“The practice of mobile veterinary medicine is definitely on the rise, whether it be stand-alone mobile vets or whether it be a hospital that has a mobile service,” says Kate Spencer, Communications Manager for the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). “A lot of vets will make house calls, particularly for hospice or euthanasia,” she adds. “We have found that to be really successful…for the pet owner.”
Ms. Spencer notes that the AAHA does not grant accreditation to mobile veterinary offices — not because they’re not good enough but because, she says, “our set of standards doesn’t apply.” For instance, she says, for surgeries, “we require that surgical suites are separate, closed, single-purpose rooms so there’s not treatment going on or staff snacking in there. It improves the health of the pet by helping to keep a sterile environment.” Ms. Spencer makes clear that she is not saying surgery in a mobile veterinary office is a bad idea and that surgery areas in vans are unclean. She’s simply saying that not having a dedicated surgery suite is something that by definition “under our standards couldn’t be evaluated.” In addition, a standing office must have animal holding areas that include run-ins. A van obviously does not have room for that. Again, not bad, just different, although it does mean that there’s not a set of eyes on the operation that a standing practice with AAHA accreditation will have.
On the plus side, mobile veterinary services are terrific options for people who can’t drive as well as for those whose dogs simply are petrified about going to the vet’s office as well as for aggressive dogs. Says Vincent Seccareccia, DVM, who runs a mobile veterinary van in Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts, “I have seen animals who for years had to be muzzled at the vet but not with me.” In a regular vet’s office, Dr. Seccareccia explains, dogs are first put in a waiting area with other animals and then led in to the exam room by an assistant. In the van, by contrast, “they see me first. It’s my territory.” They know that, and it attenuates aggressive tendencies.
Dr. Seccareccia also finds that a lot of people with geriatric dogs who are unable to climb into the car to go to the vet appreciate having the office brought to them, as do dogs who “get very stressed out in the waiting room from all the stress pheromones that the other animals are releasing.” By the time they make it into the exam room, “they’re all worked up.” That’s not the case in the van, with only one canine patient present at a time.