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Taylor Diorec, practice manager at the College Village Animal Clinic, said the phone “won’t stop ringing” in her Anchorage office.
They add callers to an appointment waiting list, which they think works fine internally – but not always from the customer’s perspective.
“When they have a sick pet and have to get on board, it’s frustrating for them,” said Diorec.
Your team is not alone. Veterinary offices and animal hospitals in Anchorage say they are overwhelmed by residents who want their pets to be seen by a specialist – an issue being felt nationally, according to the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. Some people book appointments for their pets weeks or even months in advance, from annual checkups to routine cleanings.
“It’s just one of those juggling acts that we keep doing over and over again,” said Diorec.
Dianne Haddox brought her 7-year-old Basset Hound lab mix Archie for his annual College Village exam on Friday, which she booked more than four weeks ago.
Archie “is a terrible garbage dog. He has to go to the vet a lot and they usually can’t bring him in, ”said Haddox. “I usually end up in the emergency room or with another vet if it’s quick. That being said, the last time they put me on a waiting list, called and squeezed me in. “
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There are several factors that have contributed to what Diorec calls a “big storm” around the lack of availability in clinic plans. The clinics were busy before the pandemic, but customers could still get in – though it was difficult to find staff due to a national shortage of veterinarians, she said.
Then the pandemic began and clinics began offering roadside appointments, making staffing difficult as the process takes longer.
Many people were simultaneously adopting pets in a “COVID-19 pet boom,” which only made the problem worse. Diorec said appointments for annual exams are booked through August.
“We have great customers who understand how hard and difficult it is right now,” said Diorec. “But then there are other people too who are desperately trying to get in and they called six clinics and no one can see them and they end up … and they are not that nice.”
Animal emergency admissions are usually more expensive than clinics, which puts an additional burden on pet owners.
Dr. Ashley Harmon of Anchorage PET Emergency Treatment recently wrote in a statement in the Daily News that veterinarians were ordered to stop all elective procedures at the onset of the pandemic, including neutering, neutering, teeth cleaning and bulk removals. That created a waiting list, she said, and the number of cases at the pet emergency room has “increased exponentially,” which has also increased the stress on the people who work there.
“We skip lunch, stay late, and do our best to meet every pet’s needs,” wrote Harmon.
James Schmidt, the practice manager at Veterinary Specialists of Alaska in Anchorage, said they got calls from people trying to make appointments for services they don’t offer. Her office specializes in animal dermatology and operations for conditions such as tibial fractures.
“The surgical team, the front-line staff, the dermatology staff … now work 14 or more hours a day. They will stick with it – and they are exhausted – but they do it for the animals, ”said Schmidt. “It sounds like a line in a movie, but I’m not kidding.”
Similar to clinics in the city, operations are fully booked until the beginning of August, said Schmidt. Before COVID-19, customers could enter within two weeks.
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“It’s difficult,” said Schmidt. “This crew really wants to help, and they can’t. It’s really hard. “
Some Anchorage residents have sought help for their animals outside of the city. It takes Misha Daniels about 45 minutes to drive from her home to the Palmer Veterinary, where she has been taking her 8-year-old bulldog Otto with her since April 2020.
Even so, she said it was better to sit in her car at an Anchorage veterinary office and not know when to see a doctor.
Daniels was told last year that she would have to wait six hours for her dog to be seen at her regular veterinary office in Anchorage, where she has been going for over 20 years. At the time, Daniels had a 3 week old baby and was recovering from a caesarean section.
“I was kind of baffled. … I called everywhere, many vets just closed, ”said Daniels. “Many only took in known patients.”
She was finally able to get an appointment at Palmer Veterinary.
“You’re just so cute and great with my poor, scared, itchy bulldog,” Daniels said.
But dr. Kelly Campbell, owner and chief vet at Palmer Veterinary, said the Valley clinics are as lengthy as those in Anchorage, and trying to keep everyone happy is a balancing act.
“If you have to wait sometimes, it’s not because we don’t care – it’s because another pet might die somewhere in the building that needs priority,” Campbell said.