For many dogs, cats, birds and fish, a veterinarian visit is best taken at home. There are several veterinarians in the Capital Region that offer this service for families willing to pay extra for the convenience and comfort of seeing a vet who comes to them.
“Some pets, especially cats, just don’t like to travel,” says Dr. Nancy Weagly, who has operated the exclusively mobile Animal Housecall for almost 40 years, conducting non-surgical services for clients mainly in the Sacramento area. “I’ve always loved not being inside of an office all day, getting out and traveling around.”
Weagly is ramping down her business and hasn’t accepted new clients since 2016 but continues to work a couple of days per week, serving the approximately 150 who remain. There are several other vets available who provide a more comfortable euthanasia option, offer palliative/hospice long-time care, specialize in fish diseases or handle routine checkups. Here are three of their stories:
Dr. Lynn Hendrix, Beloved Pet Mobile Vet
Hendrix is a leading authority on palliative, end-of-life care for pets. She founded the World Veterinary Palliative Medicine Organization two years ago, and her book, “Animal Hospice and Palliative Medicine for the House Call Veterinarian,” will be released later this year.
Hendrix, who has an office in Davis, offers palliative care exclusively. Her passion is working with families who are caring for their pets in their final days, developing a crisis and management plan while guiding them in grief support toward another service she provides, euthanasia. She says the experience of her mother going through hospice care in the early 1990s gave her a window into end-of-life care.
Hendrix, who leads a staff of five, and assistant Anna Cutshall visited the Granite Bay home of Julia and Charles Smyth in February to tend to 16-year-old Puppy, a standard poodle who’s had an aggressive cancer for two years. Hendrix has worked with the Smyths and Puppy for a year. “She’s been such a godsend,” Julia Smyth says. “We feel like it has really extended his life. Puppy’s not under as much stress.”
Hendrix, a graduate of UC Davis in 2002 with a doctorate of veterinary medicine, started as a mobile vet in 2011, doing routine care with a business partner. She found she was getting called often to do in-home euthanasia, so Hendrix split from her partner and shifted her focus away from not only ending a pet’s life, but extending it through long-term care.
“Just doing euthanasia day in and day out would be dreary and droll, and why would I want to do that,” she says. “But having a relationship with the animal and helping the family understand, feeds me, feeds my soul. It’s why I went to vet school.”
Dr. Cameron Collins, East Sacramento Veterinary Center
When Collins and assistant Faith Veneri entered the Granite Bay home of Kelly and Tony Beckham on a Saturday morning in February, they were met at the door with a happy greeting from three adults, three children and two barking dogs about to get their yearly checkup and vaccinations.
“I love doing house calls, love having them in their own environment,” says Collins, who was a veterinarian in Davis for almost a decade before starting East Sacramento Veterinary Center a year ago, when he began adding house calls to his practice. He says he’s seen animals that were growling and uncooperative when brought into a doctor’s office but calm and easy to treat in the comfort of their home.
As the two families watch, Collins and Veneri check, weigh and deliver shots to the two exuberant but accommodating dogs, Zara, a golden doodle, and Baxter, a shih-tzu, owned by neighbor Rachel Peterson. “Some animals get pretty stressed in an office,” says Collins, who graduated from UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in 2009. “It can be tough to tolerate vaccines and tends to be easier on them in the house.”
Collins started East Sacramento Veterinary Center after he and his wife had twins and he was looking to work a more flexible schedule. After opening his clinic, Collins started making up to six house calls on Saturdays to meet the demand.
“It started from word of mouth, friends of friends,” he says. “Then it grew into a bigger business. I started the clinic because I wanted to have a place where they could be brought in, do X-rays, but also be able to go to their house and take care of them too.”
Collins, who has five support staff members, but he’s thinking that house calls will become a bigger part of his practice. “We’ve been getting really, really busy, so hopefully we can add another vet,” he says.
Dr. Bronwyn Szignarowitz, Home Care Veterinary Services
Szignarowitz was well into her 30s when her love of fish led her to study animal science at UC Davis, enter vet school and eventually earn a postdoctoral master’s degree specializing in preventative veterinary medicine. Today, Szignarowitz, who grew up in Monterey treating her own sick aquarium fish, runs a mobile fish medicine and small animal surgery business out of her home in Pilot Hill, treating clients from South Lake Tahoe to Dixon.
Though she handles all small animals, Szignarowitz is one of the few fish doctors in the Sacramento region. She’s a frequent lecturer at her alma mater, the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, instructing students on how to incorporate fish medicine into their practices. UC Davis, in return, refers bird and fish clients to Szignarowitz.
“There might be a couple of more fish docs around, but I haven’t met them,” says Szignarowitz, who also sees clients with dogs, cats, reptiles, birds, rabbits and pigs.
Szignarowitz specializes in preventive veterinary medicine, including the koi herpes virus, and in February treated a 25-pound koi with a bacterial infection at the Carmichael home of Leah and Mike Sweet, longtime clients. Szignarowitz also takes care of the Sweet’s dog and cat. “What a difference she has made,” says Leah Sweet.
Szignarowitz says she treats just about every fish species people keep at their homes, including catfish and the species she says people tend to spend the most money on, goldfish.
“What I like about house calls is helping people that need help, such as older people that can’t get their dogs or cats to the vet,” she says. “I feel really good walking out knowing I’ve helped them.”