Ontario Pet Owners Struggle Finding Pet Care Due To Vet Shortages

When one of Sarah Bennett’s Great Danes suffered a minor injury while playing at the neighborhood dog park last year, the vet told her it was nothing a few stitches wouldn’t fix not.

But no one at the clinic was available to do it, so Bennett had to take care of the cut herself.

“It’s something I’ve adapted to over the last few years,” Bennett told CBC Toronto.

The clinic she’s taken her dogs to for the past seven years was also open 24 hours a day, giving her peace of mind if she had a problem with her pets. But now it’s only open eight hours a day.

Stories like Bennett’s are becoming more common in Ontario Veterinarians and veterinary clinic owners across the province say they’re facing staffing shortages in part because of growing demand from the pandemic.

A cut suffered by one of Sarah Bennett’s Great Danes at the dog park is pictured here. It just needed a few stitches, but Bennett had to deal with it herself after her vet clinic turned her away. (Submitted by Sarah Bennett)

“We’ve seen a huge increase in pet ownership over the past few years, especially since the start of the pandemic when people found themselves at home and looking for comfort,” said Dr. Matthew Richardson, president-elect of the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association. .

“Like human medicine, we view vets as frontline workers and they experience higher than normal rates of burnout.”

He says five years ago it was possible to bring your pet in for non-emergency care the same day, or possibly the next day. Now, he says, people are waiting longer. Even emergency clinics struggle to keep up with and rely on case triage.

“It can be a real challenge and a stressful experience,” Richardson said.

Some vets say they are exhausted after dealing with an influx of clients who have obtained pets to help them through the pandemic. (Ontario Veterinary College)

Dr. Scott Bainbridge, veterinarian and clinic owner, says he has first-hand experience with burnout.

“I walked in here this morning, two ERs in the back exam room, both have oxygen, my vets are full,” Bainbridge said in an interview at Dundas West Animal Hospital, the clinic that he owns in the West End. Toronto.

“There are no empty appointments at the clinic here today and I know we’re all going to be trying to fit things in,” he said.

Bainbridge says to book a general exam now, customers wait three to four weeks. He says he can no longer take new patients because his workload is too heavy.

Dr. Scott Bainbridge, a veterinarian and co-owner of Dundas West Animal Hospital in Toronto, says he knows burnout in his profession firsthand. (Martin Trainor/CBC)

He says clinics are also struggling to retain staff and he thinks the internet is playing a part in that.

“We’re often under the microscope. If you read some of the Google reviews for my colleagues, it can get pretty nasty there,” he said.

Vet schools need more students, says vet

There are five veterinary schools in Canada. A total of 350 veterinarians graduate each year from these institutions. Only one is in Ontario, graduating up to 120 students each year.

“It’s probably not enough to keep up. We need to have more students graduating from veterinary schools across Canada,” Richardson said.

But he says increasing the number of students admitted to veterinary schools is not an immediate solution and pet owners can expect to see more care through telemedicine.

Bainbridge said the College of Veterinary Medicine should also look for people who have immigrated to Canada and have worked in veterinary medicine before.

“We have tons of international veterans dying for jobs in Canada right now and the restrictions on them getting their license in Canada right now is ridiculous,” he said.

Only about 100 vets graduate in Ontario each year. (Lyndsay Duncombe/CBC)

“I really think they could… make it easier for international vets to get licensed here and help solve the problem.”

The college says that over the past year, about 50% of the 363 licenses it has issued have been to internationally trained veterinarians.

He says he has created initiatives to ensure that more vets from other countries can work in this country, including a restrictive license that allows someone to practice under the supervision of another vet while preparing for exams.

The college says it is also trying to find a way to certify vets in a specific skill, instead of forcing them all to have a general license.

“We have been looking at various avenues now and for several years to ensure the skills are put to good use,” said Jan Robinson, Registrar and CEO of the College of Veterinarians of Ontario.

“Do we still have work to do? The answer is yes. Are we on it? The answer is yes “,

Meanwhile, as the province’s vet shortage continues, Bennett has launched a homemade first aid kit for his Great Danes.

The kit includes glue for the skin, as well as various bandages and ointments for the lighter wounds for which it has already been refused.

“It must be catastrophic to get into the emergency vet. Otherwise we wait four, five, six hours,” she said.

“And that’s awkward sometimes.”

Boyd S. Abbott