Pet Talk: Vet house calls ease pets’ fears |

Pet Talk: Vet house calls ease pets’ fears

Eileen Putman
Associated Press Writer
Vail, CO Colorado
Eileen Putman/APDr. Marisa Gerth checks out Titus, a guinea pig, at the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria, Va., where she parks her mobile veterinary truck in the parking lot.

ARLINGTON, Va. ” My timid tabby turns into a raging psychopath at the vet’s. Fangs bared, claws unsheathed, he’s impossible to treat unless anesthetized or immobilized in a net. But his nagging cough had gone on too long.

I girded myself for the struggle to stuff him into the cat carrier for the 15-minute trip to the animal clinic. Then I saw an ad for a veterinarian who makes house calls.

Would an in-home exam be less stressful for my fearful pet? Could I afford it?

Yes, to both questions.

The convenience and low hassle of vet house calls appeals not only to folks like me with stressed-out pets, but also to the elderly and disabled, those with young children or many pets, and owners facing a pet’s euthanasia who want a more peaceful setting than a bustling, impersonal clinic.

It’s a trend some say is returning veterinary care to a simpler, more romantic time but it also encompasses the high-tech. Big mobile units cost into six figures and can include surgical and exam tables, equipment sterilizer, X-ray viewer, oxygen tanks and expensive monitors.

“We’ve come full circle for veterinary medicine ” the best of both worlds,” said Dr. Christine Foster of Gainesville, Va., who founded Companion Paws Mobile Veterinary Service 12 years ago.

Many mobile vets are women with children who want flexibility in their schedules, said Dr. Shannon Stanek, of Exton, Pa., president of the American Association of Housecall and Mobile Veterinarians, which has about 500 members and is growing.

A well-equipped mobile truck can offer a full range of services, depending on state regulations, which vary.

“We have members able to do orthopedic surgery and all that kind of stuff, but it depends on what you’ve got,” Stanek said.

Dr. Marisa Gerth of Critterfixer’s Mobile Veterinary Care, in Alexandria, Va., is the lucky vet who showed up to treat my middle-aged tabby. T.J. ” short for Thomas Jefferson ” eyed her warily.

It went well, mostly. Gerth did have to chase him into an upstairs bathroom and imprison him in a towel to get a listen with her stethoscope. But T.J. was only momentarily miffed. There was no bloodshed ” hers or his. She thought he had a cold, nothing serious. And she trimmed my other cat’s claws, at no charge.

A big part of a mobile vet’s practice is euthanasia of sick or old pets ” either the animal can’t be helped, or owners elect not to treat them. Mobile vets look at those calls as an important service.

“Owners don’t want their pet’s last moment being that awful car ride and all that stress,” Gerth said. “They want it to be peaceful and at home. … It’s not something I like to do. It’s emotional, but it’s a way I can help.”

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