Family helpless as dog dies horrible death amid vet shortage in Kamloops
Kamloops resident Danielle Manuel took her very sick dog Gypsy to her vet last month on Friday, Aug. 26.
She said the office couldn’t find her file and she was deemed not a client, but was given an appointment for the Monday, just two days later.
Unfortunately Gypsy's health quickly got worse.
“One day Gypsy was puking and the next day she couldn’t move,” she said. “There was blood leaking from her bottom, she was cold to the touch. I knew she was dying and I was frantic.”
On Saturday, Manuel started phoning every vet in town looking for an available one to euthanize her dog but with an ongoing shortage of veterinarians and no 24-hour emergency animal hospital in Kamloops, Manuel was advised to go to the Okanagan.
“I was told there was no room for an appointment,” she said. “I was repeatedly told ‘sorry’ or to take her to Kelowna. The on-call emergency vet would only see her if he had room and we were a client.”
Some vets rotate their on-call emergency service among several clinics in Kamloops, but often Kamloops pet owners are referred to Fairfield Animal Hospital in Kelowna for emergency vet care.
The drive to Kelowna takes around two hours, which is too long in some severe cases.
Manuel said driving to Kelowna under emotional distress would not have been a safe option that day.
Watching helplessly as her dog died over a 24-hour-period was heartbreaking.
“She started having seizures and coming back out of them but the last one stopped her heart. My daughter and I were there and have never seen anything so heartbreaking, my household is devastated.”
The shortage is affecting the health and well-being of practising veterinarians, many of which are ‘burning out’ from being stretched so thin.
"Paired with a national veterinarian shortage, staffing concerns and burn out, everyone's exhausted," said co-owner of Neighbourhood Veterinary Hospital in Kamloops Dr. Adrian Helmers said in an email in May, 2022.
"Veterinarians and veterinary nurses are leaving the profession faster than they can be replaced, and it is all happening at a time where people are adding more pets to their homes and are becoming more devoted to their health and wellness.”
Helmers and co-owner Megan Broschak are working to open a 24-hour emergency hospital, called Phases Veterinary Emergency Hospital, in the tournament capital sometime in 2023 to attract more vets to Kamloops and alleviate the pressure on local clinics to respond to emergencies.
In June the vets said they were starting to fundraise for the new clinic but there hasn’t been any updates since.
In order to help improve the shortage on a larger scale, the province is investing nearly $10.7 million to double the number of provincially subsidized students from 20 to 40 for the 2022/23 academic year at Western College of Veterinary Medicine, according to a release by the provincial government earlier this year.
“Increasing access and affordability to veterinary medicine education helps us to address the shortage of veterinarians in B.C. and build a robust workforce,” said Anne Kang, Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Training in the release.
Further training opportunities for a career in animal care in B.C. include veterinary technologist programs at Thompson Rivers University and Douglas College. TRU also offers an online program to enable students currently employed in veterinary clinics to complete the veterinary technologist program, said the release.
For Kamloops pet owners like Manuel, it is sadly too late.
“It’s really hard to see so many animals not getting immediate care,” Manuel said. “It needs to be addressed, people don’t know what to do. It’s a helpless, devastating feeling.”
It is unclear what the dog died from.
Dr. Helmers did not respond for updates on the future emergency hospital in time for publication.
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