Pet Adoption Surge Leaves Big Workload for ELB Veterinarians

By: 
Isaac Foster

One of the few “feel good” stories to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic was that pet adoption was at an all-time high, with some shelters running out of adoptable animals entirely. The influx of pets matched with the challenges of reduced staff and following pandemic protocol has forced animal clinics to make clients wait anywhere from 1-3 weeks to be seen by a veterinarian in the East Long Beach area. For pet emergency hospitals, clients can expect to wait anywhere between 4-6 hours after they check-in if they are able to be seen that day.

It is hard to pinpoint how many pets were added into American households last year because our furry companions come from so many different sources such as shelters, breeders, foster groups and through friends and family. Some studies argue whether there was much of a surge at all, while others claim that there were as many as 11 million pets added into our homes last year.

Whatever the case may be, Thomas Babcock DVM, the medical director at Long Beach Animal Emergency has noticed a significant uptick in clients ever since the pandemic started. The overflow of new clients created a backlog of pets at veterinary clinics, which created its own set of problems. Without the manpower capable of handling the staggering amount of new clients, many pets have to wait weeks for care. This causes preventable diseases that would normally be a quick and easy fix for a veterinary technician to grow worse and makes the illness harder to cure. Another issue is that many of the newly adopted animals are young and are more susceptible to infectious diseases. Newborn pets’ immune systems are weaker than adults and many of them lack preventative care like vaccinations.

For new pet owners, the best way to combat these problems is to establish a relationship with a local veterinarian as soon as possible. Even if the pet seems normal and healthy, it is important to get a baseline examination of your pet. Diseases that are caught early on are easier to treat and are less likely to require a trip to the animal emergency room.

Along with the surplus of adoptable pets, COVID-19 has created its own waves of problems. For starters, vets are not allowed to have pet owners inside of the office while their furry friend is being seen. This has been tough for both parties involved because it is harder to convey basic information, let alone compassion over the phone. Animal clinics have also been struggling with the same staffing problems that most businesses have been facing over the course of the pandemic.

Being a veterinary technician was already a stressful job before the pet boom, but the fast-paced, emotionally driven job is harder to maintain now than ever. The American Veterinary Association released a study in 2017 that nearly half of all veterinary technicians are “burned out” from the profession in their first five years.

There is no one solution to this problem. Veterinarians have been working towards getting back to the same efficiency they had before the pandemic started, but some of the responsibility lies on the owner. Every pet owner should scan their house for items or places that would be dangerous to a curious animal and essentially “pet-proof” their home. It is also important that pet owners take pets to the veterinarian at least once a year, if not on a more frequent basis to prevent treatable diseases from getting out of hand.

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