House Calls – Almost – with Mobile Veterinary Clinics

Is an exam room in your driveway the right choice?


Veterinary care via a house call is certainly not a new concept but has been of limited value because the doctor comes with little more than a black bag and a stethoscope.

But in many areas of the country, the clinic can now come right to the curb with a mobile veterinary unit. It’s an option that can really make some cats’ lives easier because it dispenses with the dreaded car ride, cat carrier, and exposure to unfamiliar animals and people in a veterinarian’s waiting room. It can also be great for people with very hectic schedules or limited mobility.

What a mobile veterinary clinic can and can’t do

A veterinary office on wheels will not have the capacity to perform MRI or other procedures that require large or particularly sophisticated equipment. Nor can it be used to treat a cat in the throes of an emergency and losing blood or struggling to breathe. After all, mobile veterinary vans tend to operate by appointment, and it may be faster to get an injured cat to a veterinary hospital in your car. The hospital will also have the most comprehensive array of equipment to help a pet in a life-and-death struggle. But for routine visits and even x-rays and certain elective operations that can be scheduled, a moving veterinary office can be just the thing for a cat you can’t get calm enough to go to the doctor’s office.

Many of the vans have operating tables, imaging machines, and well stocked pharmacies, making them a reasonable choice not just for annual exams and preventive care but also general illness and injury care in addition to standard procedures like dental surgery. In one mobile veterinary clinic we followed for a day, a cat, Peaches, was supposed to have her teeth cleaned, but when the vet performed an oral hygiene exam, it turned out that three of them were in such bad shape that they practically fell apart as the drill was applied and needed to be pulled. After the procedure but before the pet came out of anesthesia, the doctor trimmed her nails so she wouldn’t rip out her sutures.

Of course, veterinarians who visit people’s homes are also able to perform at-home euthanasia, coming right inside a residence or the backyard — wherever the owner prefers — to let a cat leave this world in the comfort of familiar surroundings rather than having her last interaction with you be a miserable ride to the doctor’s office while stuffed into a carrier.

Some doctors who make house calls in mobile clinics will also come inside to perform a basic clinical exam and perhaps administer eye care and other things that don’t require complicated medical equipment.

The cost of comfort

Visits from the veterinarian are more expensive than visits to the veterinarian. To pay for her time getting to and from your home, the doctor will charge an additional fee. Sometimes it’s a straight number, like an extra $50. Sometimes it’s in the range of what a visit to a veterinary clinic would cost plus 10 to 15 percent. Different traveling veterinarians have different types of fee schedules.

If your cat tolerates visits to the veterinarian reasonably well, a mobile veterinary clinic might not be necessary, but for the most scared of scaredy cats, it might very well help tamp down on the stress.


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