Veterinarian shortage reported in Louisiana due to multiple factors

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BATON ROUGE, La (BRPROUD) – Animals, large and small, all have to see veterinarians, but according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the nation is seeing a vet shortage, even here in Louisiana.

“The pandemic made people more hyper-aware of what was going on with their animals, both large and small, and so the demand for veterinary care increased and it hadn’t maybe been there before,” said Associate Professor of Food Animal Health Maintenance, Clare Scully, MA, DVM, MS, DACT.

USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture says rural parishes are some of the areas seeing the most shortages, they are also some of the areas that rely the most on livestock.

“Going into food animal veterinary medicine, making that choice, you are going to have a very different lifestyle than if you choose small animal,” Scully said.

Scully believes a few factors could be contributing to the shortage, including the pandemic.

“And they were sick too, people had COVID, and so you may have had a veterinary practice with four doctors in it, and now you have one person or two people covering,” Scully recalled.

Scully says many practicing veterinarians and veterinarian students also experience burnout.

“There are many people who have decided that it is not for them,” Scully said.

In addition to long hours and emotional stress, the average veterinarian student graduates from LSU with over $200,000 in student loan debt.

“To me, I feel that the students are burdened with such debt now that the salaries just can’t afford them a good quality of life,” Scully said.

If a shortage continues, Scully says the cost of pet care could increase.

“The cost will go up, I think the cost for veterinary care will probably be more expensive, and maybe harder to get,” said Scully.

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