Veterinarian shortages limit local pet care options

(ABC 6 News) – Local pet hospitals have had to reduce their hours as they try and navigate industry-wide staffing shortages.

“I don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel just yet,” said Melissa Maves, a clinic manager at a local veterinary clinic.

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Maves has been managing veterinary clinics for eight years and says her veterinarians are stretched thin.

“It takes a huge toll on them every time they say ‘I’m so sorry our schedule is full.’ They want to help every single person that calls, and every single animal that needs us,” Maves said.

While she has seen an increase in people getting pets since the start of the pandemic, she has also seen a decrease in new veterinarians entering the field. The result is clinics in Rochester having to turn pets away, even in emergency situations.

“We have a capacity. And that capacity gets met by 10 o’clock most days,” said Maves.

“We’re trying not to lose our own staff by overworking them. This is an incredibly rewarding profession and we’re all in it because we love what we do, but I don’t feel like we should be abused either,” said Dr. Christine Vogel, practice owner and veterinarian at Animal Health Care Veterinary Hospital in Rochester.

But Vogel says some patients get frustrated and even angry when they have to wait days to take care of their sick pet. If local clinics are full, patients are often referred to Twin Cities clinics.

“You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t,” Vogel said.

Dog-owner Jaden Conway picked up a stray dog full of fleas, but couldn’t find a safe place to send it to. Clinics and shelters turned the pup away.

“They answered, but they couldn’t help me out,” Conway said of local clinics. “So they directed me to the Sheriff’s department, but they couldn’t help me out.”

But, Conway says she is confident in her local vet.

“I’m pretty sure he would take her in if she ever had any issues,” Conway said.

Local veterinarians suggest calling ahead to try and get your pets in early. Addressing medical issues before they become severe can help avoid emergency situations.