Do Veterinarians Still Make House Calls?

By Dr. Marty Becker

Q. I grew up on a farm, and the vet for our horses made house calls. Why don't vets for dogs and cats make house calls?

A. Large-animal veterinarians usually go where their patients are, and that makes sense because livestock can be difficult to move. You don't just put them in a carrier in the back seat of your family sedan, after all.

Related: 7 Things Pet Owners Do That Drive Veterinarian's Crazy

In addition, large-animal veterinarians typically work out of custom-equipped trucks that carry most of what they need for these ranch calls. Major surgeries still require horses to be transported to special facilities. (High-end procedures aren't generally performed on food animals, for obvious reasons.)

For companion animals, it has long made more sense to bring the pets to the veterinarian. Few physicians make house calls because the economics don't support it, and the same is true of most veterinarians. But by no means all: In many communities, and certainly in most metropolitan areas, there are veterinarians making a living in mobile practices.

At any veterinary conference you can see some pretty spiffy rigs designed for these practitioners. They range from a small house-calls vehicle to large units that are so well-equipped they even contain an operating room.

Related: 10 Questions Vet's Really Want You to Ask

If you think a mobile veterinarian is better for you (because you don't drive, for example) or your pet (such as a cat who panics when the carrier comes out), then look around: You may be able to find a veterinarian who'll come to your door. These services can be especially valuable for pets who need hospice care.

If you still live in the country, you're not likely to have a companion-animal mobile practice nearby - these are generally urban-based - but you may be lucky enough to have your farm veterinarian care for all of your animals. Just ask.

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