Is a House Call Vet the Right Choice for You?
Published on October 31, 2012
Although it may seem like a throwback to the olden days, house calls in veterinary medicine never went away. In fact, they're actually becoming more relevant in modern veterinary practice.
House calls can offer many advantages for pets and owners:
Easier Hospice Care
Some modern veterinary house call practices offer a full spectrum of services, including end-of-life care. That’s because transporting the old, frail and infirm to and from a vet's office isn’t easy — especially when it comes to hospice care, which often requires frequent trips for fluid therapy, pain injections, bandage changes and other treatments.
No Stressful Travel
Just getting in the car or a carrier can be the worst part of the vet visit for a significant percentage of pets. House calls eliminate that issue.
Since we’re able to observe pets at home in their natural condition, we have an opportunity to evaluate them as they normally behave. We’re also able to witness how their owners interact with them, offering us invaluable insights into wellness issues that we may not fully understand otherwise.
Being in your house means that we get to know you in ways that we’d almost certainly miss out on in a traditional exam room setting, which inevitably translates into more individualized care going forward.
Let’s be honest — we’re largely unable to control a lot of what happens in the waiting room. Getting loose is, by far, my biggest concern. Imagine your freaked-out pet streaking across a busy parking lot.
Some dogs can also be extremely aggressive in tight spaces — especially when it comes to interacting with other dogs. Aggression toward cats and would-be petters isn't unheard of in a veterinary environment, either.
More Time With Your Vet
In some cases, the slower pace of a house call visit can allow time for for more comprehensive discussions and more detailed explanations.
Less Time Waiting for Your Vet
Instead of having to wait your turn, you can take care of other things at home while you wait for your vet to arrive.
Sounds great, right? Well, there are some downsides to mobile veterinary care . . .
Not every house call practice is affordably priced for every household. For example, I price my own house call visits at $100, so you’ll pay $52 more for a home visit than for a regular appointment. That’s not always doable for everyone.
Although I’m happy to do house calls, I’ll only do them for preexisting “brick and mortar” clients — and only when they live within a five-mile radius of my office. Most house call veterinarians have a greater travel range than mine, but they also tend to be priced in line with how far they have to drive.
It can be tough finding a vet who offers regular house calls. While many offer mobile services, most are like me: They have a regular home base, and they only truck out to you when they can. That might mean making house calls on their single day off each week, during the afternoon of a split shift (which will turn into a 9:00 night), or after working a full shift at their regular practice. Maybe it’s no wonder some vets limit their house calls to things like euthanasias or hospice services. Compassion likely drives this more than practicality or convenience. Full-time house call practices do exist, and it's possible to find a vet who offers high-quality medicine on the road, but because there are so few of these practices you'll probably have to do extra research to find someone within a reasonable distance who can offer the services you’re looking for.
Limited Care Options
“Full care” isn't usually doable in a mobile practice setting. X-rays and hospitalization, for example, don’t tend to work well in this environment. That’s why many house call vets typically only handle routine care, and refer all other cases to a traditional hospital.
There are clearly positives and pitfalls to patronizing a house call practice, and it’s up to you to determine whether the pros and cons suit your style.
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