On the road: Mobile vets bring services to clients

Dania Maxwell/Staff 
 Dr. Albert Lopez passes Arnold, the cat, to its owner Mary Clum on Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013 in Naples, Fla. Lopez removed a tumor from Arnold, at his clinic, Concierge Veterinary Hospital of Naples, and utilized his mobile pet clinic to return the cat to Clum. Lopez recently expanded the mobile pet clinic into the veterinary hospital and finds the two types of clinics compliment each other.

Photo by DANIA MAXWELL, NAPLES DAILY NEWS // Buy this photo

Dania Maxwell/Staff Dr. Albert Lopez passes Arnold, the cat, to its owner Mary Clum on Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013 in Naples, Fla. Lopez removed a tumor from Arnold, at his clinic, Concierge Veterinary Hospital of Naples, and utilized his mobile pet clinic to return the cat to Clum. Lopez recently expanded the mobile pet clinic into the veterinary hospital and finds the two types of clinics compliment each other.

Struck by a car off McGregor Boulevard in Fort Myers last September, Cody clung to life with a broken pelvis, jaw and two broken legs.

The Doberman pinscher needed surgeries the family vet couldn’t provide. He suggested putting Cody down.

As a last option, the vet suggested Southwest Florida Veterinary Specialist and 24 Hour Emergency Hospital, which picked Cody up in a neon green pet ambulance.

“I was alarmed, it looked just like an ambulance,” said Susan Weber, Cody's owner. “I thought it would be a pickup. I was impressed. It was a lifesaver.”

Southwest Florida Veterinary Specialist is one of at least two local vets who have hit the road in recent years to bring services to their clients. In addition to responding to emergencies, they travel the community in high-tech mobile clinics targeting customers who are home bound, have difficulty driving or have timid or aggressive pets.

Transport and concierge prices range from $90 to about $350.

“A lot of pet owners feel like pets are a part of the family and we like to know we can do anything to save your family,” said Cami Walker, the Bonita Springs-based clinic’s practice manager.

Unlike a regular ambulance, pet ambulances have to obey the speed limit and stop for red lights. State law prohibits emergency lights being used for pets.

The ambulance that picked up Cody is outfitted with five oxygen cubbies, an automated external defibrillator and first aid items. Along the way to the clinic, Cody received pain medication intravenously and had his wounds bandaged,

Five months later, Cody’s “feet are a little crooked, but his tail is still wagging,” Weber said.

“Dogs are like your children,” Weber said. “It wasn’t pricey considering the trauma already. It really saved Cody’s life.”

That’s one reason why the Southwest Florida Veterinary Specialist clinic added its ambulance service last year.

Walker said they receive three to five emergency calls a week. Sometimes the calls aren’t for emergencies, they’re for checkups or at-home euthanasias.

“You never forget your first euthanasia,” Walker said. “It’s a difficult part of our job, but knowing that we can help owners by helping pets that don’t need to be suffering is always good to take on.”

Naples Mobile Pet Vet, a concierge pet clinic based in Collier County, is entirely mobile, offering services out of its custom 26-foot white truck.

“The reason to open the clinic was to have a focus on preventive care and client communication,” Dr. Albert Lopez said.

Lopez said he’s been operating on the road for eight years and is the only mobile vet based in Collier County. He said he can perform minor surgeries inside his truck, like spaying or neutering.

He said he sees about five clients a day.

“It’s a unique experience to enter someone’s home and see the pets’ interaction with the owners,” said Lopez. “It gives some awareness and understanding and (allows you to) see what that pet means to that owner. It gives a good idea of the type of service you need to deliver.”

Both mobile services are willing to travel up to 100 miles to provide care, and are best reached by phone.

Southwest Florida Veterinary Specialists and 24-Hour Emergency Hospital can be reached at 239-992-8387. Naples Mobile Pet Vet can be reached at 239-777-7387

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