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

The ‘official’ opening of 2nd Edition Coworking in downtown Fernie, a project five years in the making by the Fernie Chamber of Commerce. Left to right: Executive Director of the Fernie Chamber Brad Parsell, incoming President of the Fernie Chamber Norm Fraser, outgoing President of the Fernie Chamber Anita Palmer, and Mayor of Fernie Ange Qualizza. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)
Fernie Chamber cuts the ribbon on 2nd Edition

The new coworking space in Fernie is now ‘officially’ open, but has been operating since early 2021

Residents line up outside the Vernon Recreation Complex for their COVID-19 vaccine Saturday, June 5. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
No appointments necessary for first dose COVID-19 vaccine: Interior Health

People can just show up at clinics, register on the spot and get the shot

Sparwood Mayor David Wilks with the new AED SaveStation installed at the Sparwood Leisure Centre. (Contributed by District of Sparwood)
Sparwood installs public AED

The SaveStation was installed thanks to a grant from CP Rail

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry on Thursday, June 10, mentioned Grand Forks among two other COVID “hot spots” in B.C. Photo: Screenshot - YouTube COVID-19 BC Update, June 10, 2021
PHO Henry says West Kootenay city is a COVID ‘hot spot’ in B.C.

There are 11 cases of COVID-19 in the Grand Forks local health area, according the BC CDC

(File)
“Gift card scam,” and “grandparent scam” are on the rise, Cranbrook RCMP say

Folks are falling for these scams: “No Government agency or reputable company will ever ask anyone to pay with gift cards in lieu of their fines”

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

Most Read