Pet Adoption Spike May Be A Myth, But Vet Overload Isn’t

Any pet owner who waits outside the vet’s office with a whining dog or complaining cat in the back seat is likely to blame their discomfort on new practices instituted by vets due to COVID-19 – and they may be right.

Any pet owner who waits outside the vet’s office with a whining dog or complaining cat in the back seat is likely to blame their discomfort on new practices instituted by vets due to COVID-19 – and they may be right.

They may also believe the myth that more pets have been adopted by bored, homebound families during the pandemic, which has overwhelmed veterinary practices with new patients.

Yes, many who work in a veterinary practice are overwhelmed, and yes, the pandemic is a reason, but there is no evidence to support the idea that many more cats and dogs have been adopted over the past year and a half, according to an Aug. 13 article titled “The COVID-19 Pet Adoption Boom: Has It Really Happened?” of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

The main cause of the office slowdown is a shortage of support staff in Geauga County.

Dr. Shelly Jagers of Countryside Veterinary Service in Middlefield said in a phone interview that the spread of COVID-19 in Geauga County has really increased the pressure on the practice.

“It’s been a crazy, crazy, crazy day here. We’re short on doctors and we’ve had quite a few emergencies,” she said on Dec. 3, explaining why she didn’t have much time for an interview. “We are definitely experiencing a staff shortage at all levels. This has made things very difficult over the past few months.

The AVMA article, by Drs. Matthew Salois and Gail Golab dismissed the more pet-centric narrative, but agreed the pressure on vets and their employees has increased.

Data collected through surveys of thousands of rescue organizations and shelters shows that fewer pets were adopted, but the percentage of animals finding new homes appears to be higher because there were fewer dogs and of cats in these detention areas, according to the article.

“Fewer people have abandoned their pets and animal control has been less active in picking up strays. At the same time, successful sterilization programs have helped reduce populations. Additionally, the share of shelter animals placed in foster homes more than doubled, from 22% in April 2019 to over 46% in April 2020,” said Salois and Golab. “Almost 450,000 fewer animals were adopted in 2020 compared to 2019. The adoption rate – or the percentage of available animals adopted – has increased, but the actual number has dropped significantly.”

This is not the case for veterinarians.

From 2019 to 2020, the average number of appointments made with veterinarians increased by approximately 4.5% and for the first six months of 2021 they increased by approximately 6.5% nationally, according to the article.

But fewer animals were seen per hour due to restrictions that many veterinary offices followed for safety reasons related to COVID-19. The current increase in appointment requests is partly caused by a backlog. Pet owners have been delaying appointments for their regular checkups, minor ailments, non-life-threatening surgeries and injections during months when they may not have felt safe for venture, wrote Salois and Golab.

“Many practices are still trying to catch up with patients who have not been seen in over a year, and our teams are still not working at maximum productivity due to the lingering effects of COVID-19,” they said. .

The stress of sick animals and frantic owners with too few staff can lead to all sorts of problems.

“The stress level is pretty high in our field, nationally,” Jagers said. “The burnout rate in veterinary medicine is very high.”

Across the country, suicide by veterinary staff has increased over the past 10 years, she said, adding that the Countryside office has not been affected in this way.

The nonprofit organization Not One More Vet has been providing emotional support to veterinary professionals since 2014, according to its website.

“It’s a real thing,” Jagers said.

fallout of anxiety

Changes in family dynamics can affect dogs and cats in ways that humans find confusing.

Carol Peter, founder of Cold Nose Companions in Chardon, specializes in helping dogs with separation anxiety.

“I’ve seen it show up in so many ways,” she said in a recent phone interview.

When the pandemic forced students and parents to work from home in 2020, the family dog ​​may not have had too much trouble adjusting to having his entire pack all day, every day.

However, when the schools and workplace reopened and the pack dispersed, leaving the house empty most of the time, it wasn’t the best situation.

“Your dog wasn’t prepared for this,” said Peter, who moved to Colorado after selling his business to trainer Christine Good. She continues to help families overcome new behavioral issues for their pets in Colorado.

“Last summer was very busy,” said Peter. “I’ve done more work on separation anxiety than I’ve ever done before.”

Cats are generally better able to cope with a quieter home, but if they have to be locked up for long periods of time, Lynn Tezak knows how to keep them happy.

The owner of Cats Inn on Kinsman Road in Newbury Township has remodeled the former hair salon to accommodate the needs of around 20 rescued cats, as well as her boarding and grooming business.

Having recently taken in 14 adult cats from the death of an acquaintance, Tezak has herded them into one room, but provides them with structures where they can climb, perch and hide until they are adopted.

“They like to be up high,” she said as she picked up a friendly tiger.

Its boarding cages are the same, with three levels and comfortable nests where cats can wait for their humans to return from vacation or a business trip.

“We do disaster boarding where a family needs to take their pets out of the house,” Tezak said, adding that she takes in cats that need special care due to illness or need time to recover from surgery.

COVID-19 has affected this end of her operation and she doesn’t know how it will turn out.

“I had a big increase in business, but I had an increase in cancellations,” she said.

For example, people were planning to leave their pets with it while they traveled for the holidays, but decided to stay home due to the recent spike in the Omicron variant, Tezak said.

Veterinary practices and pet businesses are being warned by Salois not to rush into decisions as the future of the industry is uncertain.

“Reports of increasing numbers of pet adoptions, coupled with the stress we may be feeling at this time, could cause us to make reactive business decisions that are not in our best interest,” said Golab and him in their article. “What we do know is that productivity has suffered during COVID-19. Let’s look for ways to improve productivity and optimize the resources we have.

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