Pet neutering surgeries fall during a pandemic, resulting in shelter overcrowding

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A team of University of Florida researchers conclude in a new study that decades of progress in controlling overpopulation of dogs and cats with large-scale spaying surgeries are at risk thanks to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The effect – felt by both community shelters and veterinary clinics—Includes a sharp drop in sterilization surgeries after the initial epidemic closures, followed by staff shortages in clinics and shelters, overcrowding and delayed pet adoption rates. All of these problems are exacerbated by a nationwide shortage of vets, which is being felt most acutely in shelters and sterilization clinics, researchers say in a study that appeared today (September 13) in Frontiers of veterinary science.

The study focused on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the volume of surgical procedures performed by sterilization clinics, said Simone Guerios, DVM, PhD, clinical assistant professor of shelter medicine at UF and lead author of the study.

The team drew their research from 212 clinics nationwide, all of which benefit from cloud-based clinic management software, Clinic HQ, designed specifically for facilities focused on sterilization and preventive healthcare services.

“The high level of neutral sterilization achieved over the past five decades is the single most important driver of pet reduction Overpopulation Euthanasia in animal shelters. “An increase in subsidized access to neutral sterilization helped drive euthanasia for pets in shelters in the United States from 13.5 million in 1973 to 1.5 million in 2019.”

Using 2019 as a baseline, the UF team aims to determine the impact of the pandemic on the volume of autoclaved procedures performed in 2020-2021 at 212 clinics, which collectively performed more than 1 million surgeries annually and were on track to increase surgeries by 5% over last year.

They found that in the 24 months from January 2020 through December 2021, 190,818 fewer surgeries were performed in the clinics studied than would have been expected if 2019 levels had been maintained.

“If a similar pattern is tested in other sterilization programs in the United States, it would suggest a shortfall of more than 2.7 million sterilization surgeries not addressed by animal welfare organizations,” co-author Julie Levy said. DVM, Ph.D. , Fran Marino Distinguished Professor of Shelter Medicine Education at the UF School of Veterinary Medicine.

Combined, Levy added, all the effects of the pandemic have the potential to undermine progress in controlling pet populations and euthanizing shelters.

“Right now, the shelters are in crisis, with adoptions overcrowded and slowing down,” Guerius said. “Pet overpopulation appears to be increasing, leading to an increase in shelter euthanasia for the first time in many years.”

UF College of Veterinary Medicine responds to the needs of the community by increasing class size and redesigning the surgical training facility to enhance the development of surgical skills. Levy said the college also offers four courses and scholarships specifically designed to provide students with a real-world sterilization experience.

As part of these hands-on learning opportunities, UF veterinary students sterilize thousands of them the cats And the dog In their local communities, she added.

“With our recent expansion of class size to meet the growing demand for veterinary graduates, along with unique certificate programs and internships in shelter medicine, our college is taking proactive action to address these disturbing trends in animal health and well-being,” said Christopher Aden. D., DVM, chair of UF’s Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, which oversees the college’s shelter medicine program.


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more information:
58 The reduction associated with COVID-19 57 60 in elective spay surgeries 59 62 for dogs and cats, Frontiers in veterinary science (2022). DOI: 10.3389 / fvets.2022.912893

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