By Dr. Becker
A growing number of pet owners are turning to mobile veterinarians or 'vets on wheels' to care for furry family members.
Mobile vet clinics can be an ideal solution for families with pets who are:
- Shy, scared or skittish
- Large breed dogs with mobility problems
Having your vet come to you instead of the other way around can also be a blessing for:
- Multi-pet households
- People with hectic or unpredictable schedules
- Couples with a new baby or young children at home
- Shut-ins, senior citizens, and people who don't drive
- Breeders who don't want to expose very young animals to other patients
Why Some Pet Owners Prefer Mobile to Brick-and-Mortar Vet Clinics
Many family pets, especially cats, experience extreme, debilitating stress when they must travel even a short distance. It's not unusual for a very distressed, frightened cat or dog to vomit or lose bladder or bowel control on car rides to and from the vet's office.
With a vet-on-wheels, the travel your pet endures is no more than a short walk down the driveway to the waiting mobile vet unit.
Lots of pets and their owners find waiting around for the vet during a clinic visit unnerving. When your vet comes to you, you're waiting in the comfort of your own home, and your pet remains calm.
Families with several pets can get everyone wellness-checked at the same time. This avoids multiple vet appointments or trying to wrangle several pets at once to, from and at the veterinary clinic.
Often, examining a pet in his own environment is more helpful and productive than attempting to diagnose a problem when the animal is stressed out during a visit to the vet.
Also, having your vet come to you lowers the risk your pet will be exposed to diseases that may be lurking in a clinic waiting room. This is a tremendous advantage if your pet is very young, elderly or has a weakened immune system.
Many owners who are facing the death of a beloved companion prefer to have their pet euthanized at home, surrounded by family members.
Potential Drawbacks to Using a Mobile Veterinary Service
While there are a number of benefits to using a mobile veterinary service, there are also some drawbacks you should be prepared for if you decide to look into the service for your pet.
- Availability of services. While mobile vet units seem to be catching on with both new DVMs and those who want to expand their existing practices, there are still many more brick-and-mortar veterinary practices than there are clinics on wheels. If you don’t already know of a mobile vet in your area, I recommend either Googling the information or contacting your state veterinary medical association1 for assistance. You can also check the listings at the American Association of Housecall Veterinarians2 or the AAHV3.
In addition, currently most mobile DVMs are the equivalent of primary care doctors for humans. In other words, you won't find veterinary specialists aboard a mobile unit, nor are you apt to find integrative or holistic vets, or specialists in pet chiropractic, acupuncture or physical rehabilitation.
- Appointment scheduling. Due to travel, set-up time and other peculiarities of operating a mobile vet clinic, DVMs-on-wheels are able to see far fewer patients each day than their counterparts in regular practice. You could run into a situation where appointments are booked far in advance, which may or may not work with your needs or the needs of your pet.
- Cost. Mobile veterinary services are typically more expensive than the same services at traditional veterinary clinics. Travel to and from appointments carries its own expense, and each mobile call takes considerably longer than regular clinic visits. Mobile vets have no choice but to charge higher fees for the convenience of bringing their clinic to their patients rather than the other way around.
- Limited services. While some mobile veterinary units are well-equipped to perform an amazing menu of medical services, many are limited to just a few types of exams and procedures. If your pet is very ill or requires a specialist, a mobile unit probably isn't the way to go. Mobile clinics are also not typically equipped to handle emergencies.