Pet owners are calling for a 24-hour vet service in the shire after several pets have died during after hours.

Kilmore resident Anita Gisch lost her six-year-old cat Ollie to a snake bite earlier this month.

Ms Gisch had to drive 50 kilometres to Essendon Fields where Ollie did not survive the trip.

“It just seems crazy that the population around here is booming and there is no essential overnight care in the region,” Ms Gisch said.

“If we’d known it would take an hour I wouldn’t have gone into a wait and see mode – I would have taken him earlier.

“Between Melbourne and Bendigo there is virtually nothing. I understand it is difficult for vets in the area, maybe it is something needed for council to address? We don’t know what we can do to help.”

Kilmore resident Andrea, who did not want her surname published, said she had experienced several occasions where she had to drive long distances to a 24-hour vet.

“I had accidentally ran over my cat and we panicked as we didn’t know who to call for this emergency, she died on my lap while driving to Kilmore and then Broadford in the hope someone was open,” Andrea said.

“We have had other occasions where we had to drive to Bundoora which is 40 minutes away on a good run.

“One vet can’t do it all themselves, we don’t want them working 24 hours. Can they rotate like our doctors do? Can we fund vets to come up from Melbourne?”

“The area is growing that much now we need something in the area, our pets are our family we need to do something.”

Northern Veterinary Group owner Dr Paul May opened the 24-hour emergency hospital in Wallan in September, 2016.

“We kept this service going until June 2018 at which point the service was reduced to overnight nurses only and vet staff on site until 11pm – this was then ceased in November 2018 to our current opening hours,” Dr May said.

“The change was due to the inability to find experienced vets to work the night shifts. The night shifts are sole charge and create very difficult working hours for vets and therefore they are extremely difficult to fill.

“For the majority of the emergency centre operation, the staff shortages would often be filled by me and occasionally some of my other full-time staff. This meant working overnight shifts on top of regular day shifts.”

Dr May is perplexed by the shortage of vets in rural areas.

“No one has an explanation given there are more graduates per year than ever before,” Dr May said.

“One thought is the low wage and high demands of the profession lead vets to move into other professions. There is certainly high rates of mental health issues and compassion fatigue.

“There is certainly no perfect solution except maybe a nationwide Medicare for animals.

“The solution lies in many areas: early career support, ongoing professional support and possibly more pet insurance pick up among owners (to take some financial pressure off).”

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