Home health care for the furry
Two local docs are delivering home health care to furry family members.
Veterinarians traveling to treat animals are nothing new, volunteers Monica Turenne, DVM, of Four Paws Veterinary Wellness. "In the past, visiting vets were mostly for large farm animals, and, when the vet would visit, people would ask, 'Hey doc, while you're here, can you vaccinate my dog and cat?'"
What is new are local vets whose entire practices are based on in-home care for household pets. Annie Staebler's Ann Arbor Mobile Vet was the first two years ago, and Turenne followed last year.
Turenne says the timing was right: "The road was already paved for the move to an all-house call practice … People and pets needed veterinarians to come to their homes for euthanasia or because their pet could not leave their home or they themselves could not get to the vet."
Turenne and Staebler both say their primary motive for going mobile was their desire to provide physical exams, blood draws, vaccinations, hospice care, and euthanasia free from distractions like phone calls and emergencies. (They refer emergencies, as well as surgical, x-ray, and dental cases, to brick-and-mortar clinics.) But with no building rent, expensive equipment, or large pharmaceutical inventories, mobile vets also have significantly lower start-up and operating costs. Both vets employ a licensed tech and spend an average forty-five to sixty minutes at each appointment. They say exam costs are comparable to those of other vets', plus house call fees of $25-35 (or mileage for longer trips).
For owners, house calls eliminate the need to persuade a panicky cat to get into a carrier, or for a geriatric, arthritis-riddled hound to take a car trip. For the vets, it also opens new options. At a clinic, "My choices for some diagnoses were to either recommend expensive surgeries or treatments or euthanizing," Turenne says. "I often felt, 'Why is there nothing in between?' Having a mobile practice took the burden off my shoulders, as it lets me
offer hospice care."
That's what Turenne did for Ellen Johnson's elderly miniature dachshund, Rudi. When he began to have pain and difficulty walking, Turenne brought an array of services, including medication and acupuncture, to keep him comfortable. "We discussed it," says Johnson, "and agreed that our goal couldn't be improvement but had to be on making the end of his life as good as it could be."
Johnson says she made the painful call when Rudi became "basically an unresponsive rag doll just three weeks shy of his sixteenth birthday. Monica came to the house the next morning. She offered me life-extending options but said she didn't advise any of them. We both knew it was time to say goodbye," she says, tearing up. "It was as beautiful and appropriate an exit from his life as it could be. Monica was comforting to him and comforting to me."
After the death of Rudi and his companion, Scooter, Johnson took in two young dachshunds from a rescue center. Turenne is now caring for them, too.
[Originally published in July, 2013.]