Local veterinary clinics are feeling the pressure brought on by a pandemic-related pet boom, causing a backlog of clients and staff to feel burnt-out. (Corey Bullock/Cranbrook Townsman File)

Local veterinary clinics are feeling the pressure brought on by a pandemic-related pet boom, causing a backlog of clients and staff to feel burnt-out. (Corey Bullock/Cranbrook Townsman File)

B.C. veterinarians facing intense pressure from pandemic pet boom

One Cranbrook clinic gets an average of 500 calls per day

Over the past year and a half of pandemic life, people across North America have turned to their pets for comfort, exercise and companionship. Many people spent the first few months of the pandemic welcoming a new furry family member to their bubble.

Veterinary clinics in rural areas have felt the pressure of this pandemic-related pet boom. Issues that were already taking place in the industry have been compounded. Clinics are under-staffed, over-worked and taking on more clients than they can handle.

Andrew Skaien, Director of Administration with Steeples Veterinary Clinic in Cranbrook, says there’s an industry-wide squeeze taking place that is affecting clinics.

“Right now there is extra pressure on primary care facilities. This issue is fairly unique to our area because in places like Calgary, for example, they have big, 24-hour emergency care facilities,” Skaien said. “Those types of facilities just don’t exist here, so the pressure falls on our smaller, primary care clinics.”

He adds that since the beginning of the pandemic, there has been a massive pet boom which means demand for veterinary services goes up.

Approximately 12.6 million U.S. households got a new pet in 2020, according to a COVID-19 pulse study by the American Pet Products Association.

Both Skaien and Dr. Ruth Sawatsky speculated that there could be a number of reasons for the boom in pets.

“It could be that more people are spending time at home, giving them the opportunity to train new puppies or spend time with new kittens,” Skaien said.

“People have also spent more time with the pets that they had before the pandemic, so they may be noticing things that they didn’t before,” Dr. Sawatsky explained.

Jeff Cooper, Practice Manager with Tanglefoot Veterinary Services in Cranbrook, agrees that everyone feels the pressure of being short staffed right now.

Tanglefoot recently hired a new vet, and one of their technicians has agreed to a full-time position once their practicum is over. The clinic has also put out a call to hire another veterinarian.

They have also called in reinforcement; vets from other clinics in the area have offered to help with emergency services as clinics try to stay afloat on the amount of calls coming in.

Cooper says Tanglefoot’s call volumes have increased exponentially, leading them to hire more front-desk staff, too.

“We looked at the schedule and thought how can we help our community? We are so grateful to have the support of these other vets and the support of our community. It’s really amazing,” said Cooper. “But we have to make sure our staff doesn’t get burnt out. We want to be there for the community as well, but we have to find that balance.”

Skaien explained that at Steeples, their front desk receives around 500 calls per day.

“Our calls have gone up exponentially. I recently checked our records and they showed an average of 500 calls within a nine hour day,” he said. “That’s one call per minute, every minute. Within the first 20 minutes of opening — we have 50 calls come through.”

Skaien says that the pandemic is only part of the reason clinics are feeling this pressure. Another factor is a lack of professional veterinary programs.

“The solution is to hire more vets, but there’s such a shortage. Add to that the fact that there are not enough veterinary programs here, so there aren’t enough graduates going into the industry.”

Clinics in Kimberley, Cranbrook and surrounding areas are able to offer medical services to all kinds of animals. Whether it’s your dog, cat, horse, pig, chicken or cow, the vets in this area are constantly responding to emergencies, while also ensuring their regular, non-emergency patients are cared for as well.

READ: COVID-19 restart plan welcome but B.C. couple postpones wedding again

READ: Indoor dining, up to 5 home visitors allowed in B.C. COVID-19 restart

Both Tanglefoot and Steeples are currently booking four to six weeks out for non-emergency visits, depending on the severity of the situation.

“We’re currently booking four to six weeks out, depending on the urgency of the case. People need to know that they might have to wait a little longer for an appointment, or wait a little longer in the parking lot for us to come get their pets,” said Cooper. “We’re absolutely doing the best we can, but we also need to set priorities. If your dog has an appointment for a check-up but someone comes in because their dog just got hit by a car — emergencies take priority. It happens; emergencies happen. Not once a month, but daily.”

Dr. Sawatsky says that staff, technicians and veterinarians are doing everything they can.

“We just ask that people are patient, kind and polite,” Sawatsky said.

Skaien felt similarly, “it has been a rough year and a half for everyone in this industry. Our staff are sometimes dealing with frustrated customers and we really need to ask for patience and understanding.”

Cooper felt the same, echoing the now-famous words of Dr. Bonnie Henry to be kind, be calm and be safe.

“All vets are in the same boat right now,” Cooper said. “We’re doing our upmost to make sure everyone’s animals are safe and cared for. So all I ask, is to be kind.”



corey.bullock@cranbrooktownsman.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

BC Green Party leader and Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau introduced a petition to the provincial legislature on Thursday calling for the end of old-growth logging in the province. (File photo)
Cowichan Valley MLA Furstenau introduces old-growth logging petition

BC Green Party calls for the end of old-growth logging as protests in Fairy Creek continue

The city-owned lot at 361 St. Julien St., which has been home to a temporary homeless site for more than a year, will be sold and plans are to build a three-storey mixed-use development there, Peter de Verteuil, Duncan CAO explained at a recent council meeting. (File photo)
New development planned for homeless site in Duncan

Lot on St. Julien Street would see three-storey building

Historian and longtime Citizen columnist T.W. Paterson photographs the historical wreckage of a plane on Mount Benson. Paterson recently won an award from the British Columbia Historical Foundation. (Submitted)
Cowichan’s Tom W. Paterson wins award for historical writing

British Columbia Historical Federation hands Recognition Award to local writer

This electric school bus is the newest addition to the Cowichan Valley School District’s fleet. (Submitted)
Editorial: New electric school bus good place to start

Changing public transit like buses to electric really is important.

CVRD to increase enforcement after audits reveal that curb-side recycling contamination in the district is well above acceptable limits. (File photo)
CVRD reports contamination in recyclables well above acceptable levels

Increased enforcement planned starting this summer

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth and Attorney General David Eby attend opening of the first government-run B.C. Cannabis Store, Kamloops, Oct. 19, 2018. (B.C. government)
B.C. government to allow home cannabis delivery starting July 15

Added convenience expected to persuade buyers to ‘go legal’

The first suspension bridge is the tallest in Canada, with a second suspension bridge just below it. The two are connected by a trail that’s just over 1 km. (Claire Palmer photo)
PHOTOS: The highest suspension bridges in Canada just opened in B.C.

The Skybridge in Golden allows visitors to take in views standing at 130 and 80 metres

B.C. Premier John Horgan leaves his office for a news conference in the legislature rose garden, June 3, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. premier roasted for office budget, taxing COVID-19 benefits

Youth addiction law that triggered election hasn’t appeared

BC Ferries’ newest Island Class vessel is experiencing an issue with one of its thrusters off the Algerian coast. Photo courtesy patbaywebcam.com.
BC Ferries newest vessel having mechanical issues in Mediterranean

Island 4 will be repaired in Spain before crossing Atlantic

A vial containing the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is shown at a vaccination site in Marcq en Baroeul, outside Lille, northern France, Saturday, March 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Michel Spingler
mRNA vaccines ‘preferred’ for all Canadians, including as 2nd dose after AstraZeneca: NACI

New recommendations prioritizes Pfizer, Moderna in almost all cases

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum speaks at a press conference in August 2019 about provincial government approval of the city’s change to a municipal force, joined by councillors (from left) Mandeep Nagra, Allison Patton and Doug Elford. Members of the National Police Federation claim there is still no transition plan in place although Surrey RCMP’s contract with the city is due to end March 31.(File photo)
Elections BC approves petition application for referendum on Surrey policing transition

Application was filed under Recall and Initiative Act by the widow of a Surrey murder victim

There were 255 babies born in Victoria in May 2021. (Black Press Media file photo)
Pandemic baby boom makes for a busier Vancouver Island Father’s Day

Victoria’s 255 babies born in May up almost 10 per cent over last year

Queen’s counsel Paul Doroshenko, a Vancouver lawyer, has been suspended from practice for two months after admitting that his firm mismanaged $44,353.19 in client trust funds. (Acumen Law)
High-profile B.C. lawyer suspended over $44K in mismanaged client trust funds

Queen’s counsel Paul Doroshenko admits he failed to supervise his staff and find or report the shortages

Most Read