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

Forty sled dogs were seized by the BC SPCA from a Salmo kennel in February. A recent ruling has decided the dogs won’t be returned. Photo: Gounsil/Flickr
BC Farm Industry Review Board rules against Salmo kennel after 40 sled dogs seized

Spirit of the North Kennels was also ordered to pay BC SPCA $64,000

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

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

SD20 now has an electric bus. Photo: Submitted
Kootenay-Columbia School District 20 adds electric bus to fleet

Bus will be incorporated into Castlegar route for next school year

Cougars who kill pets are a potential threat to humans, Conservation Officer Kyle Bueckert said. File photo
Wildlife officials stymied after West Kootenay cougar sighting posted only to Facebook

Conservation Officers are reminding the public to phone RAPP-line when they spot dangerous wildlife

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

Denmark’s Christian Eriksen receives medical attention after collapsing during the Euro 2020 soccer championship group B match between Denmark and Finland at Parken stadium in Copenhagen, Saturday, June 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, Pool)
Denmark soccer player Christian Eriksen collapses during game against Finland

Eriksen was given chest compressions after collapsing on the field during a European Championship

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps off Vancouver Island

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced it had located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he feels a connection with the former students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
2 sides of the same coin: Ex-foster kids identify with residential school survivors

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip says the child welfare system takes Indigenous children from their families

Nathan Watts, a member of the Tseshaht First Nation near Port Alberni, shares his story of substance use, a perspective he said isn’t seen enough. (Photo courtesy of Nathan Watts)
Public shaming, hate perpetuates further substance use: UVic researcher

Longtime addict Nathan Watts offers a user’s perspective on substance use

57-year-old Kathleen Richardson was discovered deceased in her home Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Her death is considered a homicide and connected to the slain brothers found on a Naramata forest road. (Submitted)
Condolences pour in for Kathy Richardson, Naramata’s 3rd homicide victim in recent weeks

Richardson was well liked in the community, a volunteer firefighter with a home-based salon

A person receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
More than 75% of B.C. adults have 1st dose of COVID vaccine

The federal government has confirmed a boost in the Moderna vaccine will be coming later this month

Airport ground crew offload a plane carrying just under 300,000 doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine which is developed by the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies at Pearson International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
1st batch of Johnson & Johnson vaccines won’t be released in Canada over quality concerns

The vaccines were quarantined in April before they were distributed to provinces

Most Read