Vet clinics experiencing limited hours, staff shortages for pet emergencies

Lea McQuade and her pet. (Photo Source: Lea McQuade).

Lea McQuade recently experienced a scary moment with her pet.

McQuade, a Dryden resident, woke up in the middle of the night on Oct. 30 (going into Oct. 31) to her dog laying across her stomach.

Her dog was having a seizure, something McQuade said “isn’t the first that this has happened.”

“I knew he needed help,” she added.

McQuade began the process of calling for potential 24/7 emergency care veterinarian clinics in Cortland, Tompkins and Onondaga Counties.

There was just one problem. According to McQuade, she could only find two 24/7 emergency and critical care services in Ithaca.

Ithaca has the Cornell University Companion Animal Hospital — which takes in emergency and critical care — and the VCA Colonial Animal Hospital.

McQuade attempted to squeeze her dog into Cornell’s services, but she noted Cornell was “at capacity.” She was able to get her dog in at the other emergency care service in Ithaca, but the appointment was later on.

“At that point (on Oct. 30), I had nowhere to turn and no vets to help me,” she said.

McQuade mentioned that there is a 24/7 emergency vet clinic in Rochester, but the clinic was also overbooked.

“There’s no way I would’ve made it alone in the car (on a 2.5-hour ride) with a seizing dog,” she said.



(Photo Source: Lea McQuade).

Dr. Elizabeth Wood, owner of Crossroads Veterinary Clinic in the town of Cortlandville, said overnight emergency calls are sent to Cornell or VCA Colonial. During the day, the clinic does emergency care for “established patients,” she added.

Crossroads Vet Clinic sees between 2-5 emergency care appointments per week, Wood said. She added most of the emergencies are due to animals being hit by a car, urinary issues and more.

Wood, who said her clinic is currently not accepting new patients, noted clinics like hers across the country are currently experiencing a veterinarian/staff shortage. It then gives clinics and services the tough decision to not extend their hours through the night, she added.

“It’s causing a huge amount of problems,” Wood said. “For most clinics and services, they’re constantly at capacity.”

McQuade found it concerning that she wasn’t even in contact with an on-call veterinarian.

“I didn’t have that on-call vet walk me through slowing down the seizures,” she said. “It’s a horrible feeling to not be able to properly take care of your pet.”

McQuade said her dog was diagnosed with neurological seizures. She added that her dog is due for a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) soon, with the potential of further treatment thereafter.





(Photo Source: Lea McQuade).

Her dog has had a couple of seizures since then, and was recently put on medication to tame the seizures.

“For me now, it’s a waiting game,” McQuade said.

McQuade said every county in the state should have 24/7 emergency and critical pet care services. 

“They can be everywhere. You can have access to them all over,” she added. “Communities sometimes have nowhere to turn when it comes to these services.”

Wood noted that for every potential veterinarian out there, there’s 18 possible job openings.

“There are not enough veterinarians graduating that want to go into being a general doctor,” Wood said, who added her clinic is currently experiencing a staff shortage itself.

“It’s difficult, but we do our best,” Wood added.

To assist local vet clinics who are currently overwhelmed, Cortland County SPCA attempts to train its staff to treat minor injuries and illnesses with the animals in the shelter, said operations shelter manager Emily Roberts. The local SPCA even goes as far as giving pet owners some guidance on mental and physical healthcare treatment.

Roberts said the potential overbooked and at-capacity clinics in the area could have partially been from the uptick in adoptions during the COVID-19 pandemic. The local SPCA averages 25 adoptions per month (roughly 4-5 adoptions per week).

“For the people who worked from home and still continue to do so, they wanted that emotional companionship,” Roberts added.

McQuade created a support group for those with pets who live in Cortland County. As a community, McQuade feels that everyone can support one another. Click here to visit the group.