While more people have been getting pandemic pets to ease their isolation, veterinarians in BC are seeing a problem — they can’t keep up.

Pet sales have grown 5% compared to the previous year in Canada.

This year, an additional $300 million went into the pet industry, which includes toys, food, or kennels.

But meanwhile, veterinarian services and animal services are struggling to keep up with the spike.

Last week, BC Liberal Advanced Education Critic, Coralee Oakes, and Agriculture Critic Ian Paton, called on the BC government to acknowledge the shortage of veterinarians in BC.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has seen many more people adopt pets for comfort and companionship, which is generally a good thing — except when they can’t access veterinary care for these animals,” said Oakes.

The Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) in Saskatchewan is the closest veterinarian school for BC residents who wish to study veterinary medicine, but according to the Official opposition, the limited seat capacity of 20 seats has not made it easy for vets, currently.

Oakes and Paton have penned a letter to Advanced Education Minister Anne Kang urging BC to pursue 20 additional seats and strategize struggling veterinarians and veterinary clinics.

A veterinarian weighs in

Victoria Buzz talked to veterinarian and owner of Breadner Veterinary Services, Shelley Breadner, about the shortage of veterinarians in BC and how this affects both vets and pet-owners.

“The demand has gone up and up, now, it’s getting difficult to see everyone. We try to help them, but we’ve had to direct a lot of people to emergency,” said Breadner.

To limit service, Breadner said, some veterinarians are cutting their services to exotic animals, focusing their busy schedules on the influx of cats and dogs.

“We just can’t accommodate another patient. We are here long after the doors are closed, doing review lab work and contacting people. We have to get vets to do shift fill-ins instead of hiring a full-time vet.”

There’s a variety of reasons for the vet shortage, some pandemic-influenced, like the demand for vet services from new pet owners and a lack of out-of-country veterinarians.

But a big reason is the lack of seats at vet schools like WCVM, said Breadner, and there are options to help ease the demand.

“If BC takes on another 20 seats at WCVM, that will help. In the short term, I’d suggest fast tracking vets from other countries and giving them the ability to work as a technician while they study to become accredited.”

With only 20 seats at WCVM, the shortage of vets is not just a symptom of the pandemic, but an ongoing issue that was bound to come to a head.

The pandemic has provided plenty of pets for people to ease their isolation, and while veterinarians are trying their best to make due, most veterinarians just hope that same care can go long after the pandemic.

“When the pandemic has passed and people go to work, what happens to these animals? Will they keep them?,” said Breadner.

“Our mental health depends on the health of our pets too.”

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