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Attention Wonderful Clients

Dear Wonderful Clients,
We thought that the veterinary shortage and crisis would be settling down by now. But it continues to worsen and it is having a significant impact on the availability of Emergency Care in Niagara, and across Ontario. For the past year, many ERs including Hamilton, Burlington and London, have had periodic closures due to staff shortages. Unfortunately, our local ER (NVEC = Niagara Veterinary Emergency Clinic) is now in a similar position.
If you have not read the news over the last year, you may not be aware that there is a crisis in the veterinary industry. As a result of Covid the dog and cat population in Ontario has exploded. With people working from home the opportunity for pet ownership has never been better. This means the demand for veterinary services has increased greatly during the pandemic. However, the number of working veterinarians and veterinary technicians in Ontario (and across North America) has actually decreased due to the impact of the pandemic (illness, stress leave, parental responsibilities) and burnout from dealing with this sharp increase in demand during such difficult times.
The Niagara Veterinary Emergency Clinic (NVEC) is now facing rotating closures due to the inability to fill veterinary shifts. They are working extremely hard with exhausted staff, but there are limits on what service they can offer. Prior to the pandemic, they had 7 full time doctors, which often allowed 2-3 doctors on evenings and weekends. Since April, they have been operating with 4 full time vets and in June, they will be down to 3. This has greatly reduced the capacity of cases that they are able handle, as there is generally only one vet on per shift, and it will lead to increased closure dates during the summer. We, and many of the member clinics, have been doing what we can to help ease the burden on our Emergency Clinic for the past year. When we are open, we have taken emergency cases ourselves instead of referring them over. Our veterinarians and some other veterinarians from clinics across Niagara have also been working short shifts evenings and weekends at NVEC, to help increase their capacity during busier times. NVEC is doing everything they can to increase their team of vets, but it likely be several months before they are able to return to a more ‘normal’ schedule and capacity.
Should you need after hours emergency services for your pet, we want you to understand that it may be difficult to find at times, and you may have to travel out of Niagara to find it.
What you can expect from NVEC:
• Priority will be given to acute and serious cases (trauma cases, life-threatening illness, end of life care) while less urgent cases may have significant wait times or may not be seen, and instead referred back to us the next day; however, there is also no guarantee that even the most serious cases will be seen when NVEC is at capacity.
• NVEC may face unexpected closures after hours and you may be required to seek care outside of Niagara; you may want to research other ER clinics ahead of time to be prepared but there will always be someone at NVEC to answer phones and suggest other options.
• The NVEC team will provide advice regarding whether to wait to see us the next day, if appropriate, or to seek immediate care at another ER facility if NVEC has reached capacity.
• The team at NVEC cares deeply about the pets of Niagara and their owners and is providing the best possible care and service that they are able to with the limited resources they have. It is very distressing for the team when they are unable to see additional cases.
How you can help:
• Please don’t let your pet’s illness advance until it becomes an emergency. Please seek care from us early on if your pet does not seem well or if you notice changes when you are managing a pet with a chronic health issue (diabetes, urinary issues, pancreatitis). Make regular preventative appointments to better manage chronic health issues.
• If we are open, please call us first in an emergency as we are leaving appointment slots open to handle such cases so we can reduce the burden on NVEC.
• Always call NVEC first (905-641-3185) for advice and to get instructions; do not just show up and expect to be seen; time is critical in some emergency situations and it’s best to get their advice first.
• Please call us several days before you run out of medication. NVEC may not stock the medication your pet needs and prescriptions for certain medications may require an examination for your pet first.
• Please call us several days before needing food. NVEC does not stock food for sale to clients.
• Many emergencies are preventable. If you are a pet parent, educate yourself on common dangers and emergency situations (household toxins, food toxins, drug toxins, plant toxins, ingesting foreign bodies, dog fights, hit by car, lacerations). Our team can share resources with you.
• Please be kind to the NVEC team. We know it can be scary during an emergency and long wait times can be frustrating. Everyone is doing the best they can and your patience, understanding and kindness will be appreciated.
With abundant appreciation,
The Doctors and Staff at Smithville Animal Hospital

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