You adopted a dog and now you have a furry little bundle of joy in your household. Congratulations! Whether you grew up in a petting zoo or this is your first pup, it’s always rewarding to bask in the warmth of unconditional love that animals can bring into your life.

It’s time to schedule your first vet appointment, so you call a clinic close by only to find that they have nothing available for weeks or even months. You call another one, but they are also booked. You call another. And another and another. . . there are no appointments to be found anywhere in Portland.

Your new fluffy friend needs vaccinations, spay or neuter, and flea treatment- but all that can wait. . . . then one day out of nowhere, you find vomit and diarrhea all over the house. You try all the vets on your list again but they are still full and can’t see you for an urgent visit. 

 

What happened that made it so hard to get primary care?

With the onset of Covid-19 came a huge adoption boom across the country. When people were working from home and rarely seeing friends or family, the number of pets finding their way into new homes skyrocketed. Shelters quickly became empty and I think we can all agree that this was a good thing! It also meant that there were now more pets than doctors, creating an unsustainable amount of pressure on the veterinary industry and leading to a cascade of other problems, such as:

 

  • Veterinary clinics limiting hours or shutting down completely due to Covid, leaving fewer doctors to treat sick patients.

 

  • Many people who adopted were first-time pet owners and unaware of some of the signs and symptoms of serious illness.

 

  • The pet-to-doctor ratio was so high that many doctors and technicians became burned out and left the field or, sadly, committed suicide due to the stress. (Learn more at Not One More Vet.) This is not only one of the most tragic consequences of the country-wide crisis, but it meant even fewer doctors than before.

 

  • Hospitals were at capacity and could only treat the most critical cases, leaving wellness exams on the backburner- including spays, neuters, and vaccinations. This meant more puppies and kittens and more disease, compounding the problem and taking us all back to square one.

 

Almost four years since Covid-19 first shut down the world, the veterinary field is still feeling the ripple effect of the multi-faceted and tragic situation that we have been facing. The good news is that things are slowly getting better. We have more emergency and urgent care hospitals in Portland (that’s us!) to help offset the weight placed on primary vets so they can focus on wellness and preventative care. Owners are becoming more educated in caring for their pets, and there is more awareness around the mental health of veterinary staff. But the weight is still there. There are still wait times to get into primary vets and many emergency hospitals remain at capacity. The climate of veterinary medicine has changed and no one knows when it will return to “normal.” (Whatever that is. . .)

 

How to avoid long wait times for an appointment

By planning ahead, you can reduce or even avoid the frustration of having to wait weeks for a wellness exam. Here are our recommendations for staying on top of pet care:

  1. Schedule an appointment with a primary vet as soon as you adopt. It’s common to expect anywhere from a couple of weeks to a month-long wait time for an appointment in the Portland area, so don’t be surprised if they can’t get you in right away.

      2. If you’re traveling with your pet, don’t wait until the day before you leave to get a health certificate or vaccinations for boarding. Plan ahead to avoid scrambling at the last minute.

     3. Keep up with health issues that require long-term maintenance- even ones that don’t seem urgent, like vaccines and flea/ tick prevention. Don’t wait until you run out of medication or your pet gets sick. Put it on your calendar and don’t miss appointments. This significantly lowers the risk that you’ll need emergency or urgent care in the future.

We hope this offers a little bit of perspective on the crisis that the vet field has been experiencing over the last four years. We love your pets and want everyone to stay happy and healthy! Of course, even if you do everything right, the unexpected can happen. If your pet is experiencing symptoms that can’t wait for a regular vet, you can contact Heart and Soul for same-day urgent care. Check our unique drop-off model that gives you the option to rest comfortably at home while your pet is being cared for by our expert staff.