If there’s one thing Dr. Adam Behrens of the Wandering Vet in San Francisco would like pet parents to know it’s that continuing preventative care can save your pet’s life. It seems like common sense but too often this vet has seen a life cut short by this subtle, even unintended form of neglect.
Yes, Rover may get long walks and treats every day and Kitty may have clean litter and plenty of brushings and plenty of catnip, but serious pet care takes more than guesswork and good intentions. It’s easy to avoid taking a pet to the doctor especially if it’s an unpleasant experience all around. For some pets and their owners the capturing, crating and journey for even a routine medical exam can fray the best of nerves. The tendency is to put off the routine care and only call the doctor when the situation is unmanageable or chronic.
“Animals do have memories” said Dr. Behrens. “And when they are upset, their blood pressure is elevated and they may even bite, which it makes an examination naturally quite difficult and less effective. So a home visit is a calmer situation for those who react poorly in a hospital environment”
There are certain diseases that will manifest slowly that only regular medical observation can discover. Pet weight is a good example. “Monitoring your pet’s weight is crucial over time” said Dr. Behrens. Weight loss is common in cats who are prone to hyperthyroidism, diabetes and
kidney failure. These are fatal conditions which can be prevented with early detection. Certain cancers, if discovered when local, can be removed before having a chance to metastasize. The point is to avoid trouble, not routine healthcare”
A home visit also allows the Wandering Vet to not only bond immediately and directly with the pet and owner but to observe the living situation firsthand.
“The information is more readily available when I am able to visit the home rather than relying on charts and information filtered through a receptionist,” Behrens said. “I am a general practitioner who makes house calls and I do all the technical work myself. I also work closely with a pet hospital and will refer cases to a specialty care center if the situation calls for it.”
This kind of ambulatory medicine, where the vet is the one who makes the journey to the patient, is something Dr. Behrens has strived for even before he started attending veterinary school. “I started out working with a vet in New York who made house for cats and I always knew this was the kind of practice I wanted to run”.
Many owners take their pet’s health very seriously and will do independent research on the Internet. “I like to recommend further education for these clients and will guide them towards relevant websites”. Dr. Behrens uses e-mails to continue a dialogue with clients who may seek further information and updates.
The Wandering Vet patients run the gamut from puppies and owners who need guidance with early preventative care, housebreaking and behavioral challenges to senior pets in need. A common error is for pet owners to misinterpret or mildly dismiss an older pet’s change in behavior.
“Chronic pain is often confused as aging” said Dr. Behrens. “So, it’s important to keep up the routine care. It’s our job to remember this and allow our pets to live longer and better lives.”