought the pets!
More Safety Protocols
Some of these safety protocols include:
- Curbside drop off and pickup
- Only 1 person can come inside with their pet
- Curbside check-in
- More PPE
- Social distancing in waiting rooms and exam rooms
- Staff health
This adds time, and may reduce the overall number of appointments available in a given day.
Pet Emergencies Come First
Yes, it’s important that you puppy has all their puppy vaccines, that your senior dog gets senior exams twice a year and that your healthy adult dog still gets examined by a vet at least once a year BUT a dog that is suffering from bloat, a dog in cardiac arrest, heatstroke, hit by car or a hundred other life-threatening illnesses come first, always.
Your dog’s allergies are important, your dog’s intermittent limping is also important and needs to be addressed, but you might have to wait a few extra hours.
Emergency vets are overloaded too.
ER’s are taking all the appointments that your local vet can’t take, plus some.
This is happening all over and causing some pet owners to drive hours away for their pet to be seen.
Just like every business these days, vet clinic are short staffed due to illness, being quarantined, being stressed and even because they need a day off.
Some vet clinics have had to shut their doors for a few days or a few weeks because they need to follow state-issued pandemic rules.
Some clinics function with a small staff.
2-3 vets, a few veterinary technicians, and a receptionist.
If 1 of them gets COVID, they all have to quarantine.
Nobody WANTS to do that, but they HAVE to do that.
Just it’s a trickle down effect.
If a local clinic closes, clients go to a different clinic.
Clients go to a different clinic, more appointments.
More appointments, more exposure to COVID….etc.
There’s also not enough vets coming out of vet school to cover the increase in pet ownership that happened last year.
And let’s not forget that vets have one of the highest suicide rates in the medical field.
Did you know that a study conducted by the American Veterinary Association showed that, “one in six veterinarians have considered suicide at some point in time during their career.” ?
You’re Paying More Attention To Your Pet
With more people working from home they are spending a lot more time with their pets.
How Can You Help To Reduce the Stress on Your Vet Team?
If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.
If your dog is healthy, thriving and happy, don’t change a thing!
Don’t change their food, don’t change their supplements, don’t skip their heartworm meds….etc.
Learn how to check their vitals from home. Keep your dog leashed, train your dog, and be a responsible pet owner.
Find someone else to do the nails.
For most dogs, these aren’t considered essential services and some veterinary offices are denying these requests.
Instead you can take your dog to the local grooming facility or groom your dog yourself!
Stop bashing them on social media.
I’m amazed at how many people I see bashing their vets on social media because they were turned away.
I’m pretty sure vets don’t want to be turning clients away but they are doing what is best for all that are involved.
If they don’t have the staff to see your pet, the responsible thing to do is to turn them away so that you can find a vet clinic that can care for your pet they way they deserve to be cared for.
I would rather a vet turn me away then drop my dog off and have him wait in a cage for 5 hours until someone is free to see him.
I don’t think people REALLY understand how overwhelmed vets and their staff are right now but if they’re turning you away, you should understand it!
Keep your dog mentally and physically active.
When pets get bored, they get into trouble. Pets that get into trouble will need to see a vet.
Keep your dog busy and active throughout the day with walks, canine enrichment activities and of course, training!
Make sure to monitor your puppy too!
A tired puppy is a safe puppy!
Instead of waiting 3 days until your pet is due for their vaccines, do it at least 1-2 months ahead of time.
Don’t skip it, just plan ahead.
And if your pet isn’t acting “right” don’t wait to schedule the appointment, call now and cancel later if you have to.
No one is going to be mad if you cancel an appointment in a reasonable amount of time.
Be your pet’s best advocate.
It’s our job as pet parents to advocate for our pets so make sure to communicate with the vet and their staff clearly.
If you need to, write down your questions, keep a chart of your dog’s not normal activity and if your dog doesn’t like their paws or legs touched, communicate that!
Have a backup vet.
It’s not a bad idea to have a backup vet in case your regular vet is booked.
I have 2 backup vets and it makes me feel more comfortable knowing that if I can’t get one of my dogs into their regular vet, I have options.
You can also just make a note of vets in your area so that you’re not scrambling in an emergency.
Your vet might also have a list of clinics they can refer you to.
I don’t know about you, but I would definitely rather speak to a vet or vet tech on the phone instead of having to go in person to the vet for non-emergency care.
There’s so many televets available now and while they might not be YOUR vet, the can help in a pinch.
The services provided here can vary but some televets can provide a diagnosis and treat your pet while some can point you in the right direction and provide general care instructions.
A few televet services are:
- Televet-your vet has to be in the network and the cost varies by practice
- Chewy-free for autoship customers-available Monday-Friday. They can answer questions but cannot diagnose or treat medical conditions or prescribe medication.
- Pawp $19/month-subscription plan
- Virtuwoof-your vet has to be in the network and cost varies
- PetDesk-in network vet
Finally, your veterinarian and their staff are doing the best they can during a pandemic that keeps changing the rules.
They are experiencing increased demand for pet care due to an increase in pet ownership and safety guidelines.