How to handle the vet shortage if you have a new pet

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A veterinarian makes appointments two months later. Another does not accept new customers until January.

Others have limited their hours or availability for emergency visits.

While many pet owners say they can understand vets have been understaffed and overworked, especially during the pandemic, it is clear that these delays or difficulties in scheduling appointments can be stressful.

Yet these vets say they also care about the community’s four-legged family members and want to help people get the care their pets need.

Here are some tips for pet owners who want to see a veterinarian at a time when appointments are quickly made and other delays persist.

Call your vet now

It might seem obvious, but Delmarva vets say the best way to get a routine wellness appointment is to call early – and expect to mark your calendar for at least a few weeks.

Dr April Reid, a veterinarian and owner of Peninsula Veterinary Services in Long Neck, said her practice sometimes has appointments open in the morning, but even these fill up within minutes.

For more urgent visits, several firms and nonprofits like Brandywine Valley SPCA will keep walk-in appointments available for sick animals. But again, the sooner the pet owner calls, the better.

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If someone is considering adopting another pet, it doesn’t hurt to call their vet now and ask if they have room for that extra patient.

Vets say the key to navigating pet care right now is communication.

Be patient and kind

This one is simple, but also the most common tip.

Vets, technicians and receptionists are under a lot of pressure, and not just because of the workload. Unfortunately, a disrespectful or impatient customer can sometimes disrupt the work environment – an environment already loaded with emotions associated with caring for sick animals.

While people cannot change the behavior of these people, they can be respectful, kind, and patient while the veterinary staff sort out patients and try to see the animals as quickly as possible.

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Even after struggling to get an appointment for her sick dog, Marie Hatkevich, a resident of Rehoboth Beach, said she can understand what vets are facing.

“We have to appreciate our vets,” she said. “I don’t think I could do what they do in the course of a day because not only do they see the puppies, but they see the end. It’s hard work, and I can understand burnout, and I can understand that we get too dispersed.

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Other vets have said that a grateful attitude can go a long way in boosting the morale of vets when they work long hours and see dozens of patients a day.

“It’s amazing how much a simple ‘thank you’ can make all the difference,” said Dr Robin Lefort, veterinarian at Dover.

Don’t delay sterilizing and sterilizing

While spay and neuter surgeries may not seem like a top priority for pet owners, especially when the veterinary system is already overloaded, organizations like Brandywine Valley SPCA are urging people to schedule these appointments.

Linda Torelli, marketing manager at BVSPCA, said people shouldn’t be put off by the backlog of vet appointments, as BVSPCA health clinics statewide can almost always accommodate these sterilization surgeries.

“Our surgical capacity is really good, and for us sterilization is essential obviously for reducing the population of unwanted pets, but also for the health of the animals,” she said. “Spaying helps prevent animal health and behavior problems. “

This is a particularly important reminder as more and more people adopt new or younger pets.

Consider pet insurance

One thing new pet owners don’t always consider is the cost of veterinary services and medications.

Several vets have said pet owners can avoid additional stress by investing in pet insurance to help cover some of the costs, especially unexpected costs when their pet might get sick.

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When tensions can already be high with the delays and challenges of the pandemic, investing in pet insurance can bring another layer of peace to everyone involved, according to Dr Erin Giva, veterinarian and owner of Pets on the Shore in Salisbury.

“He’s another heart breaker,” Giva said. “It’s very difficult not only to make an emotional decision, but when finances come into play, they point to the person they can blame the most, the person giving them the estimate.”

It’s also important to note that emergency hospitals, which are open at night and on holidays, often charge more for their services. Pet insurance can also help cover these additional costs if an emergency hospital is the best option for your pet.

Emily Lytle covers Sussex County from inland towns to beaches. Got a story to tell? Contact her at [email protected] or 302-332-0370. Follow her on Twitter at @ emily3lytle.

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