As COVID-19 vaccination numbers in our community increase, and the world attempts to return to normal, the pandemic continues to affect the veterinary profession. Our team at Pioneer Animal Hospital wants to explain how COVID-19 is influencing our workday so you can better understand why you may have to wait longer for your pet’s appointment.

COVID-19 caused a pet explosion

Pets provide excellent emotional support, and their presence can lead to better physical and mental health for their owners. That makes it easy to understand why many people sought to adopt or foster a pet when faced with the stress and upheaval of the pandemic. One poll revealed that approximately 23 million American households welcomed a new pet during the pandemic, and these new pets all need veterinary care. In addition, 90 percent of these new dog owners, and 85 percent of new cat owners said they planned on keeping their new pet, meaning they will continue to require veterinary attention. 

COVID-19 caused pet owners to notice more health issues

Many pet owners began working from home during the pandemic, and this extra time spent with their pet allowed them to notice abnormalities that they may not have recognized if they weren’t home all day. While catching conditions in the early stages helps our veterinary professionals treat issues more effectively, these cases added to our workload.

COVID-19 allowed pet owners to spend more money on veterinary bills

Stimulus payments and money saved by staying in rather than going out led to many pet owners having more funds to pay for veterinary care they might not have been able to afford otherwise. These cases also added to our workload.

COVID-19 caused some veterinary hospitals to close their doors

Some veterinary practices in our area were forced to close their doors temporarily or permanently because the pandemic took such a toll. Pet owners who took their pets to these veterinary hospitals had to seek care from other practices. These cases added to our workload.

COVID-19 caused staff shortages for veterinary professionals

At the same time they are swamped with extra cases, our veterinary professionals also are facing staff shortages caused by:

  • The virus — Our veterinary professionals are at increased risk for contracting COVID-19 because they continue to work when infection rates are high. Whether ill themselves or exposed to someone who is positive, they are unable to come to work, leaving our team shorthanded.
  • Burnout — The veterinary profession is demanding and stressful, and people who choose this field are at higher risk for having suicidal thoughts. COVID-19 only exacerbated these issues, leading many veterinarians and veterinary technicians to cut back on work hours or leave the field entirely to preserve their mental health. This also has caused our team to be shorthanded.

COVID-19 led to veterinarians implementing safety protocols

Since shutting our doors and waiting out the pandemic wasn’t an option, we implemented safety protocols to keep our staff and our clients as safe as possible. These added measures, while necessary, are far from efficient and resulted in our veterinary professionals being able to see fewer pet patients per day. While our protocols are evolving based on information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we still must ensure appropriate disinfection and social distancing, which hinders our ability to return to normal caseloads per day.

COVID-19 has caused a veterinary work backlog

Being able to see fewer pets per day caused us to focus on pets who were sick or injured, meaning we were forced to postpone routine appointments and elective procedures. We are now having to find time to address these postponed appointments, in addition to seeing newly scheduled appointments.

Your ongoing support, understanding, and cooperation is greatly appreciated during this trying time, and steps you can take to help us as we strive to provide the best care possible for your pet include:

  • Remember to be patient — When talking with our staff, please remember to be patient. We know you are frustrated when you can’t schedule your pet’s appointment as soon as you would like, but we are already working overtime to see as many pets as possible. Adding to our overbooked schedule could lead to mistakes and a compromise in our standards of care. Your pet’s health and well-being are important to us, and we will get them scheduled as soon as we can.
  • Don’t wait until the last minute — When scheduling your pet’s routine and wellness visits, don’t wait until the last minute. Schedule these appointments as far in advance as possible to ensure your pet’s vaccinations remain up to date.
  • Call as soon as you notice a problem — Issues that may seem minor, such as a decreased appetite or being less active than usual, could indicate a serious problem. Contact our team immediately if you notice an abnormality to ensure we can get your pet scheduled as soon as possible.

Despite the challenges COVID-19 has caused, we are determined to continue our focus on excellence so we can make a difference in the life you share with your pet. If your pet is exhibiting unusual behavior, contact our American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA)-accredited team at Pioneer Animal Hospital so we can address their issue as soon as possible.