Animal adoptions on the rise, veterinarians overwhelmed
Faced with exceptionally high traffic and a shortage of workers, veterinary clinics are also having to cut back.
Metrowas able to see the problem by trying to contact several veterinary clinics in Montreal. It was impossible to speak with someone in person to possibly make an appointment. All lines are busy or unavailable.
The veterinary community was already experiencing a shortage of workers before the pandemic, but the arrival of the Omicron variant, coupled with the increase in pet adoptions , exacerbated the situation.
According to a Léger survey published last November, more than half of households (52%) would now house a cat or a dog, a first in Quebec. Up by around 200,000 animals since the start of the pandemic, it is estimated that there are now more or less 3,250,000 in Quebec.
“There are 200,000 more cats and dogs in homes, maybe even more at the moment,” says the communications manager for the Association of Veterinary Physicians of Quebec (AMVQ ) in small animal practice, Michel Pépin.
Many more animals, many more owners, but no more veterinarians
Mr. Pépin underlines that most of this increase comes from the strong growth of cats, present in 36% of households, compared to 31% in January 2020. “You must also take into account the fact that there have been fewer sterilizations, as much in protective societies as in veterinary clinics last year, so there were probably more births and therefore even more animals in circulation”, specifies Mr. Pépin.
The clinics show full everywhere
This increase in adoptions is causing significant delays in veterinary clinics, which are already struggling to find workers. Their time slots are full, says Michel Pépin. “There is a kind of load shedding that has set in over the past few months. When we talk about offloading, we are going to offload vaccines or teeth cleaning, things that are a little less urgent, ”he says.
Some places, like the St-Denis veterinary clinic, n are not accepting new customers at this time. Automatic messages, both on the phone and on the internet, are all similar: appointments are fewer than usual due to high call volume.
In the event of an emergency, we are suggested to contact the animal emergency centers directly, which are open 24 hours a day. Michel Pépin mentions that these places are however also overwhelmed. Wait times can be as long as in human emergency rooms. “It can be several hours,” he said. It's a new phenomenon…”
If a dog has been scratching an ear for two weeks, it is not considered an emergency. It can be seen in three days or in a week. He won't be seen in three months, but he's not going to be the priority.
How to avoid the clinics
Michel Pépin gives some advice to follow to prevent his animal from getting sick and thus not clog veterinary clinics.
- Do not let small problems escalate and still call for advice if in doubt.
- Avoid contact with d other dogs, especially if his dog is behind in his vaccines.
- Do disease prevention, by ensuring that his animal is well fed and avoiding poisoning or intoxication.
- If you adopt an animal, you should immediately start finding a veterinarian, even if it takes a while to see it.
“The message we are trying to convey to send to people is to be lenient and patient with veterinarians. It's really out of our control. We do what we can and we have been working long hours for two years already,” adds Michel Pépin.