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Effects of nationwide veterinary shortage felt in Tehachapi

When Teresa Champieux found out her dog, Bella, had Cushing's Disease, the closest vet she could receive care at was over an hour away from her home in Tehachapi
Posted at 6:10 PM, Feb 28, 2024
  • Video shows a local Tehachapi woman describing the impact of the growing veterinary shortage.
  • Teresa Champieux says to get treatment for her dog, Bella, she needs to travel to Santa Clarita. It was the closest vet she could get an appointment with, she said.


Over the past few years, the United States has felt the effects of a growing veterinary shortage.

According to a recent study by Mars Veterinary Health, nearly 55,000 additional vets will be needed to meet the needs of companion animal healthcare in the U.S. by 2030.

And in Kern County, the impacts can be felt especially by one local family in Tehachapi.

"It didn't hit me until we realized we couldn't get her into a place close to us," said Teresa Champieux.

Neighborhood News Reporter Grace Laverriere talking with Teresa Champieux & her dog, Bella
Neighborhood News Reporter Grace Laverriere talking with Teresa Champieux & her dog, Bella

In the fall of 2023, Teresa experienced first-hand the stress of finding veterinary care for her dog, Bella.

This past September, Bella was diagnosed with Cushing's Disease.

Teresa says Bella has a tumor on her pituitary gland that caused several changes, particularly in her appetite.

"Out of all the diseases, you know, it's not as bad as some, but it is expensive," said Champieux. "This year, it's gonna be about $5,500."

Included in that additional 5,000 dollars a year is medication, blood tests, and travel costs.

To receive the specialized blood tests, which Teresa says could range between $100 and $300 a month, she travels to a vet in Santa Clarita at least once a month.

Teresa says the specific pet insurance covers visits at specific vet clinics—none of which are in Tehachapi.

The closest one is 35 minutes away in Bakersfield, she says, but it had a waiting list of more than a month.

"We said, we can't be in that situation where we can't get her an appointment or get her in," Champieux said.

So, the closest veterinarian they could get an appointment at was in Santa Clarita.

"It's quite expensive, but what're you gonna do? She's like a family member."

Teresa's experience is not unique. Nick Cullen, director of Kern County Animal Services, says the vet shortage causes uncertainty for pet owners who worry if they will be able to find care for their animals.

"We know that that's a barrier for pet owners, and that probably contributes to the increase in pets we have in our shelters," Cullen said. "It affects our community acutely, and we're deeply concerned about our pet owners' ability to find veterinary care, let alone afford it."

One of the ways Teresa is looking to help with the additional costs is by entering Bella in the "America's Favorite Pet" contest.

"It made things pretty tight. But, we're trying to work around it and do the best we can…We saw this opportunity and thought, 'Well, let's try it. We never know until we try."

Teresa says the treatment is a large adjustment for Bella and her family, but it's worth it to keep her comfortable and spend more time with her. Information for the contest can be found on their website. Teresa said the voting closes on Thursday, Feb. 29 to advance to the next round.

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