The revival of the house call... for pets

SUSSEX COUNTY. For these vets, house calls are about compassion, not economics.

| 29 Jul 2022 | 03:17

People aren’t the only species with anxiety. Pets get it too. Imagine how terrified some animals who are used to chilling at home must be when they’re put in a carrying case, then into a car and taken to a strange place to be poked and prodded. Thankfully, there are some area veterinarians who offer house calls. It’s not just for an animal’s anxiety, it can also be for end of life humane euthanasia so that a pet can die peacefully at home surrounded by loved ones.

Dr. Ted Spinks owns The Animal Hospital of Sussex County, in Newton. His impetus to become a veterinarian was sparked as a child, growing up on his family farm in Sandyston.

“We treat small animals, including cats and dogs, and large ones such as horses and goats,” he said.

One of his most unique house calls is for pot belly pigs.

“They’re actually becoming quite a popular pet,” Dr. Spinks said, “When they’re little they’re small, cute and can be brought in to the hospital, but those pigs can grow to become huge, as in 350 to 400 pounds. We go out and take care of their hoofs, ears, tusks and whatever health issues they may have.”

Creatures big and small

Dr. Spinks sees a number of dogs and cats at their homes as well, especially for end of life euthanasia. He’s specially outfitted a van with medicine and vaccines that are always plugged in to keep them at the proper temperature, and the van also has x-ray and other services that may be needed.

With decades of experience, one of Dr. Spinks’ specialties is repairing dog’s and cat’s legs that have been badly injured. He uses a special technique that’s both extremely effective and minimally invasive. These canine and feline orthopedic surgeries include Arthrex Tightrope ACL repair and Arthrex Swivelock ACL repair. He has a staff of 36 employees, one of whom is Dr. Courtney Scairpon, who also does house calls for the practice.

But, surprisingly, they are not the only vets in the area still carrying own the tradition of a neighborhood house call. What was thought to be a bygone practice is actually alive and well, if you know who to call.

Dr. O. Steve Brasch owns and operates Skylands Mobile Veterinarian Service, which serves Sussex and Warren counties in NJ, and Delaware and Pike counties in Pennsylvania, which he started in 2007. The business grew via word of mouth. His motivation to become a vet came from his father’s thoroughbred race horses.

“I work mostly with large animals but if I’m seeing someone’s horses or large animals and they have dogs and cats, I’ll certainly see them as well,” he said. “When COVID hit, many people called on me to come to their homes for end of life euthanasia.”

Then there was the horse rescue. Diane Romano operates Rivers Edge Horse Rescue & Sanctuary in Newton. She received a call about some horses that were in dire straits in Warwick, NY, because their owner had fallen ill and could no longer care for them.

“Things were really bad,” she said. “I called Dr. Brasch and he was a huge help getting them out of a mud pit and transported to Rivers Edge.”

“She called me and told me about these horses and I got right up there,” Dr. Brasch said. “I had to slightly sedate them and then with a lot of work we got them out.”

He didn’t charge a thing but helped them anyway, something he’s done for many animals at the non-profit Rivers Edge out of the goodness of his heart.

“It’s a few years later and all of the horses are doing great here at the Sanctuary,” Romano said.

House calls still a rarity

Not all vets are able to make house calls due to scheduling and preferring animals come to their hospitals so that all the intricate equipment is available.

Dr. Karen Bullock has been in practice since 1996. Her practice told us that she used to do house calls when she worked with large animals, but now that she focuses on dogs and cats, she prefers owners to bring their pets to Wantage Veterinary Hospital as all equipment for their care is there.

Fredon Animal Hospital does not offer house calls either.

Vernon Veterinary Clinic told us that though they would like to offer home visits, they’re so busy that they “simply don’t have the time.”

Dr. Don Costlow is the lead vet and owner of Newton Veterinary Hospital.

“We don’t offer home visits as we are open 24 hours a day,” he said. “In order to treat the intensive care patients, we need the staff to be on premises.”

House calls are somewhat hard to find, but for those who need it, the extra effort is invaluable.

“Not all vets are able to make them, but I’ve seen first-hand how much anxiety it can relieve in animals,” said Dr. Brasch.

“Not all vets are able to make them, but I’ve seen first-hand how much anxiety it can relieve in animals,” said Dr. Brasch.