Why it takes longer to get pet care during the pandemic

Demand for veterinarian services has or will soon exceed capacity.

The warning comes from the College of Veterinary Care of Ontario, as more people acquire pets during the pandemic.

Dog walker Michelle Gross of London, Ontario said she’s noticed a marked difference in getting medical care for pets.

“Normally you go in with the dog, and you’re holding it while the vet checks it. But during the pandemic... you just kind of drop them off and you wait in your car and you eventually get a call from the vet. So it’s been a bit of a longer experience I have found.”

London based Veterinarian Dr. Laura Palumbo recently moved her mobile pet service to a bricks-and-mortar facility to meet pet care needs during the pandemic.

She tells CTV News that vets have been overwhelmed with calls for help for furry family members.

“You hate to hear, I mean there’s always a crisis about humans not having a general practitioner, a doctor...Well they’re slowly starting where people are having a hard time finding care for their pets.”

Veterinarian Dr. Laura Palumbo with Alice the cat on May 10, 2021. (Bryan Bicknell/CTV London)

Dr. Palumbo she has seen the demand increase over the past year.

“I would say we’re getting calls every week from new patients. We don’t like to turn people away, but it also comes down to volume load and what you can physically handle to provide the adequate care for these patients.”

It now takes longer to get an appointment, and the appointment themselves take longer, because of COVID protocols.

The CVO said in a news release last month “...the current shortage of veterinarians is province-wide (...) Emergency services are particularly under pressure, and COVID-19 has added to the issue as public health precautions are integrated into the care.”

In the meantime, Dr. Palumbo says pets may need special attention for anxiety and behavioural issues once the pandemic has ended, and many people head back to the office leaving pets to themselves.

“We’ve domesticated them so I think we owe it to them to provide an environment that’s enriched. When that’s removed it’s making the proper adjustment to the smooth transition or outlet so they don’t get stressed.”