Pet Housecalls 101: What to Expect
Housecalls 101: What to Expect
What We Do
We are your primary care doctor for your pets. We can help when they’re healthy and when they’re not. Annual exams for healthy pets? Yes, we do that. Vaccinations? You bet. Your dog hasn’t been feeling well? Yup, give us a call. Or, you may be at the point where it’s time to say goodbye to a beloved pet, and you want to do it at home in a way that respects the warm and wonderful life they’ve shared with you and lets you give them a compassionate ending in the peace and comfort of their familiar surroundings. We can help.
In fact, we can provide most of the same services that you would find at a traditional brick-and-mortar animal hospital, including:
- annual exams
- new pet exams
- sick or injured pet visits
- bloodwork and other diagnostic tests
- prescription medications
- management of chronic medical conditions
- health certificates for domestic travel
- heartworm testing and prevention
- blood pressure monitoring
- flea and tick prevention
- hospice care
- humane, compassionate euthanasia
Benefits of House Calls
For Your Pet
Some pets become a nervous wreck when they have to go to a clinic, but they remain remarkably calm and relaxed when the vet comes to them. Of course, some pets remain nervous and difficult to handle, but they generally still do better on their home turf than at a clinic.
Even if you have a sociable pet who loves going to the clinic, housecalls offer an added aspect of care. Because the doctor is at home with your pet, he or she can see and understand the environment and will tailor their recommendations to your pet’s specific needs and circumstances. For example, a dog who lives next to a stream or pond needs a leptospirosis vaccination, but a dog in a highrise apartment who never goes near a lake can skip this vaccine. Or the doctor may notice that your older, arthritic dog’s food bowls are on the ground, and it might be easier for her to eat if they were raised up a bit. When our doctors can see and relate to your pet’s experience this way, they can offer medical care that combines both the clinical picture of exams and diagnostic tests with the bigger picture, resulting in the best possible care.
Beyond the obvious convenience of being at home instead of traveling to and waiting in a clinic, there are intangible benefits for you. You spend the entire appointment working one-on-one with the doctor rather than repeating your pet’s history to a receptionist, a technician, and then a doctor. You get the doctor’s full attention from the beginning, and the two of you work together to review your pet’s health and discuss the best plan for her care.
If you are facing difficult end-of-life decisions for your pet, you can take comfort in knowing that you are in a private setting, and you do not need to worry about working through an emotional process in a hospital setting near a waiting room full of other pets and pet owners.
Preparing for your Visit
Many pets are much more relaxed for a veterinary visit at home with the aid of mild sedative. Once we have established care, we can provide safe oral sedation medications to make future visits less stressful.
We want to know about your pet’s previous medical history so we can provide the best, most appropriate care. You can help by providing previous records for us to review in advance of the appointment. Just ask your previous veterinarian to fax the records to 508-653-4333 or e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org. We would ask them ourselves, but because the records belong to you, they need to hear from you directly.
Nervous, Feral, or Dangerous Pets
Cats who are likely to be nervous or difficult to handle need special attention. For the doctor’s safety and your own, you will need to have your nervous, skittish, or feral cat in a bathroom before the doctor arrives. This avoids having to chase a nervous cat through your home and having to pull her out from under a bed or behind a dresser. Not only does this increase the stress level on your pet and start the appointment on a negative note, but the risk of injury doing these things is too high, as cat bites typically become infected and often require hospitalization. The doctor will conduct the exam on these cats in the bathroom, doing his or her best to conduct a full exam and perform the necessary treatments and tests.
Dogs who are aggressive or try to bite are not good candidates for house calls and may need to be seen at a hospital, where a full staff is on hand to ensure the safety of everyone, including your dog. Nevertheless, we are able to see most nervous dogs at home. When appropriate, the doctor will provide a muzzle and ask you to put it on your dog, as he or she is likely to be more comfortable being muzzled by someone familiar. The most helpful thing you can do is tell us if your dog has gotten nervous or tried to bite in the past, so we can be prepared and make the best decision to keep us, you, and the dog safe. A small percentage of dogs are not good candidates for the house call setting if they are very difficult to handle and may need brick-and-mortar care instead.
If you have any concerns about how your pet will behave during the visit, please let us know when you schedule the appointment so we can plan appropriately.
Preparing for Euthanasia at Home
We understand that decisions regarding end-of-life care need special consideration. To learn more about how to prepare and what to expect, please visit our page about end-of-life care, which includes information about euthanasia at home.
When you request an appointment, we will work with you to find a suitable day and time for the visit. We’ll give you a specific time or a narrow window of time when you can expect the doctor to arrive. We do our best to stay on schedule, and more often than not, the doctor arrives within just a few minutes of the targeted appointment time.
Occasional shifts in the schedule do occur, the result of unpredictable traffic or the need to work a sick pet into the day’s schedule. We ask for your understanding that these factors might push your appointment a little bit earlier or later than the original time. In the unlikely event that the doctor needs to arrive more than 15 minutes before or after the target time, you will receive a call from us.
Your appointment reserves our time to be with you and your pets at your home, so we encourage you to review our cancellation policy and let us know as soon as possible if you need to change your appointment.
Beginning the Appointment
After arriving with his gear, the doctor typically begins the appointment by reviewing your pet’s history with you and listening to any concerns you have. This also is a time for your pet to become comfortable with the doctor in a relaxed, unpressured way.
Working With Your Pet
When it’s time to work with your pet, the doctor will be happy to do this wherever you like. If your dog is napping on his bed, that’s where he can get his annual exam. The doctor will have all the necessary diagnostic equipment at the visit. The doctor can do everything right there, including the full exam, taking blood and urine samples, giving vaccinations, inserting microchips, taking blood pressure readings, and many other procedures.
Handling Difficult Animals
Most animals cooperate well during the visit, but some do not. In a housecall setting, without the resources of a fully-staffed hospital, there may be some pets that cannot be handled safely for all procedures. The doctor may ask you to provide a towel he or she can use to help keep your pet still and calm during some procedures. The doctor may also ask you to help hold your pet still for some procedures, but you should tell the doctor if you have any reason to think your pet might try to scratch or bite in this situation. You are never required to hold your animal, and you should not do so if your animal poses a risk of injury.
Completing the Appointment
A typical appointment for one pet will last about 30 minutes. The doctor will finish the appointment by discussing the findings and recommendations with you.
You may pay by cash, check, debit card, Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express, CareCredit, or Apple Pay. We’ll print a receipt and medical notes at the visit and answer any final questions you might have.
The doctor may want your pet to start on medications right away. In that case, you will receive these medications at the appointment.
Other times we may wait for test results to prescribe medications, in which case we can mail medications to you and can set up automatic refills to be sure you always have enough medication on hand.
We send the blood, urine, and fecal samples collected during the visit to a national diagnostic laboratory for analysis. Most test results are available within just a few days, so you will hear back from us soon to share the results and our recommendations.
Referrals to Specialists
If your pet needs a specialist, we will provide a referral and submit your pet’s medical records to the specialist.
We will track your pet’s due dates for future exams, vaccinations, bloodwork, and other procedures. We will usually e-mail you 1-2 months ahead of time and help you schedule your next visit.
We remain available to help answer questions and guide your pet’s care after the appointment. If you need more information or have a follow-up question, we invite you to give us a call or search the pet health library.
What We Don’t Do
Of course, there are some things we can’t do at home.
Procedures that require anesthesia (such as spay/neuter procedures, dental cleanings, and other more involved surgeries) should only be done in a hospital. Because we are an independent practice, we are free to refer you to any hospital of your choosing or to recommend one near you if you like. If you should ever need the services of a hospital, we’ll be happy to coordinate the referral and work with you and the hospital to make it as smooth a process as possible, and you can continue with housecalls once the hospitalization is done.
We’re not on call 24 hours a day. Fortunately, there are several wonderful emergency hospitals serving the greater Boston area, and they are open 24/7/365.
We provide only limited grooming for our veterinary patients (such as nail trims on dogs and cats we are already seeing for medical needs). For other grooming, we recommend trying a mobile pet groomer who can provide full grooming services.