Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

House calls, for house pets

Veterinarians bringing country practices into cities by offering in-home visits

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If you're a fan of James Herriot's tales, you likely enjoy thinking about the good old days of the country vet. My grandfather, a Selkirk veterinarian, spent many a day going from house to house, caring for animals of all sorts (he was often paid in chickens).

A century ago, it was common practice to bring the service to the customer. While our city grapples with the idea of backyard chickens and revisiting trolley-like travel, it makes me think of the expression: what's old is new again.

Busy customers and high leasing rates have encouraged groomers to offer home service; they've been doing this for years. Dog sitters pick up and drop off furry loved ones, and in many provinces animal professionals offer at-home holistic care to pets of all sizes.

It has always been logical for rural vets to meet their patients at home, especially when the patient outweighs him six to one. It's not surprising, however, that urban veterinarians are also being drawn to this form of care. For many owners, it's a good lifestyle fit.

Studies have been done to show that animals reduce our stress levels. Dr. Larry Adelman, operator of local business Dr. A Housecall Vet, reveals that studies have also been done to show that nearly 14 per cent of pet owners avoid the veterinarian "because of the difficulties in taking them to the vet," he said. Some pets are upset by getting to and from the vet; they fear the car. I know it's not my dog's favourite thing to do; she hides in the back seat hoping she's not embarking on a 12-hour trip (there have been vacations where I wish I could have joined her). Other pets aren't keen on being in the clinic itself. Smells, other animals and the process of being placed in a strange setting cause some animals anxiety.

Perhaps these are reasons why so many cities are experiencing this new world/old world trend of veterinarians offering house calls. To service the needs of cat and dog owners, veterinarians find that there are benefits in meeting the owner at his or her home.

Adelman feels that it's a concept that fills a void for clients. Some animals get so upset that "their symptoms are masked by adrenalin" he said. This happens with kids too, but perhaps for a different reason. Every time I used to take my young kids to the doctor, the second they saw the gleaming toys in the waiting room, any sign of illness disappeared. In the home, however, kids and pets seem to have no problem letting you know that something's not right.

Another benefit, which he sees in home visits, is being allowed to "see the environment they live in," he said. It might jog the owner's memory to remind them to ask questions related to behaviour that they could forget in an office setting. He also expects that being in the home environment allows the owner to have more time to explain pet woes.

For those owners with multiple pets, proponents of home visits believe that this service offers them an added advantage; clients don't have to transport all of their furry loved ones to and fro. Nor would they need to make multiple visits. Owners with mobility problems might see this business format as beneficial, too.

Adelman sees his service as similar to a general practitioner. Those who offer home visits can "do everything in the client's home, except X-rays and surgery," he said. In the same way a human GP can do blood and urine tests, along with yearly exams, home vets can offer those services as well. When additional specialized care is needed, he'll refer the patient to a veterinary surgeon or other specialist (they do exist. If you look on the MVMA website, you'll find examples of dental and dermatological specialists for pets).

While his mobile clinical practice doesn't do emergencies, there is one service he affords that traditional care may not: he offers at-home euthanasia services. Adelman said "taking them to their least favourite place is tough at the best of times;" house calls allow pet owners the time to let go of their pet in the place they loved most -- home.

Home vet care may be bringing old-world service to our modern age, but there's one thing veterinarians offering this service refuse to do -- accept payment in chickens.

Ask your veterinarian is he or she offers house calls. And for further information about Dr. A Housecall Vet, go to www.homevet.ca or call 488-1164.

 

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Pet Calendar:

You're invited to the Kilcona Park Dog Club's 4th annual barbecue on May 29th, from 3-6 p.m. at Kilcona Park.

There will be agility displays and a NINA interactive doggie olympics, along with a silent auction. Half of the proceeds with go to park improvements and the other half will be given to a no-kill shelter. For further information contact Maureen Heide at: kilconaparkdogclub@live.ca

char.adam@mts.net twitter.com/charspetpage

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 25, 2010 D5

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