The uniquely different feel of home veterinary visits

I’ve been practising as a veterinarian for ten years now. Until recently, I’ve always worked in veterinary clinics, adhering to the usual busy schedule of a new consult every 15 to 20 minutes. Earlier this year, however, I delved into the world of home visits – travelling out to visit patients and owners in their own homes.

I was a bit apprehensive before starting out as a travelling veterinarian. Firstly, I was concerned that I would be on my own, with no nurse to help me. In a veterinary clinic, you take it for granted that there will be a nurse on hand to help hold a wriggly animal, hold up a neck vein for taking blood, or hold a leg for inserting a catheter/cannula into a vein. How was I supposed to achieve these feats on my own? Secondly, I was concerned that home visits would mainly attract aggressive animals and euthanasias. However, none of my fears had any basis in truth.

I have found that there is something uniquely different about home visits. They have more of a personal feel. You get to know the animal and the owner better as you sit there talking whilst sitting on the couch, cuddling the pet on the carpet in front of the heater, or sit on the grass in the sun. You get to know their story. This also comes with the relaxed timeframe. My consults are longer than in a clinic. Also, I’m not distracted by having to be conscious of other clients who might be out in the waiting room, getting inpatient and anxious. I have time to spend with the pet and owner to build rapport and work through the problem. And between patients, I’m in my car rather than rushing directly from one patient to the next.

I also find that the animals are so much more relaxed at home that you can actually achieve much more with minimal restraint compared to in a clinic. I’ve taken blood and inserted catheters by myself many times with no problems. And I’ve rarely needed to use a muzzle. I’ve been amazed just how calmly visits go within an animal’s own home environment and what I can achieve on my own.

And finally,  owners are incredibly grateful. They love the convenience and are immensely relieved that they don’t need to transport their heavy dog or anxious cat to the clinic in the car. They are happier that a home visit is better for their pet. And as a vet, it feels good to have your services appreciated.

Yes, I do see a lot more older, sick animals. I’m involved a lot more in palliative care and I do perform more euthanasias compared to in a clinic. But there is something uniquely rewarding about being there to relieve an animal’s suffering and help an owner say goodbye to an animal in their own home.

I’m not saying that there aren’t benefits to working in a veterinary clinic, such as having access to blood machines and other diagnostic equipment directly on hand and working in a team. But I am really enjoying the personal feel that comes with home veterinary visits. It took some courage to spend the thousands needed to buy in equipment and medications and go into business on my own but I’m glad I took the plunge. So far, it has been immensely rewarding.

(Note: My journey into home veterinary visits has been through PAWSSUM. If you would like to book a home veterinary visit in Australia, call 1300 34 35 80. You can ask to book with me. You can also follow my veterinary instagram posts: drmerryoliveveterinarian.)