By Dr. Rosie Smith Vet, MB, MA, MSc, MRCVS
A Day In The Life Of A Mobile Vet
We asked Dr Rosie Smith to describe her typical day as a home-visiting vet
What is your typical day like?
On a typical day, I will make between five and eight house calls, drop off prescription medication, and answer numerous phone calls. I am out of the house by eight and often am still returning phone calls at six or seven in the evening. But I am not on the go all day and usually have an hour or two in the afternoon to have some lunch and walk the dogs.
When I say that I am a mobile vet most people imagine that I am driving, blue light style, from one emergency to the next but this is not the case. Most of my calls are booked a week to a day in advance. Booster vaccinations are easy to schedule ahead and even cases such as lameness or itchiness can usually wait until the next day.
Clearly urgent cases have to be dealt with as a priority but people are always understanding if I have to rearrange their booster vaccination to go and see a dog in labour or a cat that has been playing in the traffic.
Treating pets at home has many advantages. It saves the animal a stressful trip in the car to a strange building that smells funny and is full of other scary unfamiliar animals. It is also much easier to assess the animal's behaviour when it is at home – is it relaxed or nervous? Does it jump up and greet me at the door or is it so poorly it doesn’t even get out of its bed? Owners are generally more relaxed too and I can often see how they are interacting with their pets. This makes giving behavioural advice and tips a lot easier.
I can also check on where the food bowls are and whether they are full or empty. I might say ‘I think Jasper has put on a bit more weight since I was last here Mrs Brown, what are you feeding him?’ Owners are then quite happy to pull out all twenty varieties of dog or cat food from their larder plus numerous treat jars – sometimes bigger than the pet itself!
Cats commonly suffer cystitis brought on by ‘stress’. Seeing them at home I can assess where the litter trays are placed, where the food is, how other cats are interacting and whether there are pot plants on the window sills (so the cat can see out but feels obscured from the big mean bully boy cat down the road who may be peering in). All these things can affect the cat’s behaviour but the owner may not have thought about them or realised how significant they are to the cat. Such issues are ‘invisible’ when you are in the consulting room during a regular surgery but can be sorted out very quickly when you’re on the spot.
Some days are reserved for routine surgery – spaying, neutering, and dental work. I offer a collection and delivery service, picking the animals up first thing in the morning and returning them at the end of the day.
Being a mobile vet means that my caseload is not as high as in regular practice and this gives me the advantage of being able to give my patients more individual treatment.
Clearly, not every pet can be treated at their own home. Very sick animals are brought back to my home where they are looked after in a purpose-built kennel and surgical facility (that used to be my garage). Nursing in-patients at home mean that they have personal one-to-one care. This is extremely rewarding. Recent cases have involved a cat with a ruptured diaphragm, a dog with peritonitis, and another cat that was suffering from permethrin toxicity (a type of flea treatment that is fine for dogs but highly toxic – often fatal, for cats). I had to maintain her in a medically induced coma to counteract the fitting and this kept me up for two nights in a row. It was hard work but seeing the cat slowly recover from being literally at death's door to returning home to her owner had me on a high for several weeks afterwards.
Sadly not all conditions are treatable and a lot of my work involves putting animals to sleep at home. Euthanizing a pet at home makes a distressing situation easier to bear for the owner and is less traumatic for the pet than a trip to the surgery. Although very sad and although I cannot say that I enjoy this aspect of my work, I take pride in carrying out euthanasias to the best of my professional ability and in a compassionate and thoughtful way.
Have you always wanted to be a vet?
I have wanted to be a vet for as long as I can remember and appreciate that I am very lucky to have been able to fulfil my dream. I have to confess that I was a dreadful swot at school and passed my A levels with straight As. I spent every Saturday and holiday doing work experience at my local practice from the age of 13.
What advice would you give to any aspiring vets?
The best advice I can give to anyone who is thinking of a career as a vet is to work really hard at school, you need to get the grades to be in with a chance of getting a place at college, and get as much animal-related experience as possible – pester if necessary! I gained a place at
Cambridge University where the veterinary degree course is six years long. While at University I developed an interest in conservation and led an expedition to Mexico to study the red-kneed tarantula. I also have a master's degree in conservation biology and spent some time researching bats in Central America. (Bats are my favourite animals).
Have you always worked with companion animals?
Since graduating I have worked exclusively in small animal practice. I am quite a small build and had no desire to wrestle with cows, bulls, or large horses although I currently see the occasional pet goat and plenty of backyard chickens.
I also spent some time working free of charge for a wildlife charity in Surrey. At the time a lot of the charity’s work was filmed and made into a documentary series that is still shown early in the mornings on channel five – ‘Wildlife SOS’ where you may catch the odd glimpse of me as a younger vet!
What are the advantages of setting up on your own?
I am very lucky. I love my job. Every day is different and every day I learn something new. Being mobile means that I develop a close relationship with my clients. I see them and their pets in their home environment and that has great advantages for diagnosis and treatment. Setting up my own business has meant I can organise my own time better and has allowed me to be at home with my children while they were growing up.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
In my ‘spare ‘ time I like to write. I blog for the Good Vet and Pet Guide and I have also written a novel about an alien dog and her owner and the adventures they get up to – available on Amazon for anyone interested. Search for ‘Emerald’ by Rosemary Smith - soon to be out in paperback!
Dr. Rosie Smith Vet, MB, MA, MSc, MRCVS
Paws Indoors Mobile Vet Norwich & South Norfolk
Find Paws Indoors on the Good Vet and Pet Guide
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