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'Insane, It's Been Super Busy': Vet Clinics Overwhelmed, Owners Waiting Weeks To Get Pets Checked Out

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Veterinary clinics are struggling to keep up with appointments, which means pets are waiting weeks or even months to get checked out.

In the hallway of Pet Central Animal Hospital in Minneapolis, you can see 5-year-old Nova wagging her tail and giving smiles. It's hard to tell but the Black Mouth Cur mix is actually sick. Nova's human, Emily Schmeling, said the pup has been having tummy issues for five days. While the pair was able to make an appointment at Pet Central, the road to getting there wasn't easy.

"We called three other vets and a lot of them disabled their online booking systems because they're not taking new clients," Schmeling said. "They were saying it was going to be mid-November before we can get her in, this was something where she had to go in this week."

Across the Twin Cities, other pet owners are in the same position. Overwhelmed vet clinics and demand for pet services come after pet adoptions skyrocketed. According to American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, one in five households adopted a pet during the pandemic.

"We have grown 50% from last year in terms of number of clients," said Kristina Biniek, Pet Central practice manager. "Insane, it's been super busy. We see around 75 pets a day, some days ae more depending on what's going on."

Pet Central gets about eight emergency visits a day, which affects waiting times. Biniek said the clinic is two weeks out with regular appointments. Prior to COVID-19, they were taking walk-ins.

The University of Minnesota's Lewis Small Animal Hospital said they've had to turn away clients because it was too busy.

"For much of the last year, our caseload has exceeded capacity on a near-daily basis. As a result, these services frequently need to close for part or all of the day, something that was unthinkable two years ago. The same is true for all other ERs and urgent care offices in the Twin Cities," said Mike Henson, interim director for Lewis Small Animal Hospital.

Schmeling said she's lucky to have found an opening at Pet Central, otherwise it would have costed her thousands to go to an emergency pet hospital.

"It'd be nice to have more short term appointments available for her. I was freaking out a little bit. I was like where is she going to get care? But thankfully we found this place," Schmeling said.

One of the biggest issues for clinics is lack of veterinary technicians. A handful of Minnesota programs to train technicians have closed in the last five years.

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