With so many options for veterinary preventive care (vaccines, annual exams, etc.) it can be difficult to compare them all so that you know which offers the best value according to your goals for your pet. We've put together this guide to help you make the best decision for your family, your pet, and your budget.
Types of Veterinary Practices
Rabies Clinics are the cheapest provider for the bare minimum basic care. They don't offer any more vaccinations that will protect your pet from serious to fatal diseases common in our area, like parvovirus in dogs. However the rabies vaccine is required for all dogs, cats, and ferrets in North Carolina. So if you are really strapped for cash and your pet is due now, this is your best option until you can afford complete preventive care. Learn more about preventive care here on our blog.
A shot clinic, like at Tractor Supply, Petco, or Carolina Town and Country, offers much better protection for your pet. However they usually end up seriously over-vaccinating your pet because the packages aren't very flexible. For example, the Petco dog package always includes a distemper/parvo combination vaccine. However adult dogs don't need this vaccine any more often than once every 3 years. So if you got to the shot clinic every year, your dog is WAY over-vaccinated! Most shot clinics provide prescriptions for heartworm prevention and flea/tick control. But they don't do examinations. If your pet has a heart murmur, or abdominal tumor, you will never know, and you have no opportunity to treat your pet until she gets very sick or even dies. Also if you know your pet has a problem such as an ear infection or skin issue, they can't help you. You'd have to go to another provider that does exams to get your pet what she needs. The other drawback is that shot clinics don't offer senior lab work, which is really important as your pet gets older. You can learn more about senior lab work on our blog.
House Call Vet
Most house call practices provide complete preventive care, plus examinations, with the comfort and convenience of coming to your home. They can address most common problems while in your home, such as ear infections, limping, etc. Pretty much everything that can be done in a veterinary hospital exam room can be done in your living room just as easily! But they don't usually have capabilities for things like x-rays, surgery, dentistry, etc. Some house call practices, like Family Veterinary Mobile Clinic, make arrangements with other practices to provide non-emergency care such as x-rays, ultrasound, surgery. Others refer you to another local clinic. Because the costs to run a house call practice are very low, they can offer very comprehensive preventive care at a cost similar to shot clinics, but with the convenience of coming to your home. Learn more about our preventive care packages here.
A mobile vet has a clinic on wheels, whether a that's a Sprinter-type van or an RV-sized full hospital. They can usually run lab work and get immediate results, do surgeries, have x-rays and sometimes ultrasound, and provide dental services. The only thing they can't do is hospitalize sick patients or be there in a reasonable amount of time for a true emergency. Some mobile clinics come to your home, others park and you come to them. Either way, you can get very comprehensive preventive care plus a lot of extras through a mobile practice. They cost a bit more than a house call vet, sometimes as much as a traditional veterinary practice. Those trucks are quite expensive to equip and operate!
Animal hospitals are the traditional way that most people use to get their pet's care. And there are certainly a lot of benefits. They have everything your pet needs in almost every situation. Whether it's for preventive care, a sick patient visit, surgery, dentistry, or emergencies, your veterinary practice is usually there for you, at least during business hours. The major drawbacks are cost and convenience. Sometimes the veterinary hospital doesn't have any openings in their schedule for your sick pet. Even if your pet doesn't need the surgery suite, dental room, x-rays, in-house lab work, ultrasound, or treatment area, you pay for those things every time you visit. The costs for the hospital to provide those services is ENORMOUS (I know, I used to own one myself). So preventive care visits are usually 25-75% more than a house call vet or shot clinic, about $125-150, not including the prescriptions.
Emergency Clinic or Specialty Hospital
Emergency clinics and specialty hospitals do not provide preventive care. Emergency clinics provide care during times when general practices such as traditional animal hospitals, mobile and house call vets, and rabies and shot clinics, are all closed. Specialty clinics are open 24/7 for very critical patients and have VERY expensive diagnostic equipment for pets who need it. Both types of practices are quite expensive, because of their equipment and staff costs. But when your pet needs emergency or critical care, they provide the best chance for your pet to make a full recovery.
Family Veterinary Mobile Clinic
Family Veterinary Mobile Clinic has relationships with several general practices, an emergency clinic, and a specialty hospital, so no matter what kind of care your pet needs, or when they need it, we will guide you to the right choice for your pet and your family. And we always follow up with our clients and patients, because no matter who is taking care of your pet at the moment, we care about them and about you.