In many respects, the COVID-19 epidemic has been beneficial to the pets of the United States. Pet adoption rates have increased over the last year and a half, animal shelters are almost empty, and animal parents are spending more time at home with their pets.
However, for those who offer veterinary care, the situation has been very different.
Veterinary Clinics Are Left Scrambling To Catch Up With Implementation
Early in the epidemic, veterinary personnel were designated as essential workers, but only for the provision of emergency treatment.
According to Wisconsin Public Radio, providers claim that this required them to negotiate tough triage scenarios and resulted in a backlog of non-emergency treatments that clinics are currently working through.
“We’re still playing catch-up, and we’re playing catch-up quite a bit,” said Jo-ell Carson, executive director of the Wisconsin Veterinary Medical Association, on WPR’s “Central Time.”
To explain the increasing demand for veterinary clinics, some have pointed to an increase in the number of pet owners in recent years. However, this is not completely correct. The number of pets adopted from animal shelters in 2020 fell to their lowest level in five years. However, the number of animals taken in also decreased significantly during this time period. The remaining pets were just being adopted at a quicker rate, which accounts for the empty cages.
In their opinion, pet owners, both new and old, were simply paying greater attention to their dogs, seeing lumps, bumps, and symptoms that they had previously overlooked or overlooked completely. She said that a veterinarian office of her size should expect to see sustainable growth of about 20 new pets each month. Her office has already seen 1,058 new pets since April 2020, an average of almost 60 new pets each month. According to a study from the American Pet Products Association, veterinary appointment bookings increased by 4.5 percent in 2020 and are on pace to increase by almost 7 percent in 2021.
However, this increase in revenue is taking place at a time when veterinary clinics are working at decreased capacity in order to comply with COVID-19 safety regulations. “What we’ve observed is that the pandemic has resulted in a significant reduction in our ability to be efficient in our facilities, which has resulted in an increase in the backlog,” Carson said.
According to the study from the organization, productivity will have decreased by 25% in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 procedures. Owners are no longer permitted to accompany their dogs inside certain veterinarian offices. This implies that a veterinarian must spend more time chatting with the pet parent following the initial exam, which increases the amount of time spent on each patient and reduces the number of patients who may be seen in a day.
The number of non-emergency treatments given by clinics was also restricted during the height of the epidemic, including yearly wellness check-ups, vaccines, and spaying or neutering of pets. In turn, this has resulted in backlogs and lengthy wait periods, which may be frustrating for pet owners, but are particularly distressing for the state’s animal shelters.