The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on every profession, and the veterinary industry is no exception. Appointments are booking out weeks in advance, and ER’s are having record wait times to be seen. What is going on?
The first issue is that many people, once the at-home orders were placed, went out and got a puppy for companionship. Puppies in their first few months of life require a lot of vet care. Many breeders, shelters, and rescues require that the pets be seen by a vet within a few days of being adopted. Puppies also need vaccines every 3-4 weeks, and then at 6 months, they are fixed. These new pets/puppies have been filling appointment slots and causing appointments to be scheduled weeks out. If your pet is coming due for preventative care, it is best to schedule your appointment a few weeks in advance, so there isn’t a lapse in protection from their vaccines.
The second issue is with all the stay-at-home orders, especially at the beginning of the pandemic, people were paying more attention to their pets and noticing things that may have been missed before. This has also caused a backup in appointments, as pet owners are bringing their pets in to see if the issue is normal or something that needs to be addressed. After hours, it can lead to backed-up emergency visits and long wait times.
Thirdly, with people being home more, pets may be getting into things they shouldn’t. This can happen because owners unintentionally feed their pet something they shouldn’t without realizing it, or as people do work around the house and the pet gets into some supplies. Situations like these can lead to gastrointestinal distress (such as pancreatitis or even intestinal foreign bodies) and frequently result in emergencies that can also back up your regular veterinarian and emergency clinics.
Another challenge is the new cleaning protocols set forth due to COVID-19. It’s why many practices are still not letting owners in the building with their pets. The cleaning that needs to take place between clients takes time and pulls staff away from helping the veterinarian with your pet, which extends wait times and the number of pets the veterinarian can see within a day. Lastly, if the staff at a clinic becomes infected with COVID, the clinic needs to close for cleaning. A closed clinic means rescheduled appointments, which adds to an already overbooked schedule. As COVID-19 makes its way through the clinic, the office is often short-staffed, which again extends appointment times as staff is multitasking taking care of pets, answering phones, and cleaning.
It can be frustrating not being able to get into your vet when needed. Vets are working tirelessly to see as many patients as safely as possible. If you know your pet is coming due for vaccines, schedule an appointment well in advance. If you are experiencing a concern that can be treated virtually, you can book an appointment with one of our licensed veterinary professionals on Vetster in minutes from the comfort of your own home. If you have a pet emergency that needs to be seen in the clinic, be prepared for a long wait, especially if your pet is stable.
Dr. Kristen Washington is a graduate of Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. She lives in Virginia with her husband, who is also a veterinarian, her children, 3 dogs, and 2 cats. She has an interest in internal medicine, cardiology, soft tissue surgery, and acupuncture.
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