If you own pets, you're likely not aware of this. However, you absolutely need to be.

As a pet owner, I know you'd do anything for your pets, at any time of the day or night. It's always been a huge comfort for all of us to know that Cedar Rapids had an emergency vet clinic, not far from the Eastern Iowa Airport. Unfortunately, that clinic and many others in the area are struggling mightily to fill the need through no fault of their own.

This morning, I spoke to Roxanne Hoover, the Director of Fur Fun Rescue, and Jan Erceg, the Director of Critter Crusaders. What they both told me was very similar: We have a problem and it's important that all pet owners are aware of it.

Earlier this week, Blue Pearl Pet Hospital in Cedar Rapids announced they would be closed that evening. Hoover told me their problem is "not uncommon. We don't have enough vets or vet techs."

Just how common is the shortage? Hoover shared that an Iowa City clinic quit doing emergency work at Christmas and now closes at 8 p.m. An emergency vet clinic in the Quad Cities is doing their best to keep up, just like Blue Pearl is, but are finding it impossible to see all of their would-be patients. Many clinics are referring pets to Blue Pearl in Des Moines but even they can only do so much.

Hoover says, "We're spending a lot of time advocating to get our pets the care they need. The shortage of vet care is horrifying. There's not enough of anything."

Both Hoover and Erceg say the problem has been going on for a year or more, and it's important that pet owners know about it. As you've undoubtedly heard, the number of pets increased exponentially during the COVID pandemic. That's putting a strain on everyone in pet care, not just emergency clinics.

Erceg has a recommendation for pet owners: "Talk to your vet. If you're in the Cedar Rapids area, Call Blue Pearl in Cedar Rapids if you have an emergency. If they're closed, they will still give you directions on who you should contact."

The dog in the photo above is "Baby Spice". She was very ill when Cedar Valley Pit Bull Rescue turned her over to Critter Crusaders in Cedar Rapids earlier this week. Erceg told me she's now at Blue Pearl in Des Moines where she's been diagnosed with Parvo, in addition to experiencing neurological problems. She had a blood transfusion early this morning and remains in critical condition.

Stories like that of "Baby Spice" are why it's so important that you share this information with fellow pet owners now. No one wants to find out about what Critter Crusaders calls "A looming crisis in Veterinary Emergency Care" when they're in dire need of those services.

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To prepare yourself for a potential incident, always keep your vet's phone number handy, along with an after-hours clinic you can call in an emergency. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center also has a hotline you can call at (888) 426-4435 for advice.

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