Why is my Vet’s Office so Busy?

If you are a pet parent, you’ve likely noticed that there is a much longer wait to get in to see your vet than in pre-pandemic days. When your pet is in need of veterinary care, it can be frustrating to have to wait days or even weeks to see your pet’s doctor. This issue is not isolated to your local vet; pet owners across the country are experiencing similar circumstances. So, why is my veterinarian so busy? Let’s explore some of the causes for this shift in the availability of veterinary care.

Adoption numbers increased during COVID. The shift to working at home throughout the pandemic led to an increase in animal adoptions as people had more time to spend with their pets. The need for companionship during quarantine may also have also contributed to an increase in adoption numbers. While this was excellent news for homeless animals and rescue organizations, this means that there are more pets per veterinarian in need of medical care. In fact, it is estimated that by 2030 there will be 15,000 fewer veterinarians than are necessary to provide care for every pet.

The need for companionship and the ability to work from home may have contributed to the acquisition of new pets during the pandemic. 

Owners are “catching up” on routine care that was missed during the pandemic. As the country struggled to control the spread of COVID 19, many people were unable to visit their vets or chose to stay home to reduce the risk of COVID exposure.

There is a nationwide shortage of veterinarians and veterinary support staff. Vet clinics around the country are feeling the strain. There are just not enough vets and veterinary professionals to accommodate the number of animals requiring care. SPCA Tampa Bay Veterinary Center actively recruits and trains people who are interested in Veterinary Medicine, and our team is working diligently to ensure that we have adequate doctors and trained support staff to meet our community’s needs.

Compassion fatigue and burnout are pervasive, prompting veterinary professionals to leave the field. The increased number of patients and decrease in availability of veterinary professionals has also exacerbated these pre-existing issues. The veterinary field can be very emotionally and physically challenging, and being chronically overworked and understaffed only intensifies the struggles faced by those in the field. The situation is difficult for clients and staff, alike, so please bear this in mind when communicating with your vet staff.

So, what can you do as a pet owner during these difficult times?

Schedule routine appointments well in advance. If you know that your pet will be due in a couple of months for their annual exam and vaccines, call and get on the books now. If you need to cancel, call and let the vet staff know as soon as possible so that the appointment can be offered to another pet. If we are unable to see your pet in a timely manner, we will refer you to another veterinary care provider that we trust.

Bentley and his dad patiently await their turn at SPCA Tampa Bay Veterinary Center. We greatly appreciate our clients’ understanding during this challenging time. 

Please be kind! We understand that it can be very stressful when your pet requires medical attention and there is an extended wait period for appointments. Please know that our staff is committed to offering the best quality care to each animal that visits the Vet Center. Please treat our staff with kindness, patience, and understanding, as circumstances leading to extended wait times are out of their control.

For more information on services provided by SPCA Tampa Bay Veterinary Center, visit https://spcatampabay.org/veterinary-center/ or call 727-220-1770 to speak with a Client Care Specialist.

About the Author: Dr. Cynthia Mitchell, SPCA Tampa Bay’s Chief Veterinary Officer, currently oversees medical operations for SPCA Tampa Bay. She has been a Florida resident since 2019, primarily working to develop shelter medicine programs and people development. Prior to that, she was in Southern California, where she was the Chief Medical Officer and VP of Shelter Medicine for San Diego Humane Society and SPCA.