SoCal pet owners waiting days, sometimes weeks for veterinarian appointments

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Local animal hospital managers say animal clinics have been overwhelmed with the demand to treat family pets, ranging from dogs and cats to exotics.

Pet owners have been experiencing either long wait times at animal hospitals or having to wait days, sometimes weeks, for an appointment.

Even if your pet needs emergency treatment - -good luck finding an animal hospital that has room.

"We called a number of hospitals, and they were all at capacity. We live in Santa Monica, so we called everything that was local and we ended up having to drive her to Oxnard. That was the only one we found that we could get her in at," said pet owner Omid Shokoufandeh.

Dog owner Michelle Saraiya had a similar experience.

"I called every single emergency hospital, specialty hospital from Monrovia to the Pacific Ocean and I think Culver City, that hospital told me it was going to be an 8-10 hour wait. One hospital was flat out saying don't bring your dog here," Saraiya said.

According to the Agoura Animal Clinic, demand is higher because more people are leaving the industry. That clinic is dealing with 40% less staff and four times the demand.

Veterinary Centers of America, or VCA, operates more than 1,000 hospitals nationwide. They're based here in Los Angeles. The high demand is going on nation wide. Here's why:

"Because of the explosion in demand for services, the work force can't expand that quickly because the process to become trained takes that time," said Dr. Marie Kerl, VCA's chief medical officer.

Like doctors who treat people, veterinarians go through eight years of schooling, too. The VCA says they've hired thousands of vets and support staff to help with the demand.

Here's one piece of advice from a hospital manager: When you bring your pet in, be nice to the humans. They're already under a lot of stress. So be polite. The staff wants to make sure your pet is going to be OK.

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