An unprecedented shortage in veterinary care is forcing many people to go to extraordinary lengths to get emergency treatment.
Kathleen Stafford said Winnie, her 2-year-old French Bulldog nearly died when an afternoon of dog play led to a spinal injury, requiring emergency surgery.
“You never think something like this saying is going to happen to a 2-and-a half year-old dog, just playing in the backyard,” said Stafford.
Stafford’s vet told her Winnie would need surgery right away to survive. The problem was that Winnie’s parents couldn’t find a neurologist to do the surgery anywhere close by.
“My husband and I were completely frantic,” she said. “Just like if it was a human child, whatever it took, we were going to do it,” she said.
After calling 30 vet hospitals across the state and in Oregon, Stafford said she managed to find a neurologist in Southern California, they got Winnie there in the nick of time.
“We want to do everything we can for these animals and we feel very, very bad for the clients for the frustration and sometimes anger,” said Dr. Karl Jandrey with the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.
Jandrey told NBC Bay Area Thursday that they are experiencing an unprecedented shortage in veterinary care. He added that a surge of people have adopted pets during the pandemic and clinics don’t have the staff to keep up.
“When the caregivers now have COVID or the COVID spreads through a hospital, it can wipe out an entire hospital. There are hospitals in this area that have been closed two to four weeks because they had 80% of their staff out,” Jandrey said.
Jandrey added the bottleneck is likely not going to improve anytime soon. He urges pet parents to keep on top of preventive care and map out a plan in case of an emergency.
Stafford said that she is grateful to her family found a surgeon and it cost them $14,000. But Winnie is expected to recover.
“She means the world to me. I have three grown sons, so she’s my daughter for sure. She’s my little girl. I would do it again tomorrow,” Stafford said.