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 Kootenay International Junior Hockey League met for their AGM and announced a number of new initiatives, new awards and changes in their executive committee, as well as the starting date for the 2021-22 season. Paul Rodgers file.
KIJHL announces start dates for 2021-22 season

Season set to begin Oct. 1 with league still following all health guidelines

Some of the priorities that the GDCF is hoping to touch on in their surveys that will inform community priorities. (GDCF photo)
Golden Community Foundation encouraging residents to participate in survey

It’s a new project to inform community priorities in the coming year

The Independent Investigations Office of BC is looking into a Castlegar incident. File photo
Police watchdog investigating Castlegar incident

IIO: Woman sustained a reportedly self-inflicted injury

The Aquatic Centre at Western Financial Place.
Cranbrook Aquatic Center to close temporarily

The annual shutdown of the Aquatic Center at Western Financial Place will begin earlier than scheduled this year and does not have a defined end date at this time.

The latest EKASS survey confirms a steady decline in substance use among EK youth over the years. (image compilation via Pixabay)
Latest survey shows steady decline in adolescent substance use over the years

Starting in 2002, the survey has been conducted every two years to monitor changes in substance use patterns, attitudes and behaviors amongst East Kootenay youth.

Singer-songwriter Jann Arden is pictured with a draft horse. (Canadian Horse Defence Coalition)
Jann Arden backs petition to stop live horse export

June 14 is the International Day to End Live Export of Animals

(Dave Ogilvie photo)
One injured after being pinned by fallen forklift near Peachland

West Kelowna emergency crews responded to reports of a person stuck under a forklift

Penticton Overdose Prevention Society co-founders Desiree Franz, Shane Surowski and Stephanie Lines have created the city’s first unsanctioned public overdose prevention site using an old wine-tour bus. The site began operations in June 2021. (Desiree Franz/Facebook)
Volunteers launch Penticton’s first public supervised injection site

2021 is on pace to be the deadliest year for overdoses in Penticton on record

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

B.C. ambulance station in Revelstoke is expected to get a new system called the Scheduled On-Call (SOC) this fall. (Liam Harrap - Revelstoke Review)
B.C. ambulance changes could put Revelstoke residents at risk, warn local paramedics

Paramedics said to expect a substantial increase in ambulance response time starting this fall

B.C. ambulance station in Revelstoke is expected to get a new system called the Scheduled On-Call (SOC) this fall. (Liam Harrap - Revelstoke Review)
B.C. ambulance changes could put Revelstoke residents at risk, warn local paramedics

Paramedics said to expect a substantial increase in ambulance response time starting this fall

This goose family went for a leisurely stroll down Vernon’s Main Street Saturday, April 25. (Dave Deshane photo)
Controversial Vernon goose cull won’t fly this year

Necessary permit procedures held up at a federal level

Mounties cover a burgundy truck with a tent at Buckerfields in West Kelowna on Monday, June 14. The RCMP is investigating after a woman’s body was found inside the truck. (Amandalina Letterio/Capital News)
West Kelowna RCMP investigating suspicious death after body found in truck

Police responded to a truck parked out front of a Main Street business where the body was found

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

Most Read