Hello and happy summer! As someone who works both full time at SWVH and relief at Animal Emergency and Specialty Center, I wanted to help make the community aware of the current veterinary shortage, especially as it pertains to emergency care.
This is very important as if your pet is injured or develops a sudden health problem you may find it much harder to seek treatment than in the past, particularly at night or on the weekend. My goal with this blog post is to help you understand why this is happening, and what you can do to be prepared.
As with most businesses right now, the veterinary industry is finding itself very short staffed. COVID created social isolation and pushed more people into working at home which resulted in more Americans adopting pets, or adding additional pets to their families. Many older veterinarians and staff chose to retire when COVID hit, and the number of new people going into the veterinary profession is not keeping pace with increased demand. As a result, by 2030, the U.S. will need nearly 41,000 additional veterinarians and nearly 133,000 credentialed veterinary technicians, according to a recent Mars Veterinary Health report. Any solutions to this crunch are likely years off!
What does this mean for you and your four-legged family? Unfortunately, LONG wait times. At SWVH we are currently booking routine appointments 4-6 weeks out. If your pet has a more urgent need, please call us right at 730am when we open to check for availability. In the event your pet becomes ill at night or on the weekend be prepared that wait times at both local emergency facilities – Animal Emergency and Specialty Center and Blue Pearl are usually in the 4-6 hour range. Just like in human medicine, all emergency facilities operate on triage so if your pet is truly experiencing a life-threatening emergency, your pet will be seen and treated much faster. Often times there are so many pets coming in with life threatening needs (hit by a car, respiratory distress, heat stroke, bloat) that pets with urgent needs continue to get bumped – resulting in very long wait times for ailments such as foxtails in ears, lacerations and vomiting. The emergency teams are working as hard and fast as they safely can do so, please be kind and patient. It is almost always best to “drop off” your pet for admission vs wait hours and hours in the parking lot. Unfortunately, neither emergency facility has enough exam rooms or lobby area to accommodate all the families that are waiting for their pet to be seen.
What can you do to help?
-Plan in advance and keep your pet up to date on all vaccinations, heartworm and flea/tick prevention
-Spay and neuter your pets – it is much better to schedule a routine spay than have to take your female dog to the ER for a life-threatening uterine infection for emergency surgery or a c-section!
-Eliminate foxtails from your yard and walk your dog where there are not any foxtails
-Keep your dog on leash where rattlesnakes may be encountered, or choose to hike your dog up in the mountains where there are less snakes
-Keep cats indoors to prevent fighting and other injuries
-Be careful taking your dog to a friend’s house for a BBQ – not all dogs get along and dog fight wounds are a VERY common reason pets present to the emergency facility
-Do not feed your pets hard bones (Nylabones, deer antlers, marrow bones, bully sticks) or rich table food – these items can fracture teeth and cause GI distress such as pancreatitis
-Keep your dog’s nails trimmed short to reduce the chance of a painful torn nail
-Only walk your dog in the cool hours of the day (early morning, late evening) to avoid heat stroke and burns to paw pads
-Clean your dogs’ ears with a drying ear cleaner such as EpiOtic after swimming or bathing to help prevent ear infections
-If your pet is sick, do not take the wait and see approach! Call us sooner rather than later – we may be able to help over the phone!