GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Local veterinarians are recommending pet owners book checkups for their animals in well advance as they deal with a backlog of appointments.

The industry, like many others, is dealing with the continued impacts of COVID-19. Some offices say their calendars are booked solid for the next month. They say pre-pandemic, they say they would be able to get an animal in for an appointment within days of receiving a call from the pet’s owner.

“Since about June of 2020, veterinary practice has been relentless — and what I mean by that is the number of pets that owners have gotten during the pandemic has increased dramatically,” said Dr. Richard Siegle with the Cascade Hospital for Animals

Siegle aid many of their clients chose to adopt during the pandemic, plus people who already owned pets had the opportunity to spend more time with them and may have noticed more about their health. Those two factors together resulted in more appointment inquiries. 

That issue is compounded by the worker shortage, which has made it difficult to keep up with the influx in demand.

“Because the demand for our services has been so high, working overtime, working through lunches has become commonplace. (There’s) staff burnout. A lot of staff members are either leaving the profession or reducing their hours,” Siegle said.

Veterinarian clinics added that the talent pool to replace people as they leave has been dwindling.

The Grand Rapids Vet Clinic on 3 Mile Road and Fuller Avenue says it currently has about three full-time vets who are seeing 30 to 50 animals per day. Normally it would have five or so.

“Staff certainly has been something hard to keep up on. Obtaining new doctors has been surprisingly difficult over the last year and a half,” office manager Alex Deruiter said.

Deruiter said that because of the heavy workload, some animal care has to be delayed or referred to another facility. 

“We try to fit everybody in as best we can. There’s definitely cases where urgent care is needed and we have to refer them to BluPearl (Pet Hospital in Grand Rapids) or animal emergency hospitals,” Deruiter said.

Doctors say the best thing people can do right now is prepare. If pet owners know their animal will need a checkup or vaccine appointment in the coming months, book it now. If you believe your animal needs to be seen sooner, contact your vet or head to an emergency care facility.

“Don’t delay. If the pet is not feeling well,  the longer you delay, the more sick the pet will get and the more care it will take to get it well,” Siegle said.