Is a House Call Vet Right for You?

Jennifer Coates, DVM
Published: February 7, 2012
Is a House Call Vet Right for You?

One of the things I hear most frequently from cat owners is how much their pets hate visiting the veterinary hospital. Certainly, some dogs feel this way too (I try not to take it personally), but I’m constantly amazed by many dogs' "glass half full" approach to life.

"Sure, you expressed my anal glands the last time I was here," they seem to think, "put you rubbed my ears afterwards so you can’t be all bad."

What is an owner to do when a pet really despises going to the vet? I once had a patient, a sheltie, that had a seizure every time he walked through my clinic doors. His owners swore they had never seen him seize under any other circumstances. We could only assume that his stress level was so high that it brought about the seizures. No more clinic visits for him; it was house calls from then on.

If you find yourself under similar circumstances — maybe not the seizures but the stress — talk to your veterinarian about the possibility of a house call. Some brick and mortar veterinary practices will be able to accommodate the request. If not, look for a veterinarian who specializes in house call practice.

All house call veterinarians are not the same, however. Some travel in virtual "clinics on wheels." They can perform routine surgeries, take X-rays, and offer almost anything that can be done in a general practice while they are parked in front of your house. The upside of this option is that it does not severely limit your options for care. On the other hand, mobile clinics do still have the unmistakable ambiance of a veterinary hospital, and cats still have to get in the dreaded carrier to safely make the trip into the vehicle.

Other house call vets travel light. They show up with black bag (or its equivalent) in hand and perform all their services within the home. This is definitely the least stressful option for pets, and is ideal when an individual is truly terrified of veterinary visits. It is important that you confine cats or small dogs before the vet arrives. Having to spend the majority of the appointment trying to find the patient and then extricate him or her from under the bed kind of defeats the purpose.

Most routine veterinary care can easily be performed by a house call vet, including:

  • physical examinations
  • health certificates
  • weight management
  • diagnosing and treating behavioral concerns
  • vaccinations
  • microchips
  • deworming
  • nail trims (including sedation if necessary)
  • fecal parasite testing
  • standard blood work
  • urinalysis
  • needle biopsies
  • monitoring chronic medical conditions
  • hospice care
  • euthanasia

If you have a herd of animals in your home or have difficulty getting around yourself, having a vet come to you makes a lot of sense, too. House call veterinarians also tend to have more flexible schedules than do veterinary clinics, so if you are in need of a weekend or evening appointment, a mobile vet may be more available. And because most of these veterinarians are not part of large practices, you usually see the same person at each appointment, which is an added benefit if you like having a personal relationship with your doctors.

Some veterinary cases do require the services of a full service hospital, however. A house call is not the best choice if you are dealing with an acute medical crisis where the likelihood of needing advanced diagnostics, surgery, and/or hospitalization is high. But, don’t let this scare you off from using a mobile veterinarian for your routine care. Simply make sure you pick a doctor who has the ability to refer more complicated cases to a nearby clinic. Ideally, your mobile vet will be able to remain involved in your pet’s care, which really gives you the best of both worlds.

Dr. Jennifer Coates

Image: Nagy Melinda / via Shutterstock

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