The Waiting Game: Understanding Veterinary Overload

Responsible pet ownership requires ample time, finances, care, and regular veterinary visits to ensure your furry companion remains healthy and thrives into their grey muzzle years. The veterinary profession has experienced unprecedented demand during the COVID-19 pandemic . The increased workload has resulted in overwhelmed veterinary team and extended wait times for appointments and emergency care for pets. Our Animal Emergency Care (AEC) team understands the frustration pets owners feel when they are faced with delays in getting answers concerning their pet’s health. We discuss reasons our profession is experiencing overload and ways pet owners can work with their veterinary team to ensure a smooth experience during challenging times. 

Modified veterinary hospital operations

As the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the country veterinary hospitals were designated an essential business when many other businesses were forced to close. However, veterinarians were limited to seeing urgent care cases and non-urgent wellness care visits were postponed.  Now that restrictions have been eased, many veterinary hospitals are still trying to catch up with the backlog of patients needing wellness care visits.

In addition, curbside care has become the norm for many veterinary practices including AEC. We understand the frustration of waiting in your car for your pet’s veterinary exam and the stress of not being able to accompany them in for their veterinary visit. However, many veterinary hospitals have limited space and decreasing the number of people inside a facility protects team and clients from possible viral exposure. Curbside care also requires extended time so that team can speak to pet owners on the phone during their pet’s examination and treatment. Increased cleaning and sanitation of examination rooms and hospital surfaces requires extra time and manpower as well which can contribute to delays during your pet’s appointment. 

Forever homes and more time with pet owners

Many four-legged companions found forever homes during the pandemic. According to the American Pet Products Association more than 11 million pets were adopted between March and November 2020. Many pet owners continued to work remotely in 2021 which made it easier for them to observe their pet’s daily habits and notice subtle changes in their pet’s health. That helped lead to an increased demand for veterinary appointments and contributed to longer wait times. 

Veterinary team shortages lead to increased wait times

The added demand on veterinary team has caused more stress and burnout in a challenging profession and many have taken breaks or left the profession altogether. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), veterinary turnover is twice as high as that of physicians in human health care and veterinary technicians have the highest turnover of all health care positions. Limited team directly affects veterinary practices’ capacity to examine and care for more pets and causes longer wait times. Many veterinary practices also face challenges when team take time off because either they or their family members become sick which also results in extended wait times. 

Tips for pet owners to ensure a smooth veterinary visit

Successful veterinary care is a team process between pet owners and veterinary staff. Patience and kindness are key components to ensure your pet’s care is a positive and safe experience for all involved. Follow these tips to ensure a smooth veterinary experience: 

  • Decrease stress by familiarizing yourself with veterinary clinic operations, including our AEC hospital.
  • Schedule wellness visits with your family veterinarian three to four weeks in advance.
  • Know your financial options and consider purchasing pet insurance like Trupanion to ensure funds are available for your pet’s required care.  
  • Speak with your veterinarian about telehealth options for non-urgent pet concerns.
  • When possible, fill out hospital paperwork in advance of your appointment to decrease your wait time. 
  • Learn what constitutes a veterinary emergency vs. a non-urgent medical concern. This will help decrease the time emergency veterinary team spend with non-emergency cases.  
  • Call our AEC office as soon as possible if you experience an emergency, so our team can prepare for your pet. 

Our AEC team understands the stress of waiting for your pet to receive emergency medical care and we work tirelessly to ensure a smooth emergency veterinary care experience. Contact AEC if your pet gets into trouble after hours or if your family veterinarian is not available. We are here 24 hours a day to care for your pet. #AECprevents


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