Veterinarians are working hard to care for your pet, but the pandemic has presented challenges that have resulted in overwhelming workloads for veterinary staff and long wait times for pet owners. Numerous factors have contributed to the delays, and our American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA)-accredited team at Premier Pet Hospital wants you to understand what is causing the overload and why you may have difficulty scheduling a veterinary appointment.

We want you to understand that COVID-19 veterinary protocols contribute to the delays

Like the rest of the world, the veterinary profession was unprepared for the havoc wreaked by COVID-19. Protocols were established to help ensure the infection risk was minimized for our staff and our clients, and these protocols involved extensive disinfection between each pet and curbside appointment. While instituting these practices was necessary, it was also time-consuming, and we weren’t able to see as many pet patients per day as we would have in a typical day before the pandemic. Our priority had to be addressing the needs of pets who were sick or injured, which forced us to postpone routine appointments and elective procedures. Now that the world is attempting to return to normal, we have to find time to reschedule these postponed appointments while continuing to see new patients. This backlog contributes to the delays you run into when scheduling your pet’s next veterinary appointment.

We want you to understand that veterinary staff shortages contribute to the delays

Our veterinary professionals can’t work from home, and closing our doors until the pandemic is over is not an option, so our staff is at higher risk for exposure to the virus. A sick staff member has to stay home for their own welfare and to ensure other employees and clients aren’t infected. In addition, staff members who are exposed to someone who has COVID-19 must quarantine to ensure they don’t spread infection. These incidents have led to staff shortages.

Burnout, which was a big factor in the profession before the pandemic, has only worsened as our veterinary professionals are put under more and more stress with the ongoing pandemic. People who have careers in veterinary medicine tend to be perfectionists, and they are highly dedicated to the pets they treat. While these are great qualities to have, when cases don’t go as planned and pets die, these individuals are more likely to personalize the situation and dwell on the negative outcomes, which can lead to mental health issues. A study published in 2019 showed that veterinarians and veterinary technicians had a significantly higher incidence of suicide than the general public. The pandemic has only added fuel to this fire, causing many veterinary professionals to take steps to mitigate the effects their job has on their mental health. In some cases, this has meant cutting back work hours or leaving practice for a less stressful work environment, and these new openings can be hard to fill. We can’t see as many pets if we don’t have the manpower to do the work, which results in delays.

We want you to understand that an increased veterinary workload contributes to the delays

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), approximately 23 million households in America either adopted or fostered a new pet during the pandemic. Pets provide numerous benefits for their pet parents, and studies have shown that they have positive effects on their owners’ physical and emotional health. The ASPCA also reported that the vast majority of these pet parents planned to keep their new pets, which means a lot of pets in their forever homes will continue to require veterinary attention. This influx of new pets is contributing to longer wait times when you call to schedule a veterinary appointment. 

In addition, pet parents staying at home during the pandemic saved money on things such as gas and date nights. Some also received stimulus payments. All of this extra money has allowed them to spend more on their pet’s veterinary bills, and many chose to have procedures such as dental cleanings performed on their pet, which they may not have been able to afford before the pandemic. Staying at home also allowed pet owners to recognize abnormalities they might not have noticed if they weren’t spending so much time with their pets. This caused them to seek veterinary attention for their furry companions and contributed to the increased workload.

We want you to understand that you can help our veterinary professionals

We fully understand your frustration when you call to schedule an appointment for your pet, and you can’t get in when you would like. We want you to know that we are doing everything in our power to care for all the pets in our community, and it would help us greatly if you were patient and kind when contacting our staff. We all have the same goal—to ensure your pet receives the best care possible—and your empathy and understanding will help us see them in a timely fashion.

Other steps you can take to help include scheduling your routine appointments as far in advance as possible to ensure your pet’s vaccines are kept up to date, and watching your pet closely for any abnormal behaviors so we can see them as soon as possible if they are experiencing a medical problem. 

Your pet’s health and well-being are our top concerns, and we will continue to provide the best care possible. Our Premier Pet Hospital team is here for you if your pet needs veterinary attention, but please remember to be patient when you contact us.