It’s no secret that pet parents are frustrated with how long it’s taking to get their pet seen by a veterinarian. Whether it’s waiting 6-8 hours at the ER or several days to weeks for their regular vet, significant delays in timely veterinary care are becoming all too common. More concerning still, this is not unique to any one location. It is a nationwide issue.

Truthfully, the veterinary profession is facing a serious crisis right now. So many households adopted a pet during the pandemic (which is awesome because pets contribute so much to our lives), but at the same time, a significant number of veterinarians left the workplace to care for their children. Many clinics also lost support staff and had to cut back on hours to accommodate the additional burdens that COVID placed on daily practice. The combination of more pets and fewer veterinarians/staff/available hours resulted in general practices quickly becoming overwhelmed. As a profession, we lack a dedicated urgent care model, as daytime emergencies are generally handled by general practitioners. Our inability to see these daytime emergencies/urgent cases resulted in the ERs quickly becoming overwhelmed in turn. While we’re starting to see some dedicated urgent care facilities pop up (PetMedic in Watertown and VEG in Boston and Newton), it’s still not enough to lighten the load on the rest of us. The ERs have really taken a hit, and many veterinarians and support staff are abandoning the profession due to burn-out. The bottom line is that we’re doing the best we can with what we have, and it’s just not enough.

So, what can you as a pet owner do to help?

Be patient. We really are trying, and we want to see your pet as quickly as we can. We try to take cases on an as-needed basis, with urgent cases being given higher priority.

Schedule your pet’s wellness visits well in advance. If you’re adopting a new pet, check and see when their vaccinations are due, and schedule your appointment then. We absolutely love the “getting to know you” visits but right now, we’re just too overwhelmed.

Avoid situations that might result in an emergency visit. Be vigilant at dog parks (I love to let my dog off-leash, but right now, a bite wound isn’t something I’m willing to risk), make sure the garbage can is secure (child safety locks also work great to prevent your pet from accessing the garbage), keep all human medication out of reach of your pet, make sure to give those preventives every month year-round, transition to new foods slowly to avoid GI upset and watch the table scraps/new treats.

I’m confident that the veterinary profession will emerge stronger than before (and hopefully, the dedicated urgent care model will take hold), but it’s going to take a while.