Veterinarian gets to know pets, people by making house calls
A local vet avoids waiting rooms and vet clinics by bringing the service to you.
Karen Louis only makes house calls for dogs and cats. She prefers the home field advantage because it helps put both pet and owner at ease at a convenient time and place. She talked with business reporter Will Buss last week to talk about her mobile service:
Q: What is the extent of your service?
A: “I’m a house-call exclusive veterinarian, and I only treat dogs and cats. A lot of people ask me if I treat farm animals and I say, ‘No, you don’t want me treating your cows.’ I’ll do dogs, cats, and if you butter me up, I’ll treat your rabbit, is what I tell them. I have a technician with me most of the time, which is nice, for things said as nail trims and blood draws. A thing a lot of people like is that every exam includes a free nail trim. Some people just want me to come out for the free nail trim and that makes their day. It’s kind of funny. I’ll diagnose their dog or cat with some type of disease and save their life, but it’s the free nail trim that people love.”
Q: How far will you travel for a house call?
A: “We do all of the metro-east area, Belleville, O’Fallon, Collinsville, we’ve been to Millstadt, we’ve been to Waterloo and Lebanon, Breese, and we also go to St. Louis.”
Q: Where else have you worked?
A: “I worked at Four Paws Animal Hospital in O’Fallon for four years. Then, I left there to go work at the Humane Society of Missouri. And at both places, people would call and say, ‘Does anybody do house calls? Does anybody come to the house, especially for euthanasia?’ And we’d always say, ‘No, we’re sorry. You have to bring them in.’ And it kind of bugged me because I wouldn’t want to put my dog to sleep in a vet clinic. So I started doing this for basically the big dogs that can’t get in the car, the cats that can’t get in the carrier. ...
But then I realized, it’s kind of funny, I thought I was going to be seeing all of these huge dogs and all of these cats, and I’m not. I’m seeing those, too, but I’m seeing a lot of people with kids that are like, ‘I could get my three cats and four kids in the car, but who wants to take that circus to the vet, you know?’ So it’s more of a convenience thing, which I didn’t really realize would be such a huge factor. I thought it would just be people who could not get to the vet. And I have people who just like me.”
Q: Did you always plan of being a vet?
A: “Actually, no. It’s kind of a second career. I was actually over at Washington University getting my PhD in molecular cell biology and I decided to adopt a rescue dog. So I adopted this dachshund. His name was ‘The Pepper Man,’ and I got involved with the rescue. And I started volunteering and going to puppy mill auctions and buying dogs for auction and fostering. And then I realized I could probably help dogs as a veterinarian more than I could as a molecular biologist. So I applied to nine vet schools, and I said, ‘OK. If I get into five, it’s a sign.’ I got in five, and then I chose the vet school that was basically the cheapest and I could find a place to live to rent that would let me have all of my dogs, which is harder than it sounds.”
Q: What do clients tell you about their decision to seek your service?
A: “It’s a lot of convenience and a time-saving thing. I don’t want to take the time to drive to the vet.”
Q: How much are you in demand?
A: “It’s crazy how in demand it is. I thought, OK, I’ll get a few appointments. But getting the word out seems to be the issue. My business has taken off. I’m in the third year of doing this and it’s kind of funny because some people just aren’t aware of it. I have some people who say, ‘Oh my God, why didn’t I know that you existed a year ago when I put my cat to sleep?’”
Q: What kind of medical issues do you often respond to?
A: “I get a lot of vaccines, dogs that need heart worm pills, that kind of that stuff. ... I have four clinics that I have a relationship with that I will arrange X-rays, ultra-sounds, hospitalization, dentals. I work with them, and they’re all very used to me calling and saying, ‘Hey, I’m sending a dental your way.’ Obviously, I’m not going to do that in your house. So that’s a big deal. If your pet is very, very sick, it probably needs to be hospitalized.”
Q: What do you enjoy most about your job?
A: “I love the house calls, more than working in a vet clinic. Obviously, I’m a talker, so I love being able to get to know people because when you’re in a clinic, you get a 15-, maybe a 30-minute appointment. You’re in, you’re out. And house calls, I can get to know the animal when they’re not nervous and get to know the people. I like it so much better. And it’s nice, too, because if you’re in a clinic and you say, ‘What do you feed your dog?’ They say, ‘I don’t know. It’s a blue bag with a picture of a dog on it,’ you know? Here, I can say, ‘Hey, show me the bag of dog food.’ So I can get a lot better history, I can see how the animal acts normally. It’s just so much better.”
Job: Veterinarian, Metro-East Home Vet Care (618-327-0417
Outlook: “I love being able to get to know people because when you’re in a clinic, you get a 15-, maybe a 30-minute appointment. You’re in, you’re out. And house calls, I can get to know the animal when they’re not nervous and get to know the people. I like it so much better.”