VICTORIA -- The Victoria Humane Society is warning animal owners to stay on top of their pets’ health, as island veterinary clinics have become overwhelmed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the Humane Society, it can take up to three weeks to get an appointment at a veterinary clinic, and visits to the emergency pet hospital could mean waiting in the parking lot for several hours.

“Everybody is crazy, crazy busy,” said Penny Stone, executive director of the Victoria Humane Society.

“Normally, if we phoned and said, 'Hey we need a spay or neuter,' it might be a week. Now it’s three to four weeks,” said Stone.

At the West Coast Animal Veterinary Emergency Specialty Hospital in Langford, wait times can be as long as five hours just to get in the door, according to hospital director Neil Roberts.

“We were busy before COVID hit and then since COVID things have gotten kind of nuts,” he said.

He says the long wait times are being caused by new health safety measures and COVID-19 protocols.

“It’s just slower and there’s less interaction with the client so there can be communication difficulties,” Roberts said.

“Especially because normally we have them inside and you examine the patient in the exam room. Here it’s a triage in the car,” he said.

The Humane Society says a backlog of animal surgeries and appointments also piled up because of shutdowns caused by the coronavirus.

Now, more than ever, pet owners should be monitoring their furry friends, says the Humane Society.

“Making sure that their pads look good, making sure their coats are clean, their teeth are good, there’s no smell coming out of their mouth,” said Stone.

“If you can keep on it, even if you get to the point where you can see something is going wrong, you can (book an appointment and) wait the two weeks,” she said.

“But if you’re leaving it to the last minute and all of a sudden – like, this has been going on for months, but now it’s an emergency – that’s where you’re going to run into troubles,” said Stone.

The Humane Society recommends regularly checking your pets so you can be aware of any health complications before they become emergencies.

The groups is also asking for patience when visiting a veterinary clinic or emergency animal hospital during the pandemic.