Why Let the Dogs Out? These Vets Come to You

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On the list of dreaded domestic tasks, taking a pet to the vet ranks fairly high. Dragging Rover or Fluffy to get their shots and checkups can be a Herculean struggle, with pet and owner left exhausted and upset. So what better way to remedy the stress than for the vet to come to you? A steadily growing number of veterinarians are offering house calls or opening mobile services. Membership in the American Association of Housecall Veterinarians (AAHV) has increased 150% in the past decade. LaBoit Inc., a company that manufactures mobile-vet vans, has seen sales increase 40% over each of the past five years. "More and more, you're beginning to see it," says aahv president Dr. Jonathan Leshanski. "People are aware that there's someone who can come and help their pet."

House-call and mobile vets offer distinct services. House-call vets come into your home and perform their tasks there. They are required by law to have an agreement with a clinic for services they can't perform on site such as spaying, neutering and declawing. Mobile vets have vans or RVs for treating animals. They often can do lab work and perform surgeries.

Practicing a philosophy of times past — that the sick should stay put and care should come to them — these vets place an emphasis on personalized care. The average facility vet sees one animal every 15 to 20 minutes, or about 30 animals a day; those of the house-call and mobile variety see eight to 10. In addition to standard service charges, house-call vets add a house-call fee ranging from $20 to $60, depending on the distance traveled.

Dr. Lisa Garro of Charleston, S.C., is a house-call vet with 1,500 patients. "The major benefit is that you're in their environment. Things — like seeing where the food and litter boxes are placed or where a pet likes to sit — all help. It's conducive to a higher quality of care on all fronts."

Clients range from busy families that don't have time to herd their pets into a car to the elderly and disabled who can't easily transport their animals. "It's satisfying to know you're helping someone who otherwise wouldn't get care for their pet," says Dr. Alice Emberton, a mobile vet in Nashville, Tenn., who performs everything from neutering to laser surgery in her 19-ft. van.

Having a vet who visits is a great help to pet owners looking for end-of-life care and euthanasia. Colleen Carruthers Olexa of Gainesville, Fla., had to have her 12 1/2-year-old Labrador put down two days before Thanksgiving. Dr. Steve Camp arrived at the family's house and helped them say goodbye. Says Olexa: "Pepper was lying in my husband's arms. It was the best you could have in that situation."

You can send e-mail to Heather at htesoriero@aol.com