The mobile pet doctor is in

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Discover the ease and possible savings you can find by using a veterinarian that makes house calls.

I recently had one of the most productive and personable pet health-care experiences I’ve ever had in one “visit” with a veterinarian.  When you have five rambunctious canines with five distinct personality types -- such as high-strung and energetic, adorably neurotic, ultra-elderly, overly affectionate, and intensely people-phobic -- then a trip to the animal clinic for annual vaccinations isn’t something you look forward to each year. In fact, when I saw the due date this summer fast approaching for shots and check-ups, my jaw clenched and I felt the stress of the situation zooming toward me. For many years, our pet check-ups have always been pure chaos and a huge financial undertaking.

Every year I’d go through the systematic procedure of piling a pack of five dogs into my Jeep, with barking, crying, nipping and fur flying everywhere. Also, picking up a 17-year-old, 70-pound dog that refuses to get up from a nap presents completely new problems beyond the usual dog antics that come with a trip to the clinic.  The prospect of yet another trip to the vet clinic made me cringe and actually think of skipping this year’s battery of shots altogether.

Beyond the chaos that goes with the visit, there’s the large expense of multi-pet examinations. There are those clinics that may provide some minor discount for a multi-pet household, but it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the final price you have to pay. For our household, it usually runs about $250 per dog for the annual exam and shots at a standard animal clinic. This includes the state-required rabies shots and tags.  That’s $1,250 spent in one trip! 

I just wasn’t up to this year’s fiasco.

As I cancelled the appointment, feeling very guilty, I wished for the days of old-fashioned veterinarians that would make house calls.  That had me thinking...

Were they out there? Did they even exist?

They do, and their numbers are growing. I found this out when I literally stumbled across a car in a shopping strip with the usual business-related magnetic signage on the side doors that read, “MOBILE VETERNARIAN. WE MAKE HOUSE CALLS!” I jotted down the number casually, not really getting my hopes up. A week later, I actually called the number I had scribbled down and was shocked when I was able to schedule an appointment for the following Sunday afternoon.  It was that simple. Here was an animal doctor willing to come to my home to examine all the dogs, give them all their shots, tags and do a little nail clipping – on a Sunday afternoon no less!  His name is Dr. Darryl Mickle, who works out of Lilburn,Ga.

“Just call me Dr. Darryl,” he told me. “All my customers do.”  He had a down-to-earth and familiar manner. The type of person that puts you at ease, Dr. Darryl was knowledgeable, considerate, and obviously passionate about this avant-garde approach to veterinary medicine -- the return of the house call.

When he arrived, he offered, along with the annual inoculations we needed, to provide skin remedies he noticed were needed.  While checking each dog for general health, he educated us in a friendly way about everything from proper toenail clipping, to the cause of skin allergies and various easy home remedies.  This was not the usual, fast-paced doctor chit-chat at the vet clinic. This was in-depth conversation with a man who loved to meet people and their pets, as well as provide valuable health care.

For all five dogs, the total bill was less than a third of the cost of a visit to a veterinary clinic.  The expertise, the conversation, and the general “beside manner” made this the most enjoyable pet-vet experience I ever had. 

I asked how he can afford to make the costs so much lower than the clinic fees. His answer was simple and very expressive:

“I save the money in overhead for one thing. I may have to work seven-days-a-week, but it’s very rewarding. I get to spend real quality time with my customers and their pet. This goes beyond simply reading a clipboard chart hanging on a door, with 20 to 30 patients to see each day that I won’t remember tomorrow.”

“I want to develop a relationship and get to know your pets, their environment. The conditions they may need to be treated for are affected by everything around them in the home. It’s very helpful to see them in their natural habitat. You don’t get that from working in a clinic. I enjoy this so much more.”

I was completely sold.  He had an honest love for the field of veterinary science and an obvious joy to provide an in-home service like this.

After about a two-hour visit, all five dogs had their shots, tags, exams and nails clipped. I paid a price equal to about what I would have payed for one-and-a-half dogs if I visited the nearest vet clinic. This included an antibiotic treatment for one of our dogs who had an ear infection.  

For me -- and I imagine for those other pet lovers in a similar situation with several animals -- calling a mobile vet is a worthwhile solution. Not all vets are alike, so I can only recommend that you be sure to chat in detail with whomever you find. Mention all your pets’ quirky personality points and health issues. You should be able to find a mobile vet who will offer a wide variety of services at a greatly reduced cost compared to clinic fees.

I understand many things are changing in the world of medical services. I am very glad veterinary medicine has re-discovered the grass-roots approach to service. No longer will I sweat it when the time for pet vaccinations and checkups comes, literally, to our house every year.

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