As Dr. Nancy R. Powel drives her mobile veterinary clinic around Baltimore and its environs these days, she makes house calls to dogs and cats — great and small — like a modern-day James Herriot. Years ago, Powel read the All Creatures Great and Small books from Herriot, the English veterinary surgeon who wrote about traveling from farm to farm caring for animals in the 1900s. “The era might be a little different,” says Powel, who has been providing mobile veterinary care since 2006. “We have better pharmaceuticals and better diagnostic equipment today, but the stories could be the same.” Mobile veterinary clinics are growing in availability from the San Francisco Bay Area to Orlando, Fla., and everywhere in between. Based on the old tradition of veterinarians making house calls in farming areas, these services now tend to focus on dogs and cats. Many mobile vets operate from vans or converted RVs that are equipped with everything they need to administer vaccinations, conduct checkups, do blood work and treat minor ailments. Some even perform surgeries and are nicknamed “neuter scooters.”
Mobility Brings Benefits
“I would never go back to a normal veterinary clinic,” says Lynne Moore of Charlotte, N.C., who has three dogs that are visited for care by Dr. Mike Thomann of Greater Charlotte Mobile Veterinary Services. She says her pets are not stressed when Thomann gets there. “They’re not taken into a back room where I can’t be with them. They just love him. They jump inside when they see him.”
Other benefits include:
- Less stress to the animal For dogs that don’t travel well, having a vet drive up to your door is a clear advantage. Additionally, the dog doesn’t have to sit in a noisy waiting room for 10 to 20 minutes or more with other animals it doesn’t know.
- Health benefits The mobile vet takes one patient at a time, so your dog isn’t intermingling with other pets that may have contagious ailments. “You don’t have fleas from other pets to contend with,” says Moore.
- Convenience for the pet owner The service is perfect for dog owners who have more than one pet, animals that don’t travel well, the elderly or infirm, and people with young children. “I think about the young moms who have an infant on their hip, a 2-year-old by the hand and a Lab dragging them across the parking lot,” Powel says. “This way, the infant can nap, the 2-year-old gets a lollipop and it’s not an all-day ordeal for mom.”
- Recuperation at home When surgery can be provided on a mobile basis, the canine patient can often recuperate at home. “They recuperate much faster when they’re at home as opposed to being in the hospital,” says Moore.
Quality of Life for Vets
Veterinarians say they also enjoy life on the road, as opposed to being cooped up in an office. “What appealed to me was that it’s a much more personal service you can provide and you can create stronger bonds with your clients and their pets,” says Powel. There are sometimes drawbacks, such as when pets have to be referred to an animal hospital because the procedure is not one that can be done on the road. Many veterinarians say that they would have a hard time returning to an office. “It’s a much more relaxed pace,” says Powel. “For each animal visit, I block off an hour of time. Some of that includes getting to the home and setting up at each stop. But I can also spend more time with people and do a better job of listening.”
Elizabeth Wasserman, a Washington, D.C., area-based freelancer, has been writing about pets, among other topics, for more than 15 years. Her love of dogs, in particular, was handed down through the generations from her great-grandfather, Eric Knight, who wrote the book Lassie Come Home in the 1930s.