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Pet Boom During Pandemic Strains Veterinarians, Staffs

Overwork, compassion fatigue already were problems
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 13, 2021 4:05 PM CDT

(Newser) – During the gloomiest stretches of the pandemic, Dr. Diona Krahn's veterinary clinic has been a puppy fest, overrun with new four-legged patients. Typically, she'd get three or four new puppies a week, but between shelter adoptions and private purchases, the 2020 COVID-19 pet boom brought five to seven new clients a day to her practice in Raleigh, North Carolina. Many are first-time pet owners. Like many veterinarians across the country, she's also been seeing more sick animals. To meet demand, vets have extended hours, hired additional staff, and declined to take new patients, the AP reports, and they still can't keep up. Burnout and fatigue are such a concern that some practices are hiring counselors to support their weary staffs. Approximately 12.6 million US households got a new pet last year, according to a study by the American Pet Products Association.

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Meanwhile, fewer people relinquished their pets in 2020, so they needed ongoing care, experts said. And as people worked from home, they've had more opportunities to notice their pets' bumps, limps, and other ailments that could typically go untreated. Vets were already struggling to meet the pre-pandemic demand, with veterinary schools unable to churn out enough doctors and techs to fill the void; veterinary positions are projected to grow 16% by 2029, nearly four times the average of most other occupations, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Fear of the unknown with the pandemic leads to more intense emotions from our clients," said a boss at a Boston hospital. He's seen expletive-laced outbursts and threats from pet owners, and also outpourings of love, with cards and baked goods.

(Read more veterinarian stories.)

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