Vets feel the pressure of animal adoptions during COVID-19

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If you think it may be difficult to get a dog to sit and stay, try asking a worried pet owner to do the same.

Many lonely Americans locked up during the COVID-19 pandemic have acquired new pets or forged closer bonds with the pets they already had. Today, veterinary offices are seeing an increase in their activity, resulting in longer waiting times for sick animals.

“It’s a zoo,” said Dr Ian Scholer of Hill Top Animal Hospital in Evans. “This is definitely not what I was preparing for in March 2020 when this all started.”

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In fact, Scholer and his team prepared to the contrary, “because we thought nobody was going anywhere, people were being laid off, so we thought people would probably cut back on their vet care,” he said. .

Instead, it rained cats and dogs.

A study by the American Pet Products Association found that more than 11 million American households have obtained new pets during the pandemic. Additionally, three in four owners said they felt less stress after spending time with their pets.

But owners began to feel more stress after spending time in vet waiting rooms and parking lots. Scholer said he spoke to colleagues whose practices are also outdated.

Veterinarian Heather Osborn helps a Labrador retriever named Elvis get into a kennel after medical intervention at Hill Top Animal Hospital in Evans.  The increase in the number of pet owners during the COVID-19 pandemic has made veterinary practices much busier.

“At the start of the day, we always had at least one or two meeting slots open. If there were no dates, we would probably see eight to ten unscheduled appointments during the day, ”said Scholer. “Now I have no openings in my schedule for three weeks, and we’ll probably see 20-25 unplanned today.”

Bottlenecks in veterinary clinics quickly caused similar problems in emergency veterinary clinics, he said.

“They tend to manage a smaller staff, and there’s usually a doctor or maybe two. Then people started to get burned there, ”Scholer said. “What happened, even the specialty hospitals like at the University of Georgia, and there are a few in Columbia (SC) as well, they started to be overworked and overbooked.”

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More animals, more attention

Since May, Dr. Autumn Vetter has been an Assistant Professor in the Community Practice Clinic at the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Georgia in Athens. Prior to that, she worked in Florida in both a general veterinary practice and an emergency room, experiencing the effects of the pandemic on pets and owners in these care environments.

While some veterinary practices have closed temporarily to regroup under COVID conditions, emergencies have remained open.

“Because of that, the number of cases we’ve seen has definitely increased during this time,” Vetter said. “We all expected it to go back to normal after those first two weeks, and then it didn’t. It stayed very, very high. It was a bit of a wild time.

When she switched to general medicine, she saw a sharp increase in the number of new clients.

“Overall I think it’s really great that people have started adopting more animals, especially from shelters during the pandemic. As vets, we recommend this, just because you’re saving an animal that might otherwise be on probation, ”Vetter said. “Maybe something people need to consider when adopting a pet is what it’s going to cost, and emergencies happen.”

Spending more time with pets often causes owners to become overly attentive to the health of the animals, which can be a benefit, she said. Cats, for example, are known to hide disease until it progresses beyond effective treatment.

“It can also tip the other way,” Vetter said. “I remember a particularly busy day in the ER and we kept joking: ‘People have to go back to work and stop looking at their animals because everything is fine.'”

Yet, she said, “in many ways this is a good thing” because it allows owners to spot symptoms “probably sooner than they might otherwise” than if they were over. time outside.

Frustration felt both ways

Dog breeder Susan Darling was parked at Hill Top Animal Hospital last Tuesday with her French Bulldog Winnie, awaiting test results on Winnie’s progesterone level. Darling said her vet wait times rarely last longer than an hour, but she can understand how wait times for some pet owners can cause shorter anger.

Winnie the French Bulldog awaits lab results with her owner, Susan Darling, at Hill Top Animal Hospital in Evans.  The increase in the number of pet owners during the COVID-19 pandemic has made veterinary practices much busier.

“When you come to the vet it’s usually an emergency,” she said. “Everyone has come home more often, they become more attached to their dogs, they are more careful and they don’t know what to expect. Then when you see something out of the ordinary fur babies are like family so we expect everyone to love our babies like us.

Some homeowners who are outraged by long waits share their frustrations online. Veterinary practices in the Augusta area tend to have overwhelmingly positive reviews on Google, but there are some outliers, like that of a cat owner who complained last October of a 45 minute wait. at the Care More Animal Hospital in Martinez.

“My poor little boy was so hot in the car even with the air blazing his fluffy paws were soaked in sweat,” the owner wrote.

Due to the surge in customer base, Care More has posted a notice on its website to assure visitors that they are welcoming pets as quickly as they can reasonably be expected: appointments for vaccines, so be indulgent with us because we will get everyone to come as soon as possible. Our phone lines are also busier, so please be patient as wait times may be longer than normal, ”the advisory read in part.

Some pet owners even express their frustrations over overwhelmed staff, but Scholer said anger won’t speed up the wait process, and particularly angry customers have been urged to leave for good.

“We understand the frustration and we are also frustrated. We don’t like to keep people waiting, ”he said. “There is only a certain level of behavior that we can tolerate before we have to say to you, ‘Don’t come here anymore.’ You can’t come here and treat my staff like that. It is not ok. They’re already going through a lot.

Vetter said demand is hitting a particularly tough time in veterinary careers, when technicians and nurses are in short supply.

“Those who practice definitely feel overworked because we need more and we just don’t have any,” she said.

For now, Scholer and other vets are asking their patients to be patient.

“I wish there was a solution I could come up with,” he said. “I wish I could say, ‘Hey, if we all got together and did that, it might get better. But I think it’s just going to take time.


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