Iowans see rise in pets, shortage of veterinarians

A mural hangs from a beach in the Iowa Humane Alliance’s operating room. The painted vista overlooks whimpering, shuffling crowds wrapped in blankets and with socks pushed over their paws. Hypothermia is common in pets after surgery. Every shift when Dr. When Jennifer Doll ends up with a dog, cat or—on Tuesdays—a rabbit, her vet tech places them under the painted beach.

Doll is the veterinarian for the Iowa Humane Alliance. The Cedar Rapids facility specializes in spaying and spaying on a large scale. She has a tight layer that quickly fills the “beach”. She performs about 60 surgeries every day.

What is your fastest time in surgery?

“I would say probably two minutes,” Doll said. “For kittens, four to five minutes. But large dog castrations take a little longer. They don’t give me any time for a small dog at all.”

The clinic offers a double whammy of inexpensive neutering and vaccination. These are important first steps that pet owners have literally lined up around the block to take.

It’s a calling for Doll, but it weighs on her. Doll is on his feet until the last dog is done. She believes in work. And the sheer volume of patients suggests the need. But Doll is 58 years old. Sixty surgeries a day took its toll on her physically and mentally.

“It affected my life at home. My own pets are not allowed to see me. It affected my family,” Doll said. “And I’d like to have a little bit of that in return.”

But hiring a new vet is not easy. Stacey Dykema is the executive director of the Iowa Humane Alliance. She said she knew Doll wanted to reduce her hours. Allianz is currently looking for two vets to fill in. They offer a competitive wage, a sign-up bonus, and even offer to pay off some student loan debt. Still, Dykema said she’s not getting any takers.

“It’s minimal,” she said. “We reached out to people we know personally to see what their long-term goals are. But none of them are willing to commit.”

Smith Shelby Denise Campose vet

Shelby Denise Campose, a veterinarian with the Iowa Human Alliance, prepares a cat for neutering.

There is evidence that the pandemic has played a role in this backlog. A study of 212 animal hospitals found that 191,000 fewer surgeries were performed between 2020 and 2021. It’s not that these interventions are suddenly no longer necessary; The newspaper notes that pet owners have decided to postpone bringing their pets.

And Iowa’s veterinarians are sitting on a backlog of medical visits, according to Preston Moore, director of the Human Society of the US in Iowa

“Right now, people are struggling to get appointments, even taking preventative measures to do the basic spaying and vaccination that animal shelters and rescue organizations do before adoption,” he said.

According to Moore, this trend is particularly difficult in states like Iowa, which are struggling to recruit new vets while also losing vets to other states — a trend seen across industries.

As KCUR reported, rural veterinary clinics, particularly those that practice with large animals like cattle, have been in decline since World War II US Department of Agriculture. In 2020, less than 2% of private practices nationwide were exclusively large animal clinics and less than 6% were mixed animal clinics American Veterinary Medical Association.

Moore said more needs to be done to increase the number of veterinarians in Iowa. He said state programs aimed at reducing the debt burden of Iowa vets who are fresh out of school are a start. After all, the average vet school graduate carries about $183,000 in student loan debt.

He also said more could be done to expand telemedicine options for veterinary care. This could potentially increase the number of pets seen by a vet in a day, as well as expand options for particularly hard-hit rural communities.

Smith-Jennifer Doll Vet Operating Room

There are three operating tables at the Iowa Humane Alliance. Veterinary technicians bring sedated dogs, cats, and rabbits individually to a table for a spay or neuter.

In the meantime, dr. Doll took her first vacation in four years last month. The clinic was closed while she was away with her mother. She feels guilty about being gone.

It had been in the works with my mother for four years. And I couldn’t let her down. And I had a wonderful time,” she said. “But the three weeks before and these weeks after, it’s like we’re catching up.”

dr Doll unfurls her surgical tools for the day’s next surgery, aided by the beach mural. She said she hopes it won’t be four years before her next vacation.

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