- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 21, 2012

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Two kids, two pets, two jobs, too much.

That’s how it felt to Erin McCarthy when it came time to drag her cat and puppy to the veterinarian. So she jumped on a growing trend among veterinarians and called the vet to her.

House calls are a growing trend among the country’s 85,000 veterinarians, said Dr. Bonnie Beaver, a professor at Texas A&M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and director of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists.

It’s been a life-saver for McCarthy, whose cat Duke was so afraid of the vet he had to be tranquilized to get there. When he was joined by a Shih Tzu puppy, Pooch, they found a vet who makes house calls, Elisabetta Coletti. McCarthy has made liberal use of text-messaging when a house call isn’t necessary.

“When Pooch ate a peppermint patty last week, she was there with instant advice that got us through the night,” said McCarthy, a teacher in Brooklyn, N.Y.

The trend is a return to tradition, Beaver said: “We used to call them farm calls.” While the vet was taking care of cows and horses and other livestock, he would take care of the family dogs and cats too, she said.

“House calls used to be the bread and butter part of our business,” agreed Dr. Margarita Abalos, a relief and concierge vet in Los Angeles.

Then clinics and hospitals, where X-rays could be taken and surgeries performed, became the norm.

Now house calls are making a bit of a comeback, at least in bigger cities and higher income areas, said Abalos, who handles several ranch pigs, goats and sheep in addition to smaller animals.

Seeing an animal at its home enhances the bond between vet, pet and owner, the veterinarians say.

It starts with less stress, said Lisa Beagan in Severna Park, Md., the Mobile Pet Vet. There is no waiting, driving, loading or getting hot and cranky for kids or pets, she said.

“For a lot of animals, it’s stressful to go into a strange hospital with all kinds of smells. Cats and dogs are so smell-sensitive, it’s like getting bombarded with a kaleidoscope of colors. At home, they don’t realize they are having an exam or shots,” she said.

House calls help vets solve behavior problems, too.

Beagan had a client who couldn’t figure out why her cat was peeing outside its box. Seems the litter box was next to the cat’s pet door and when it came through the door and went to the box, the flap on the door would hit it on the behind. Removing the flap solved the problem, she said.

Other pet owners may need a reality check.

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