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People and pets face longer wait times to see veterinarians

Vets have longer wait times because of the pandemic
Posted at 7:26 AM, Dec 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-29 14:10:34-05

Man’s best friend is feeling the strain.

Some people are finding it hard to get their pet in for an appointment with a veterinarian. Local vets say, like other healthcare industries, the COVID-19 pandemic is complicating their practices too.

At Main Street Small Animal Hospital in Templeton, the staff say the demand for appointments doubled since before the pandemic.

Dr. Alex Gomes, a veterinarian at the hospital, explained, “At home over the last two years, years or so on, both the pets and the owners have become much more attached. And so we definitely see an increase in both visits to the clinic as well as stress, anxiety.”

During the pandemic, vets saw an increase in pet ownership and when people stayed at home they noticed more about their pets and so demand for appointments rose.

Since people were home-bound, their availability was more flexible so more people looked for appointments immediately and that filled up time slots.

“And so now we're seeing appointments all outside. That does shift not only the capacity in the clinic to handle certain situations, but it just adds seven extra steps to each appointment, which over time through a day of 50 appointments can add up pretty quickly,” said Dr. Gomes.

Different vet offices have different precautions against COVID-19 and at Main Street Small Animal Hospital, the staff consult with the pet owners outside and bring in the pets for treatment.

The hospital does allow pet owners to come in for more emotional appointments, including saying goodbye.

“We're trying to keep everybody safe. So we know if one person gets sick here and test positive, the whole place shuts down for two weeks and you can imagine that backs up. We're already slammed as it is,” Dr. Gomes told KSBY.

Another effect of the pandemic, the vet office is facing short staff as well as supply chain issues when it comes to pet food and medication.

Dr. Gomes said, “Supply chain issues with a lot of control medications is big trouble. Some of the medications we can run into as well. Food has been a big one, especially prescription diets.”

Since the pandemic Generation Z had the largest increase in pet ownership, with 16% getting a new pet.

And 75% of pet owners reported an improved sense of well-being related to spending time with their pets.

Like other healthcare workers during the pandemic, veterinarians are also facing compassion fatigue. According to a 2020 Merck Animal Health Survey, 44% of veterinarians report they are mentally suffering.