Vet Shortages Are the Latest Wrinkle in the Pandemic Puppy Boom

veterinarians examining x-rays in office
Photo credit: Cultura RF/Getty Images

The lobby of Kronenwetter Veterinary Care in Kronenwetter, a Wisconsin village of about 8,000 people, is empty. But don’t be fooled by the echoing hallways: The clinic has never been busier.

Outside, cars packed with pet patients and their owners wait to be called for their appointments. Dr. Chris Bleifuss, head veterinarian, stands next to the open door of an SUV discussing glucose test results after returning Catword, a 15-year-old orange tabby, to his family.

The risk of COVID-19 means services at the clinic are curbside only, with veterinary staff transporting dogs, cats, and on occasion more unusual animals—carpet pythons, bearded dragons, and rabbits to name a few—into the building for treatment, while anxious owners wait in their vehicles. 

Bleifuss, who has headed up the practice for 36 years, says he’ll typically see 20 to 25 animals a day, treating injuries and illnesses, counseling pet parents, and sometimes carrying out the sad task of euthanizing patients.

The demand for veterinary services keeps growing, he says, especially since COVID-19 hit, fueling the so-called “pandemic puppy boom.” Yet at the same time, clinics like his across the country are having trouble attracting and keeping staff, and COVID precautions have complicated workflows.

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