A mobile veterinarian talks about why he loves his work and how it benefits his patients.
You could say that Dr. Ronald Spikloser was barking up the right tree when he doggedly pursued a new avenue of entrepreneurship and began a second chapter in his career as a veterinarian.
A Pikesville native and graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Spikloser opened in 1974 the Timonium Animal Hospital, which he owned and operated for 25 years. But in the late 1990s, he decided to sell his business and become a mobile vet, which was a rather novel concept in those days.
Increasingly, vets and recent veterinary school graduates are downsizing their practices and offering mobile clinics and services. The benefits: low startup and operational costs, geographic availability and convenience and less stress for pets and their “owners.”
“They roll along without overhead, property taxes or real estate costs a brick-and-mortar clinic would require,” noted Veterinary Practice News.
Jmore recently spoke with Dr. Spikloser, now 69, who lives in Timonium with his wife, Susan, about the field that he helped pioneer locally.
Jmore: Why’d you decide to become a mobile vet after so many years of running your own animal hospital?
I decided I didn’t want to be the boss anymore with all of the headaches. I needed a change and decided I wanted to change how I was practicing. Nobody at that time was really doing house calls, except for large animals. But it just wasn’t popular yet among small animal vets.
So I started out making house calls while working at other hospitals, which I stopped doing about three years ago.
Were you nervous making that kind of career switch?
I wasn’t sure if it would work. At that time, relief vets were in demand, so I knew I would be OK. I knew I could help vets if someone wanted to go on vacation or something like that.
Did you do well as a mobile vet at the start?
The house call practice was slow to get off the ground. It was still a relatively novel idea, and there was no internet at that time. I had to get in the phonebook so people could find me. But people already had established veterinarian practices, so it took a while. There are more [mobile vets] around today.
And you enjoy what you do?
I love it. I have absolutely no plans to retire. I’ll do this as long as I’m able to. I get to be with interesting animals and get to know the people. It’s not just 15 minutes [like a typical office visit]. I can see animals in their own environment, especially dogs. I get to go deeper into the animal’s history and the people. It’s fun. Most of my visits run about an hour. I’m always on time, and I never have people waiting for me. It works out quite well.
Do you advertise for business?
No. I don’t even have a website. I’m part-time these days. I’m as busy as I want to be. I enjoy it at the level as it is now. For me, this was the perfect solution. I get the enjoyable pieces of the job and get rid of the stress and hassles. I’m a one-man band.
You do everything on your own? Even billing and paperwork?
Most people pay on the spot. My wife always helps with the billing and the paperwork.
Any downsides to being a mobile vet?
Well, there’s more of a chance of getting bit or scratched because there are no technicians holding the animals. Occasionally, I go to someone’s house and the people don’t show up. But that’s about it.
A lot of people with multiple animals use my services because it makes things a lot easier, especially with routine shots, which is most of what I do.
Is euthanasia an easier process during home visits?
It’s a part of the job I don’t like, but it’s nice to do it in a home where it’s comfortable and warm for the animal. It’s a service I do and it’s emotional for me, even now. The animals usually know when it’s a euthanasia visit and not just a regular visit. Even the dogs know there’s something different. Cats always seem to know.
Do you see mobile vets as the wave of the future in your field?
Probably not. It’s possible, but there always is going to be a balance. Right now, about 5 percent of people use vets who make house calls. But remember, I don’t do bloodwork or X-rays. For the technical necessities of the job, you really need a physical place. That’s why I refer all surgeries and procedures and X-rays and bloodwork to hospitals. But I do think people are getting more accustomed to [the idea of mobile vets].
Did you consider yourself an entrepreneur when starting your mobile vet business?
No, I never even thought of it in those terms until this very minute. But I guess it is, in a sense. I just looked at it as being a vet, which is something I wanted to be since I was 10 years old.
Can you ever envision physicians of humans following your lead and going back to making house calls?
No. Due to legal and insurance issues and paperwork, I can’t see that happening. Not in human medicine.
For information about Dr. Spikloser, call 410-560-1515.