In my last post, I touched on how the veterinary shortage has affected the family I board my pony with. They’re new to the area haven’t been able to find a local vet accepting new clients. They rescued two huskies from euthanasia and weren’t able to get them into a vet quickly enough to get them fixed. The result: an unwanted litter of purebred husky puppies that they’ve been trying for a year to find homes for. They also rescued a litter of dumpster kittens and have been on a months-long waitlist to get them fixed. Last month, while I was pet sitting for them, these two problems clashed. The huskies killed one of the cats and his brother vanished. This is just one scenario out of thousands who are dealing with the very real crisis of a veterinary shortage.
I created this infographic to illustrate the problem at hand and will create another on ways we can work together with our vets to mitigate the situation. Please check back in a bit for that.
The veterinary shortage cycle
Please use download buttons at the end of this post to download this infographic. This image is a low-resolution web version.
Cycle phase 1: Too many pets, not enough vets.
This is something I’ve highlighted in several other posts and infographics, so I won’t get into it here. Over the past few years, the pet population boomed while the vet population hasn’t. Thousands of baby boomer veterinarians are retiring, and the number of new vet school grads just aren’t enough to keep up with the number of pets needing care. Those pets are also having babies and shelters, rescues, and vets are bearing the brunt of it. There is such a shortage of vets and staff that vet hospitals are closing, leaving pet owners frantic.
Cycle phase 2: Preventable illnesses advance, more unwanted litters.
Because there are so many pets, vets are booked out months in advance. What may start out as minor and preventable conditions can progress as a result of not being promptly treated and turn into chronic and advanced diseases. Pets have to wait longer to get relief, which means they have to live in pain and discomfort and potentially permanently diminished quality of life. Yet, vets are already working through their lunch breaks every day to see as many patients as possible.
Cycle phase 3: Illnesses are harder to treat, patient load increases.
Those conditions and illnesses that aren’t treated quickly can become serious and chronic conditions that not only become harder to treat but also costlier. What might have been a 15-minute consult and simple prescription at the start of the issue can now become a long consult, coming up with multiple treatment plans to give pet parents options for varying financial situations. Those who can’t afford treatment may have to opt for economic euthanasia. These consults often result in angry and grief-stricken pet parents who take out their frustrations on the vets and their staff—from doctors to techs/nurses to receptionists.
Cycle phase 4: Vets and staff burn out, leave profession or worse..
Almost half of practicing veterinarians are considering leaving the profession due to burnout and serious mental health issues stemming from the physical and emotional tolls of their daily work. This is not because they don’t care about animals but in order to save themselves and their families. But they stay because they don’t want to abandon their patients. Yet, they are berated by pet owners on a daily basis and accused of not caring when they’re doing their best to help as many pets as possible.
Then the cycle starts all over again, but things are worse each time.
With each cycle, the situation worsens as vet numbers dwindle. New grads replacing retiring vets are thrown into the deep end and struggling to stay afloat—physically, mentally, and financially.
We’re all in this together.
There’s no us (pet parents) vs. them (vets). We need to work together for our pets’ sake.
The veterinary shortage is a situation that affects all of us, from vets and vet staff to pet parents to pets. Unfortunately, our pets are the ones who suffer the most physically by not being able to get care promptly. It’s frustrating for pet parents because our pets are family. Not being able to get care when our pets are sick is one of the worst and scariest times of being a pet parent. When vets can’t help us because they’re so overwhelmed, it creates a vortex of tension and frustration on both sides. My next infographic will be one attempting to mitigate this problem, though nothing can really solve the veterinary shortage problem until we can find a way to get more students into vet schools, make vet school affordable, and because it takes 8+ years to make a new vet, hold onto the vets we already have.
Download the veterinary shortage cycle inographic
Please use the “Download” buttons to download the resources as the previews may not be the full-sized version. As usual, please tag @VetsArePeople2 on Facebook and Instagram and @VetsArePeopleToo on Twitter if sharing on social media, and link to VetsArePeopleToo.com if sharing on a website or blog. This would help my site’s search engine rankings and help people to learn more about the cause.