A combination of a jump in pet ownership during the pandemic and a shortage of veterinary staff has lead to extremely long wait times for most kinds of care at New England's largest animal hospital.
The MSPCA Angell Animal Medical Center in Jamaica Plain estimates that emergency pet visits are up by about 40% over last year at its facility, with similar increases at animal hospitals around the country.
"Typically, [with] most services at our hospital, we could get a patient within a week or so, some the same day," said Dr. Kiko Bracker, the director of emergency and critical care at Angell. "But now we have some services where the wait time is months."
"If you're coming in for an emergency, typically we would be satisfied with an emergency wait time of an hour or less," Bracker said. "But now it's three to four, up to six hours some times."
Many people who got pets during the start of the pandemic in 2020 are now dealing with the normal health issues of young cats and dogs. But the problem at Angell is compounded by a lack of staff.
"There's a profound shortage of emergency doctors but there are also not enough general practitioner veterinarians to handle the influx of dogs and cats we're seeing," Bracker said, adding that Angell also needs more technicians, receptionists, and other staff at the hospital.
"It's really hard for us to be put in a position where we feel like we have trouble giving that care to as many patients as we want to," he said. "The idea of saying 'no, we can't see you because we have too many patients' is really painful for everybody."
Fortunately, the MSPCA has not seen an increase in the number of pets being surrendered or given up for adoption post-pandemic. That has been reported in other parts of the country.
"We had some concern about that," Bracker said, "but that is not evident at all in our area."
This segment aired on July 15, 2021.