Nova Scotia

Reduction in veterinary services at South Shore clinic concerns farmers, horse owners

Owners of large animals in Nova Scotia’s South Shore region will have one less option for veterinary care with reduced services at a veterinary clinic planned for later this summer.  

On Aug. 1, clinic and farm-call services for livestock — cattle, sheep, pigs, chickens and goats — will be discontinued at the South Shore Veterinary Hospital. On Aug. 16, horse care will be suspended. 

“It is our intent to resume Equine Services as soon as staffing permits, however we will not be resuming Livestock services,” said a statement posted to the veterinary clinic’s Facebook page on Thursday. 

David Meister, a farmer in New Ross, has about a dozen cattle. He said he’s been working with the clinic for years.

“We noticed they were getting harder and harder to reach for vet visits,” he said.

Dr. Trevor Lawson, president of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, said access to veterinary care in rural areas has been under pressure for a number of years. He said new graduates are often drawn to work in urban settings and with smaller animals. 

“It’s a pretty challenging work environment,” said Lawson. “Balancing family obligations and family life with that work requirement can be quite challenging.”

Lawson said the association is working to improve mental heath and wellness, but a reduction in service leaves other clinics trying to fill the void in the meantime.

“The reality is they’re already quite busy,” he said. “Then we have that impact of geography and covering the extra distance.” 

Katie Reeves was able to fill a prescription for her 23-year-old horse, Casey, before a service suspension at South Shore Veterinary Hospital. (Katie Reeves)

South Shore Veterinary Hospital is directing horse owners to Avon Animal Hospital in Windsor while it is not offering equine services.

Both clinics declined to comment. 

Katie Reeves, who lives in New Ross, said she feels lucky to have another place to take her two horses. 

“I think it’s a concern for anybody that has the animals at all,” said Reeves. “Even something as simple as getting medications and prescriptions for animals, that might be harder to get to now.” 

Reeves was able to fill her 23-year-old horse’s prescription ahead of the suspension.

A black horse licks the hand of a man.
Dr. Trevor Lawson is an equine practitioner in Nova Scotia as well as the president of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association. (Galen McRae/CBC)

Meanwhile, Meister said Cornwallis Veterinarians in Kentville, N.S., is an option for his farm, but he’ll be selective when he calls.

“We really take pride in our animals here,” said Meister. “When they’re in distress and we can’t fix them and we don’t have anybody else to help fix them, that’s an emotional toll.” 

Meister said the loss of an animal also has an economic impact.

He said more often farmers are collaborating online and using technology to help assess livestock health concerns. That’s why he thinks virtual care for livestock could be a good alternative. 

“So they don’t have to travel to these farms, maybe that’ll make it a bit easier,” he said. 

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