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Angry pet owners take it out on the vets, leaving the professionals in distress

The workload for veterinarians has increased during the last two years since the pandemic. Veterinarians across the country are under immense pressure to provide services to more clients as the new pets add in the families and demand increases. At times, there was also a lack of staffing, creating a more challenging environment for the remainder of the team. 

Many clinics around Kingston changed their appointment schedule to more available times. In addition, the Kingston Veterinary Clinic has also hired additional staff, though doctors and technicians are still challenging to come by nationwide.  

Dr. Ryan Llera from Kingston Veterinary Clinic explained that pet owners got to spend more time with their pets at home during lockdowns, and that’s when they began to notice problems that would otherwise go unnoticed. They started making appointments then; however, the appointments at the clinics were limited or postponed due to lockdowns.  

“We initially had to limit appointments to sick pets only, and vaccination appointments were postponed. We’re even seeing pets that haven’t been able to get a check-up in 4-5 years,” Dr. Llera said. 

While the clinics are trying their best to provide services, another critical element surfacing is veterinarians’ own mental health and stress. 

According to a fact shared by Not One More Vet (NOMV), veterinary professionals have high rates of suicide among professionals, and NOMV raises awareness about the presence of added stress in these professionals due to angry patients; pet owners. 

“Now more than ever, we are asking people to be patient and understanding,” Dr. Llera said.

Dr. Llera also explained that Kingston veterinary clinics might generally deal with one to two angry clients in any given month. However, that has escalated to two to three per week during the pandemic.  

The staff are suffering from a high degree of burnout and stress due to several factors that are out of their control.  

“Verbally or physically assaulting veterinary hospital staff is not the way to get help,” Dr. Llera stressed while explaining the overall deteriorating condition at the clinics concerning the team’s health and well-being.

 While the clinics understand dealing with a sick pet is an emotional situation for pet owners, with some patients, things may be beyond human control, and pet owners have to work together with veterinarians to do what is best for the pet. However, it may not be the most desired outcome.

Dr. Ryan Llera and vet assistant Alex Lee with their patient River. Photo by Kingston Veterinary Clinic

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