Close your eyes. Imagine you are in the waiting room patiently sitting on a bench, waiting for the veterinarian to call your name. Chances are your nose has picked up strange odors whose smell you cannot pinpoint. You hear cats hissing at one another, dogs barking and the receptionists answering phone calls. You’ve used your vacation time to take your dog to the veterinarian and you become frustrated because the wait seems like an eternity. Suddenly, the doctor calls your name; you open your eyes and walk over to the examining room.
Most everyone who owns a pet can relate to this experience. While we want our pets to be healthy and receive the best care available, the process can be time-consuming and oftentimes frustrating. Having six pugs I know how exhausting trips to the vet can be—we try to schedule visits to accommodate our busy schedules, personalities and costs. Choosing a mobile veterinary practitioner (MVP) or a house call veterinarian over a stationary clinic has many advantages for pets and their owners alike.
According to Dr. Dena D. Baker, DVM and Founding Director of the American Association of Mobile Veterinary Practitioners (AAMVP) owning a mobile veterinary clinic allows doctors to work one-on-one with clients, without interruption.
“One advantage of mobile practice is the veterinarian gets to be one-on-one with the client— you don’t have to worry about rushing back to the waiting room and on to your next appointment,” explained Dr. Baker, DVM. “You’re able to develop relationships with each client and you have time to promote client-education, all of which are beneficial to the animals in the long-run.”
Dr. William Murphy of Rochester, NY who originally worked in a stationary veterinary clinic for 18 years also sees the ability to build close relationships with his clients as one of the greatest benefits mobile and house-call veterinarians are able to provide. He enjoys the informal setting of house-calls and feels there is less rush than a typical office setting. Appointments can be re-scheduled quickly (usually the same day or the next day) and if a client’s pet needs medications he can fill the order by mail.
According to Dr. Baker, convenience is one of the greatest benefits for clients who choose to work with MVPS. Rather than using vacation time to bring your dog to the veterinarian, you can schedule an appointment with a MVP who will care for your pet while you are at work and have everything done by the time you get home. MVPs are also beneficial for people with children who prefer not to take them to the veterinarian and people who own multiple animals. “If my clients have multiple animals I can come and take care of all of them at once instead of them having to make multiple trips,” stated Dr. Baker.
Dr. Baker also offers her clients the option to oversee their pet’s procedures and can offer the kind of flexibility allowing a more relaxing and less stressful experience for her patients. “If there were procedures that could be done in the home where the animal was more comfortable that’s where I would perform my work,” stated Dr. Baker. “My team and I even took care of some dogs in their yard because that was where they were most comfortable.”
In addition to Dr. Baker, Dr. An Nguyen said that working as a MVP has allowed him to assist elderly pet owners who struggle to get their pets to a stationary veterinary clinic. He’s also able to assist feisty pets in the safety and comfort of their own home who would not receive care otherwise. According to Dr. Nguyen operating a mobile veterinary clinic offers the flexibility and convenience that most working-professionals would prefer. Being a mobile vet offers him the flexibility of working in a field he loves while simultaneously enjoying the Florida lifestyle.
Although MVPs are associated with many advantages, Dr. Baker said MVPs often charge an additional cost for a house call fee or trip fee— something that could be avoided by going to a stationary veterinary clinic. She said, however, that most people see the time and gas money they will save, in addition to the ability to go to work while a MVP takes care of your pet at home, as a reasonable payoff.
Other than the trip fee or house call fee, Dr. Baker says that MVPs are not limited in the services they can provide as long as each procedure is preformed safely. She says a mobile veterinary practitioner who has a mobile unit can do everything from surgeries to dentals; x-rays and blood work.
Conversely, house call veterinarians cannot provide full-service care. As opposed to having a “hospital on wheels,” as Dr. Baker called it, house call veterinarians drive regular vehicles like SUVs and do not have enough equipment to preform major medical procedures.
Dr. Murphy, DVM, who visits patients in a Saturn station wagon, is a prime example of a house call veterinarian. Most of his visits focus on procedures he can complete in his patient’s home and for everything else he relies on a base hospital where he can perform surgeries and other complex procedures for his patients.
Likewise, Dr. Baker said that although she can perform surgeries in her mobile vehicle, she prefers to work on animals less than 200 pounds so she has sufficient room to successfully preform complex operations. In some cases, however, Dr. Baker has made an exception. “I’ve worked with leopards, jaguars and panthers,” reflected Dr. Baker. “Transporting such large animals to a stationary veterinary clinic would be too difficult and dangerous. By using my MVP I was able to sedate the animals in their enclosures, preform the necessary procedures in my truck and take them back to their enclosures to wake up.”
Dr. Baker is a firm believer in MVPs and believes they are growing in popularity as consumers learn about this more convenient option available for them and their pets. Dr. Baker was a MVP for eight and a half years, but has since retired to become a consultant for others who need help starting their own mobile veterinary practice.
“I started AAMVP a couple of years ago because there weren’t many resources available for individuals who wanted to start their own practice,” stated Dr. Baker. “As I gained more experience as a MVP a lot of people would call me and ask questions. I co-founded AAMVP because my colleagues and I needed a place where each time someone started a mobile clinic they didn’t have to go and re-invent the wheel.”
The AAMVP provides educational webinars on a regular basis for new MVPs, encouraging positive growth and development within the industry. Their mission is to network mobile veterinarians and communicate with veterinarians who own stationary clinics so they can better understand mobile veterinary clinics and how their operations differ from stationary clinics.
“I see mobile veterinary clinics as a growing trend and a unique niche for veterinarians who are looking to do things differently,” said Dr. Baker. “Mobile vets are convenient and they have many positive attributes to offer clients. The next big thing is to let the general public know that we exist and that the option is out there for them.”
Next time you take your dog to a veterinarian, consider choosing a MVP instead to save time and to offer the least-stressful option for your pets.
Written By Debra Thesing | Photo By Bailey & Banjo Pet Photography