VETERINARIAN LISA AUMILLER, DVM, the owner of HousePaws Mobile Veterinary Service, launched a mobile vet service in 2010 with nothing more than her family car, a bag of supplies and a stethoscope. As the Mount Laurel, New Jersey-based practice grew from one employee to several, Dr. Aumiller traded in her wheels for a retired ambulance. HousePaws now has a fleet of mobile clinics stocked with essential supplies to ensure quality care to its patients.
HousePaws also has three veterinary hospitals in South Jersey and Pennsylvania to perform surgeries and dental procedures. In this interview with COMMERCE, Dr. Aumiller discusses the origins of her mobile vet practice, the services that can be provided on house calls and how technology has enhanced patient care for pets.
COMMERCE: How did the HousePaws Mobile Veterinary Service get started?
LISA AUMILLER, DVM: I always thought the idea of a mobile vet was a great concept, but it just seemed impractical. I ended up losing my job at a more “corporate-run” vet for not following some standardized practices that I felt were not necessary for some pets. Being fired from there opened a new door for me. I took my own vehicle, stethoscope and supply bag and have been on the road since then.
Q. How big is your mobile practice today?
A. In seven years, we have grown from one employee to more than 60 employees, which includes 14 vets and nine vehicles. We have 15,000 clients and continue to add more each day. Our mobile vet vehicles are all different colors, and each is named by clients. We’ve got Creamsicle, Green Hornet, Pink Panther, Red Hot Chile Pepper, Colonel Mustard, Blues Mobile, Teal Rex and Purple Nurple. Our new rainbow transit has not been named yet. We also have three state-of-the-art hospital locations where we take appointments and perform surgeries and dental procedures.
Q. What are the medical services that can be provided by your mobile vet practice?
A. Almost everything. In homes, we can do wellness exams, most sick and emergency visits, bloodwork, radiographs, ultrasound, acupuncture and more. But we do surgery and dentistry in our hospital settings.
Q. Can you please discuss some of the pros of mobile care for animals?
A. Planning care based on pets’ lifestyles is not a one-size-fits-all care plan. A big pro is that we get to evaluate the pet in his or her own environment. This gives the vets access to clues they never would get at an office. At home, we can see things like how they eat, what they eat, the litter box, and how they walk in the yard. At home, the pets tend to also be much calmer. I think you can give more thorough care at home. You get to see things that you wouldn’t see in a traditional setting. Another pro is the convenience it provides for the pets’ owners. There’s also the added bonus of not spreading a contagious disease.
Q. What animals do you see in your mobile vet practice?
A. Dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, ferrets, small rodents and more. Some of our vets see pet pigs and goats as well.
Q. What geographic areas do you serve?
A. Bucks County and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as well as six counties in New Jersey from Princeton down to Egg Harbor City. We have three hospital locations and go out 30 miles around each location.
Q. Can you please tell us a patient success story?
A. Recently, we had a cat who was diagnosed with diabetes. When we checked the pet’s sugar, it was very low. Turns out, the pet never was diabetic. We discovered that the blood sugar was falsely high when the pet was stressed. The pet had gained a lot of weight on insulin, as he was eating a lot more to keep up with the extra insulin he did not need. Today, the cat is feeling great, off insulin and losing weight.
Q. What are some unusual medical problems that you have been called to examine?
A. We recently had a dog patient who ate the nipple of a baby’s bottle, and he was vomiting. He was transported to our hospital for surgery, and is doing very well.
Q. Can you please discuss some of the challenges of owning and operating a mobile vet practice?
A. Weather is a challenge, as well as traffic. Another challenge is people thinking we are more limited in capabilities than we actually are. We have full capabilities. We have an X-ray, ultrasound, a full pharmacy and much more.
Q. How has technology contributed to the success of your vet practice?
A. We use computerized records that can connect to a smartphone and apps
that clients can use to access their records. We also communicate with our clients via texts and social media. Clients send us videos and photos to help us see what is going on with a patient. We also send photos of clients’ pets post-op, letting them know when their fur-babies are ready for pickup.
Q. Would this concept work in the suburbs and cities, or is it best for rural areas?
A. I think every pet owner wants and can definitely use a mobile vet for their furry friends.