The Demand for Veterinary Services Post COVID-19
Joey, a friendly Boxer, owned by one of our Doctor’s parents, was having a serious issue and needed to see a veterinarian right away. The only problem was, the pet and parents lived three hours from LVC. Help from their local veterinary community would be required for this particular issue. Many, many phone calls were made to local veterinary hospitals with the response always the same, “Sorry, we are not seeing new patients at this time.” Fortunately for the family member in question, they had enough local contacts to ultimately find a hospital that would fit them in. Between consultation with their veterinarian daughter and veterinary staff in their hometown, Joey is doing well.
The Need for Vet Services Surges
So, what is going on? How is it that a member of a rural community needs to call five hospitals and have “strings pulled” before their pet, with an obvious medical need, is seen? Unfortunately, this experience is all too common. As the world slowly recovers from COVID-19, it appears that the need for veterinary services is at an all time high and caseloads are unprecedented. Suburban Kennett Square and Longwood Veterinary Center are no exception.
The question is, what is driving the increase in the number of office visits, new patients, and demand for veterinary services post COVID-19? The answer is likely multifactorial in nature. It is well known that adoptions of cats and dogs increased in 2020 and 2021. The actual increase in adoptions varied among different regions in the country but the ASPCA estimates 1 in 5 American households welcomed a new pet during the pandemic. That accounts for nearly 23 million homes! Spending more time working from home made pet owners more aware of problems their pets may be having. While many households struggled financially during the pandemic, other households saw less of an economic impact. They realized less money spent on entertainment, dining and travel expenses, meant more finances available for routine or emergency medical care for their pets.
Pet Hospitals Full to the Brim
Regardless of the reason, veterinary hospitals are packed. At Longwood Veterinary Center routine appointments are booking weeks in advance, this includes routine surgeries and dental cleanings as well. Coupled with this we find ourselves seeing multiple sick appointments per day and emergency slots are filled almost immediately. We realize waiting weeks for an appointment is inconvenient and frustrating. We understand that dropping your pet off to allow us to work their emergency condition into our schedule only adds to your worry. It’s a delicate balance to provide quality, convenient care for both established clients and new pet owners, possibly desperate to have their pet seen by someone…anyone.
What are we doing to improve this situation? The answer is again multifactorial. Many of our doctors and staff are working more shifts. This allows us to have one extra doctor seeing cases every morning. Those extra four hours make a huge difference. We have also hired several new staff members and a new doctor will be welcomed to our hospital in September. More to come on our recent and future hires. We have also added several competent and compassionate relief veterinarians to our roster. We have been pleased with their medical expertise and commitment to Longwood’s core values and mission. Will things ever go back to normal? Only time will tell. Will we do our very best to provide excellent care for your animals, will we continue to show you kindness and respect and do the right thing for your pets, our staff and the community? Absolutely.