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Help your vet help your pet

Why can’t I get in to see my vet?

We have plenty of veterinarians in our local area, but pets are having trouble getting seen lately. It all started back in March when COVID-19 was first becoming a household word.
Pets don’t need to worry about catching COVID-19 and should never wear a mask because it restricts their ability to pant, but they have seen the effects of COVID-19

To start with, there are a lot more pets.

People decided they had time for a pet, or a pet might keep the children entertained so the parents could work and we know pets make great companions to help ease the extra stress that we all feel.

All these adoptions were great for the shelter pets that needed homes! However, they were not so great when folks had no clue what they were getting into.

Even pets that were already in the home spent more time with their owners and strengthened the human-animal bond.

More time at home meant there were many more human-animal interactions. More pet petting meant lumps and bumps were found sooner. Some quite normal things were found for the first time, like the tiny nipples on a male pet and the lateral mandibular frenulum (those little pads where the canine teeth touch the jaw).

More time at home also meant there was more accidental poisonings. Human medicine was dropped, baking items were left out, trash had delightful items and more recreational drugs were ingested. Poison control and emergency clinics have had banner months.

More time at home also meant less running around, less gas money, less eating out, less shopping and possibly less money spent. This meant that there was now money available for the necessary pet care that had been put off.

Meanwhile, your Labrador Retriever may be ecstatic that you are home more, the family cat may wish you and the kids would go back to work and school. Upsetting the routine is a stress for people and pets. Stress causes injuries and diseases.

More time playing with pets means more injuries. Remember throw the ball over the pet and away so they have to run forward. Planting, twisting and jumping up are the recipe for a cruciate tear. Even falling off the bed can lead to a fractured leg.

Remember back in the beginning of all this and we couldn’t do anything that wasn’t an emergency?

All those pets added to a backlog of pets that were being seen.
Before all this started, vets were scheduled and staffed for a reasonable number of pets and people. Then they weren’t allowed to see pets for routine things.

When we were allowed to see everything again, there were a normal-to-increased amount of urgent, weeks of overdue things to be worked into an already busy schedule.

Suddenly convenience appointments weren’t really available.
So on the pet side of the equation, there was a huge influx of pets, more human-pet interaction and pets needing catch up care. That is a lot of pets needing veterinary care. This extra demand would have been enough, but it is not all of the equation. Things changed at the veterinary hospital, also.

Whatever form it takes, life is not business as usual.

Curbside service means more employees running in and out and six phone calls where we used to only have one or two. Clients used to keep track of their pets and presented themselves for payment and other traffic flow issues. Now staff has to assist traffic flow.

Even socially distant appointments are not without challenges that affect efficiency and flow. Extra steps must be taken to ensure client, patient and veterinary team safety.

Whatever form it takes, veterinary medicine takes longer to complete the same level of care now.

Communication is a nightmare.

Less face-to-face communications means even more phone calls. There are calls to schedule appointments. Calls to check in. Calls for exam findings. Calls to discuss exam findings. Calls to check out and pay. Calls to refill prescriptions. Calls to go over lab work. Discharge instruction calls and calls to check on patients at home or the hospital.

There were so many calls that we have tried to get more people to text, we have two iPads to do video calls and have discussed a phone tree. We have online forms and prescription requests, but the phones are sometimes difficult to keep up with.

At the same time, veterinary staff are people also.

We have COVID-19 issues just like the rest of the world. Children that are not really in school. Child care that doesn’t work. Family members that get sick or need errands run.

Tests and quarantine for disease that is at a higher level than before. Hiring is more difficult and many want to apply, but do not want a job.

From the veterinary side of the equation: everything takes longer, there is a huge increase in phone calls and we are often short staffed. Early in the pandemic, I coined the phrase inefficiently slammed. We hired college and high school students to get through the intense summer period, but now they need to be back at school.

Remember these veterinary challenges were added to more pets, more human-animal interactions and catchup care. Veterinarians and their teams are very busy right now.

The one thing that has not changed throughout all of this is that we are here for you and your pets. Many times, on my video exam, I will say that I’m not thrilled about one-way communications, but I am very glad that I am allowed to be practicing veterinary medicine.

Across the world, veterinarians are beginning to ask for help. Vet teams are experiencing stress, burn out, exhaustion, more time at work, less family time, less personal time and their own COVID-19 struggles.

What can you do? Bring good energy to your appointment. Be patient, be kind, maybe even be a little grateful.

A good attitude makes everything easier and your pet will respond better to it also.
For the best experience, follow your vet’s guidelines. We are all doing the best we can do.

Calling fifteen times in nine minutes, three minutes after your appointment starts (yes, it has happened) may make you feel better, but it doesn’t help us get your pet through any faster.

Actually, it makes it take longer. By the way, just about all vet teams are at capacity, yelling at staff now, may well put you at the bottom of your new vet’s list to work in.

Check the website, email, text or our Facebook page for info to smooth things along.

Allow ample time for medication refills. Non-emergency appointments may need to be schedule well in advance. Same-day appointments may already be filled. Day admissions may need to be used so the doctor can work in your pet’s care between appointments.

Veterinarian hopping slows efficiency. If you like your vet, see if you cannot work with their schedule before going elsewhere for a single visit. Turning pets away that need care is not what any vet wants to do, but there are limits to human capacity.

We’ll get through this. We’ll get through it together.

We are working on new ways to do things to help, but we need to work together so there is the ability to care for all the pets.

Thank you for your patience, support and help, so we can help your pets and all the pets.

MJ Wixsom, DVM MS is a best-selling Amazon author who practices at Guardian Animal Medical Center in Flatwoods, Ky. GuardianAnimal.com 606-928-6566.