In the olden days, doctors made house calls. Today – if you have an ailing dog or kitty – you can get care at home, thanks to mobile veterinarians.
The service appeals to pet owners who are homebound or work from their residences, or who have animals suffering from anxiety, aggression or travel-induced seizures. Many people just like the convenience, even if higher rates or fees are charged for house calls.
“One of the great things about being a mobile veterinarian is every day is different,” says Dr. Kristy Plunkett of Mobile Veterinary Hospital of Tulsa. “One day we may be at one multiple-pet household all day doing dentals and surgeries. Some days we only have one or two surgeries scheduled and the rest are vaccines, exams, bloodwork and sick pet treatments.”
Plunkett’s practice tends to be booked a few weeks in advance.
“Most surgical procedures and dentals have us at the client’s home for 2½ hours to allow time for pre-anesthetic blood work and a full recovery,” she says.
Happy Tails Mobile Veterinary Clinic, led by Dr. Gayle Acton, serves Greater Oklahoma City. Like Plunkett, Acton has filled an obvious void because some pets are best served at home. Mobile medical units are full service, including wellness care, surgeries, dental and blood work, digital X-rays, senior care, surgery and euthanasia.
“Being a veterinarian is a very rewarding profession, but being mobile takes it to a whole new level,” Plunkett says. “We are able to help pets that I truly believe would not receive care if not for our service.
“We form bonds with clients and their pets that are quite unique to mobile veterinary medicine. And we’re able to focus on one client and their pet at each visit without interruption.”
Both practices put in many daily miles to serve their respective metropolitan areas. A mobile vet unit means a large vehicle getting, at best, 6 miles to a gallon of gasoline. Scheduling requires clustering appointments in the same parts of town whenever possible. However, treatments can run longer than anticipated, so a vet often has to let the next client know of delays.
Euthanasia is part of any veterinary practice.
“With the mobile truck, it’s such a nicer service and better for pets with less stress,” Acton says. “It’s like they’re passing in their sleep as we can have the pet stay in their favorite spot, perhaps with their owner talking to them. Or the owner doesn’t need to be present. It’s up to them and we can take the pet to the truck.
“The pet is given a sedative to relax and the second shot is a heavy sedative to go to sleep. They’re comfortable and in no pain and sound asleep when the last injection stops the heart and there is no awareness or discomfort for them.”
As a final service, the beloved pet’s remains are cremated and the pet owner can choose whether to receive the ashes.