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It’s all on deck for Dr. Tracy Maione and her team at the Oz Animal Hospital in Chicago.
They are among thousands of veterinary clinics across the United States trying to meet a growing demand for animal care while facing a nationwide shortage of veterinarians.
“Almost every vet I know and every vet clinic I know is facing a shortage right now,” Maione said. “That means everyone is feeling the stress of not having as many staff to keep things running as smoothly as possible.”
According to Mars Veterinary Health, with the increase in the number of pet owners, spending on pet health services is expected to increase by 33% over the next decade. This means the industry needs to add approximately 41,000 vets to the force by 2030 to meet demand.
However, the projected number of graduates for veterinarians shows that the industry is likely to fall short. This is partly due to the few veterinary programs available and factors that limit some people’s exposure to the profession.
“Vet school is often a little harder to get to just because we don’t have a lot of schools,” Maione said. “In some communities, especially communities of color, there doesn’t seem to be enough applicants.”
Veterinary programs require four years of schooling after obtaining an undergraduate degree.
The total tuition cost can exceed $200,000.
But it’s not just veterinarians who are lacking. Many clinics are in desperate need of more veterinary technicians who play a vital role in the daily care of animals.
“Technicians are like the veterinary nurses in our industry,” Maione said. “I really hope there will be more vet tech schools because we really need our support staff.”
The American Veterinary Medical Association is working to find ways to address this worker shortage, and clinics are exploring new ways to reach their patients. But if those efforts are to succeed, Maione says owners need to be more understanding.
“We’re doing our best to educate people that this isn’t the time they used to be anymore,” she said. “Before, we could drop everything and see everyone’s pet the day they got sick. We certainly do our best, but it’s a balancing act.”
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