April 18, 2022 – The resulting spike in pet health concerns has been straining a corner of the medical world that doesn’t get as much attention as doctors and nurses: veterinarians. The overwork and staffing shortages of the pandemic have affected veterinarians as much as other doctors and nurses, and dealing with the constant moral dilemmas and emotional output was driving many to burn out even before 2020. The mean salary for vets is about $110,000 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about half that of physicians catering to people.

At the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ veterinary hospital in San Francisco, so many vets and technicians have left that the clinic has had to cut back its hours, said veterinarian Kathy Gervais.  Dog owners say they’ve had to wait months for vet appointments or drive to vets far from home to get care.

“Getting your dog in to see the vet is as competitive as trying to buy Coachella tickets online,” said Laura Vittet, whose golden retriever, Gertrude, is 1½ years old. “You have to wait by the phone, you have to be ready to refresh your browser. It’s a very intense experience.”

Gervais said she works 12-hour days, constantly zigzagging from new puppies to dying cats. And the whole time, she takes care of their humans too.

“To these people, and especially in these times, this is their love,” she said, thinking especially of the owners who dress and coif and cook for their dogs. “This is their being, this is what they live for. And for vets, it’s very hard for us to draw the line.”


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