Wave of COVID pets, employees shortages overwhelm Calgary veterinarians

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Olivia Kondon

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January 26, 2021 • • January 26, 2021 • • 3 minutes read The VCA Care Center staff are looking after a puppy at their Calgary location. This clinic and others around the city have been trying to keep up with the increased demand for pet care amid the pandemic. Photo from supplied image / VCA Care Center

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With thousands of families across the city welcoming new furry family members into their homes during the pandemic, some Calgary veterinarians are overwhelmed with keeping up with the reduced hours and staff.

Dr. Lorenza Malaguti, one of eight full-time emergency and primary care veterinarians at McKnight’s 24-hour Veterinary Hospital, said it wasn’t just more animals in need of care that are overloading the industry.

“It’s multifactorial because definitely more people are adopting, but then we have the problem (COVID) too,” she said. “When we look at it from a bigger perspective, smaller clinics usually have a veterinarian or two. So let’s say this person has a cold and they need to stay home, be tested and quarantined or wait for results, now this person is home so they can I don’t see any more patients. “

“I had to add layers because my doctors were burning out.”

There are approximately 10,000 veterinarians in Canada. Dr. Enid Stiles, president of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, said there were too few veterinarians for the number of pets.


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“It has become a triage of what is most important. Surely these new pets have thrown a wrench in things because Canada is already suffering from a huge shortage of veterinarians, ”said Stiles.

Dr. Danny Joffe, veterinarian at the VCA Care Center and vice president of medical operations at VCA Canada, said their clinics will not turn anyone away and will extend hours as needed to accommodate the public, but it has been difficult.

“We are the same backlog…. Pets are so important and most pet parents demand the same quality of care for their pets that they ask their GP or the doctor they see in case of an emergency, but waiting times can be a little longer, ”he said.

VCA is seeing a 10-20 percent increase in customers from “normal,” and Joffe said he thinks there are a couple of reasons for this.

“On the one hand, many people have adopted pets, and on the other, people are watching their pets more closely because they are at home,” he said. “That little limp that you didn’t notice at all, suddenly you do and they’re under care.”

Longer waits or referrals to other veterinary clinics have become more common, but Joffe said it is important that pet owners don’t get discouraged or hold back in taking their pets to the vet.

“Some customers think that getting to clinics is very difficult, so they leave things that are due, like vaccines and wellness checks, and they shouldn’t,” he said. “We always have to keep an overview, because the best medicine is preventive medicine and wellness.”


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Ranchlands Veterinary Clinic saw appointments increase about 25 percent year over year. The clinic’s director, Sarah Marshalok, said she was concerned about what the pandemic would mean for these animals in the long term.

“I am concerned that the pets will go back to shelters once everyone is back to work,” she said. A view Marshalok shares with many of the city’s animal adoption organizations.

Malaguti said veterinarians’ mental health was another issue that had worsened since the pandemic, but it had been an issue long before COVID-19.

“People are losing jobs, they have no money and on top of that they now have a sick pet and it has taken a huge toll on the vets,” she said. “I don’t even blame people when they walk in and they’re upset … I made people say I could have afforded this 10 months ago but now I’ve lost my job” and it breaks my heart.

“It’s got a tremendous mental load on us and I’ve definitely seen a lot more burnout, a lot more people getting depressed in this profession lately, and it’s been difficult for us too.”

– With files from The Canadian Press


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