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Veterinary Emergency Hospitals backed up due to COVID

Veterinarians say staff shortage and limited space are no match for their increasingly growing caseloads.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — If you're struggling to get your pet in to see the vet, especially in the case of an emergency, you aren't alone.

Veterinary clinics and hospitals across the country are reporting long waits due to overbooking, a shortage of staff, and a lack of space. 

A reason for this, in large part, is the pandemic. 

Dr. Heather Sacks is a veterinarian in Buffalo and chief of staff at Nickle City Animal Hospital and says she and her team are exhausted just trying to keep up with their increasing case load. 

"Too many people are trying to get in with their pets," Dr. Sacks says. "There's all these COVID pets and people are home with their pets more, noticing illnesses and little things that they're trying to get in for."

While more observant pet owners are a great thing, Dr. Sacks says, the problem now is that too many owners are calling emergency clinics and services for minor routine concerns to avoid long wait times. 

"I was just talking to the Veterinary Emergency Group. Last year, they had 300 calls a night on average. Right now, they're at the same time last year, now they're at 900 calls a night," Dr. Sacks says. 

Where as people should be taking their pets into day clinics, they are now clogging up ER clinics and as a result major cases are backed up and sometimes untreated. 

"People without primary providers are calling emergency clinics for regular things that are routine that normally they would never see," Dr. Sacks explains. 

When it comes to calling for emergency services, Dr. Sacks says reach out in the case of: dog or cat fights, urinary blockages, respiratory issues, open wounds, broken bones, and/or signs of distress.

As for the majority of other concerns, including mild infections and allergy issues, Dr. Sacks encourages owners to schedule a telemedicine appointment or if possible wait those couple weeks for a scheduled visit.