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Veterinarian shortage causing long wait times

vets having a hard time meeting demand of pet owners
vets having a hard time meeting demand of pet owners
Published: Jun. 23, 2022 at 1:18 PM EDT
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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA) - Getting your pets to the veterinarian clinic has become harder and harder these days. You want them to receive the best care possible, but your vet is all booked or not accepting new patients.

William Chastain, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, is a co-owner of Aboite Animal Hospital in Fort Wayne. He says part of the issue came along with COVID shutting things down and making vets re-evaluate their current jobs, but also more people became pet owners during that time.

“We were limited for a little while in the capacity to serve and so it put us behind a little bit on that,” Chastain said. “It was also an interesting time when people were quarantined and they adopted pets which obviously has been great for our industry and what we like to see, but now we have a problem of providing.”

There are only 32 veterinary medical schools in the United States, according to the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges, and while Chastain says the graduating classes are getting larger, it still hasn’t met the current demand, meaning new pet owners might have to find somewhere else to go.

“It’s hard to accept new clients because we try to prioritize our current clients and make sure we can get them in for their needs and we feel like we’re putting them off more than we’d want to.”

Part of the solution? More clinics. Northern Indiana Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Hospital, or “NIVES,” is opening a new urgent clinic on Saturday, June 25. Dawn Slessman with the clinic says COVID is when it became apparent, they needed to do something.

“When everyone started staying at home with their pets during COVID, it became more and more important that those family members get the proper care that they needed and we’ve been overwhelmed over the past few years. Urgent care is a huge need for those animals who aren’t in critical life-threatening situations, but need attention when their primary is closed,” Slessman says.

So in the mean time, pet owners are encouraged to talk with their vets about alternative ways to help their animals, which in turn can help ease the burden on both owners and clinics. This can include things like sending photos or videos to your vet, if they accept them, to see if the pet needs to be seen right away or if it can wait.

Chastain says it’s up to schools to provide quality candidates, but vets should be more of a teacher to students, giving them the chance to see what it’s like to be a veterinarian, with the hope it can attract more vets in the future and keep them in the field.

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