The pandemic has not only been challenging for medical workers, it has also overwhelmed veterinarians, who report increased demand for pet care as many Americans acquire furry friends while cozying up at home.
For a growing number of pet owners, trying to get to a veterinary clinic has been frustrating.
“I didn’t have any trouble seeing my vet before the pandemic,” said Mila Helsford, a dog owner in Alexandria, Virginia, when she visited Bailey, her golden retriever. “Now, when I call to make an appointment, I am told that it may be several days or more before the vet can see my dog. And this worries me, especially when Bailey is unwell. not right. ”
Veterinarians say they are not able to treat the same number of pets per day as they did before the pandemic, due to social distancing and other pandemic restrictions, creating a backlog.
Jessica Vogelsang, chief medical officer of the American Animal Hospital Association, a non-profit organization for companion veterinary hospitals, said, “People have more pets than ever before, and many of them got their own animals during the pandemic. Huh.” “So, there is a growing demand for veterinary services.”
David Lee, director of the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, said pet owners face long waits, with many veterinarians grappling with stress, long work hours and a lack of work-life balance.
“Some of them are reducing their working hours or leaving the profession altogether because they are very disappointed,” he said.
“I strongly believe that there is a shortage of veterinarians in America,” Rustin Moore, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine at Ohio State University, told VOA. “I have heard many veterinarians say that they are finding it difficult to hire the veterinarians they need for their practice.”
“Veterinary shortages are acute and chronic,” said Mark Cushing, founder and CEO of Animal Policy Group, an organization that focuses on animal care.
Others believe that there is no real shortcoming, only a perception of one.
“I think there’s this perception of scarcity because pet owners can’t see their vet as quickly as they want to right now,” said Jose Arce, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association, an organization that supports more than 90,000 veterinarians. represents. US Arce said their organization’s data did not show a shortage.
According to Moore at Ohio State, interest in becoming a veterinarian hasn’t waned, despite the challenges within the profession. If anything, he said there are not enough veterinary training colleges to meet the demand, noting that “applications from highly qualified people have increased substantially.”
One of the latest programs is the University of Arizona College of Veterinary Medicine, which had its first grade last year.
“We have three instead of the usual four-year program,” said Katie Bergingson, director of admissions and student affairs. “This means we can get our graduates into the workforce faster, especially in communities where veterinarians are really needed.”
And many students say that veterinary medicine is more than a profession, it is a passion.
“I love animals. They bring me great joy,” said Dianira Smith, a 26-year-old veterinary student who aims to teach people how to take better care of their animals.
Animal Policy Group’s Cushing believes that veterinary practices need to be more efficient and ready for the new normal of high demand and high expectation.
“Millennials now own 60% of all pets and are demanding a higher level of services, including medical advice,” he said. “They can be more practical with their animals.”
Ars, along with the American Veterinary Medical Association, sees remote telehealth blooming in animal clinics, as well as better use of technicians to assist veterinarians with overworked.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, veterinary conditions are projected to increase by 16% by 2029.
For both veterinarians and their clients, it can’t come soon enough.
“I know the animal hospital I take my dog to is doing the best I can right now,” said San Francisco dog owner Kayla Lewis. “But I hope I don’t have to bother seeing my vet for too long. My dog, Shadow, is like a member of my family.”