Edu-blog: Vet Care Access

If you’ve scheduled a veterinary visit for your kitty lately, you may have noticed that appointments can be scarce these days. There is currently a shortage of access to veterinary care, and it’s not isolated to the greater Seattle area.

What is causing this nationwide shortage of veterinary care?

Simply put, there aren’t nearly enough veterinary professionals to care for our beloved pets.  Unfortunately, the rates of veterinary staff leaving the field are unparalleled. According to the Atlantic, even before 2020, the turnover rate for veterinary technicians was 23.4% and 16% for veterinarians.

In order to meet the demands for veterinary care, over 41,000 veterinary professionals will need to enter the field over the next ten years. With between 2,500 – 2,600 veterinarians entering the field annually, there are not nearly enough vet professionals entering the field at the present moment. If the current trends continue, by 2030 we could face an estimated 15,000 veterinarian shortage.

Not only have staffing shortages made it troublesome to access care, but the global pandemic has also changed the way that clinics operate. COVID restrictions and curbside alternatives mean that appointments take longer to complete. While the pace has slowed, requests for appointments have not: according to Mars Veterinary Health, during 2021 there was a 6.5% increase in vet appointments. 

What can I do right now?

  1. Plan ahead. Ensuring that your pets get their routine medical needs met is key! Routine care is vital to your pet’s health and leaves space for true emergencies. Make sure to keep your pets up to date on the regular wellness checks, and contact your veterinary clinic several weeks before your kitty’s check-up is due.
  1. Know your options. In case your preferred clinic isn’t available right away when your kitty has a health concern, take some time to learn about walk-in clinics in your area. These can be a good option for care that is more urgent than a regular wellness visit but not quite an emergency. Companies like Fuzzy which focus on providing telehealth vet care through their mobile app can also provide services to assist pet owners in accessing care. 
  1. Consider pet insurance. According to Jessica Green, DVM, one in three pets will need emergency treatment each year, which can be very expensive. You should consider investing in an insurance plan for your pets. Insurance plans can range between $14 and $81 monthly depending on the age and size of the pet and usually covers emergency exam fees, surgery, prescription medications, and more. 
  1. Practice compassion. Make it a point to remember, that you never know whose pets are in the back receiving emergency care while you are waiting for an appointment. Veterinary care teams have lots on their plates, it is important to show kindness towards them. As the veterinary care shortage is an issue felt by both medical professionals and pet owners, it is important to nurture your relationships with the staff at your preferred veterinary clinic. 
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