MASON, Mich. — Local veterinarians are feeling the effects of a nationwide COVID-19 pet boom as communities open and people return to their daily lives.
It's a problem of not enough vets and too many pets. Many practices are unable to provide care for all of the animals whose owners are calling in.
"We are absolutely, 100 percent, in that boat," said Phillip Gill, owner of TheraVet in Mason. "We are having to turn people down constantly because we just are. We were already growing exponentially before the COVID, and then once that hit we doubled in size within a year."
The owner of the Mason Veterinary Clinic said they are turning away 10 to 20 patients per day. When asked to interview, she said that they are unable because they are "just that busy."
"The problem is, a lot of vet clinics were struggling financially with the COVID and some of them actually closed their doors permanently," Gill said. "Dansville to be specific. There was a Dansville hospital that probably saw 4,000 to 5,000 patients that closed its doors...within the last six months."
When COVID-19 first hit Michigan, pet owners prioritized quarantine over vet visits unless absolutely necessary. Yet, pet adoptions were at an all-time high. The American Pet Products Association estimated roughly 12.6 million households acquired a new pet last year after the pandemic began. Also during this time, fewer people have given up their pets.
Additionally, after a year of working from home, pet owners have had ample time to find ailments in their animals that might otherwise go untreated. With communities becoming vaccinated and mask mandates loosened, people are starting to get back to life as they knew it.
"The influx of animals has been more recently, within the last couple of months," Gill said.
TheraVet currently has more than 3,000 patients, with a typical patient range for one doctor being 2,000 to 3,000.
"We're not necessarily turning people away hand over fist, we just are trying to bring in people who want to become longtime members of the hospital," Gill said, adding that they refer emergency calls to urgent care centers.
Gill recommends clients looking for veterinarians establish a relationship with their doctor right away so that they do have somewhere to go if their pet experiences an emergency.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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