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Ontario’s veterinary leaders concerned with shortage of veterinarians

April 15, 2021

Demand for veterinary services has been growing for several years. Veterinary healthcare teams have ben stretched to the breaking point, and the added pressures of offering care during the pandemic has further reinforced the importance of robust veterinary healthcare services. Results of a 2020 study by the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association confirmed that demand for veterinary services has or will soon exceed capacity in most parts of Canada.

In Ontario, the demand for veterinarians, as indicated in job postings, reached a new record high each of the past four years, and continues to rise. A strong Ontario economy, a growing population, and a high demand for veterinary services have contributed to this surge in demand. While workforce shortages are not uncommon in the rural and remote areas of Ontario, the current shortage of veterinarians is province-wide, including the Greater Toronto Area. Emergency services are particularly under pressure, and COVID-19 has added to the issue as public health precautions are integrated into the care. 

The College of Veterinarians of Ontario (CVO), the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC), and the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association (OVMA) are working together on measures to help address the shortage of veterinarians and to help the public and veterinary healthcare teams adapt to the mismatch in demand and capacity for veterinary services.

In 2019, these three organizations hosted a two-day symposium exploring the future of veterinary medicine in Ontario. At that time, the 100 attendees, consisting of veterinarians and people working in the veterinary industry in Ontario, identified the shortage of veterinarians as being the most important trend impacting the profession’s future. This complex problem requires both short and long-term solutions and a coordinated approach involving many stakeholders.

Some of this work is already underway. The OVC is currently in discussion with public and private sector stakeholders on a range of topics relevant to veterinary training. The CVO and OVMA are looking at opportunities to enable veterinarians to better utilize the knowledge and skills of veterinary technicians. As well, exploring options for after hours care and the delivery of emergency veterinary services are important considerations.

Other strategies to consider include: increasing domestic training capacity and increasing efforts to recruit veterinarians trained outside of Ontario; increasing the use of digital tools, such as telemedicine; supporting the business sustainability of practices and emergency services in under-served regions of Ontario; and providing incentives to encourage veterinarians to train and work in parts of the province experiencing poor access to care.

While few of these options can be implemented immediately, as leaders in the veterinary profession in Ontario, the CVO, the OVC, and the OVMA are exploring all options to ensure the public’s access to safe, quality veterinary medicine.