Mobile Vet Clinics are becoming more popular, as they serve a wider range of pet owners. This is in many ways a win-win situation for both the client and the veterinarian.
Pet owners who are looking for concierge-style, personalized services will find these practices appealing because of their convenience and personal attention.
Many vets graduate with large amounts of debt. This makes it difficult or even impossible to buy a brick-and mortar practice. Mobile clinics are more affordable and easier to access than traditional brick-and-mortar practices.
Mobile Vet Clinic
Pets can be stressed by the noises, sights, and smells of a busy clinic and car travel. A mobile veterinary clinic can also be beneficial for pets.
What equipment are needed to open a mobile veterinary clinic?
Some veterinarians are solely mobile, while others work in conjunction with technicians to provide full-service care at a larger mobile veterinary unit.
Mobile practices often have significant differences in both practice style and equipment requirements.
Mobile veterinarians often specialize in a particular niche. Many mobile veterinarians specialize in preventive care. They provide vaccines and wellness exams to clients who prefer not to bring their pets to a veterinary clinic.
Others limit their mobile practices to pet hospice, euthanasia, alternative medicines, and any other niche market that is available in their area.
These veterinarians can drive their own vehicle to their appointments and only carry the equipment required for their specific services. Usually, these services and exams are provided at the client’s residence.
Your list of equipment may be limited if you offer niche or specialty services. You may need to have the following items:
Scale for weighing pets
Instruments for physical examination: thermometers, stethoscopes, otoscopes, ophthalmoscopes, and ophthalmoscopes
- Materials for administering treatment and collecting laboratory samples: Syringes, blood collection tubes, fecal sample containers, etc.
- Vaccinations (if necessary) and commonly-used injectable medicines
- Oral medications are commonly used
- You may want to conduct tests at the client’s house (heartworm tests and feline combo tests).
Mobile veterinarians can provide similar services to a brick and mortar practice by operating a fully equipped veterinary clinic on wheels.
These practices usually operate from a mobile, custom-built veterinary clinic. Although the vet may visit the client’s house, most procedures and examinations are done inside the mobile unit.
These mobile clinics often contain smaller versions of the same areas as a brick-and mortar practice. You might find equipment such as:
- All equipment and a laboratory in-house
- Veterinary tables
- All surgical supplies and the surgery area
- Kennels and cleaning products
Before you start a mobile practice, it is important to decide what type of practice you want to build. Do you want to focus on a specific niche or offer full-service care services?
Are you going to be working with clients at home or prefer a mobile unit? These decisions will impact your equipment budget and equipment list.
What is the estimated start-up cost?
Because of the low cost of starting a mobile practice, many veterinarians are drawn to it. Veterinary Business Advisors published a 2019 article estimating the cost of opening a mobile practice at $450,000. This is 25% less than the cost of opening a brick-and mortar practice.
You can expect to spend at least $200,000 on the unit if you intend to run a mobile veterinary service. You should also include the cost of additional equipment such as x-ray machines and laboratory equipment.
However, if you are looking to start your own business, the initial costs will be much lower.
What is the expected earnings?
A feasibility study is required to estimate your earnings. The feasibility study estimates the potential revenue your practice could generate by looking at historical data, local demographics and expected operating hours and scheduling. This study is usually conducted by or under the direction a business management consultant.
LaBoit conducted an analysis of the mobile veterinary units purchased by veterinarians in 2014. Based on the estimated revenues and expenses reported by these veterinarians they found that a mobile vet seeing five clients per hour at $250 an invoice could generate a net profit (if working 5 days/week for 50 weeks) of around $239,000 annually.
Although this calculation is based on only averages and includes a few assumptions, it provides a good starting point when you consider your expected earnings.
What are the legal requirements for mobile veterinary practices?
Mobile veterinary practices generally have the same legal requirements that traditional brick-and-mortar practices.
First, you need to form a company entity and get a license. Depending on the state, you may be able to open your business as a sole proprietorship or partnership, “C”, corporation, “S”, corporation, limited liability corporation(LLC) or limited liability partnership.
There are many different corporate structures that veterinarians can use in each state. You should consult both an accountant and a lawyer to learn about the laws.
You will need to get a state veterinarian license and a controlled drugs license, just like traditional veterinary practices.
A permit for veterinary premises may be required in many states. It is possible that you will need to enter into agreements with brick-and-mortar hospital owners regarding emergency care, hospitalization, or specific services like radiology.
You can find all rules and regulations regarding mobile practices in your state by consulting your state’s practice act or state veterinarian medical board.
You will need the same insurance policies as a traditional practice to run a mobile business. These policies can include worker’s compensation and liability insurance.
You will also need commercial/business auto insurance to protect your investment and protect you against liability in case of an accident.
What are some of the most common pitfalls when starting a mobile vet practice?
Setting appropriate boundaries is one of the biggest challenges in mobile veterinary medicine.
Mobile practitioners are often called upon to visit clients’ homes. This can lead to more intimate relationships than in traditional brick-and mortar practices.
Because of the intimate nature of this relationship, many mobile professionals find it difficult to set boundaries. Work life can often spill over into family life.
You should make an effort to be separate from work at all times. Establish hours that you can respond to calls, handle administrative tasks, and set hours when you are not available to clients.
It’s easier to establish boundaries early in the practice than to change later when clients are used to unlimited availability.
Mobile veterinarians can find it difficult to map a business territory. You could miss out on potential clients if you limit your geographic reach, especially early in your career.
- If your geographical area is too large, you risk driving from one location to another all day instead of serving clients or generating revenue.
- Demographic studies are often a great way to determine the geographical area that your practice will be located.
- Controlling costs early on is a key factor in the success of a mobile business.
- Many mobile practitioners regret that they spent more money on medication and other supplies than was necessary.
It might be sensible to keep a small inventory of medication and to provide written prescriptions that can be filled at a pharmacy.
Remember to keep supplies like syringes and bandage materials in stock. Many of these supplies can be ordered online from your veterinary distributor and shipped overnight.
The last twelve months have been very busy, and Mobile Vet M.D. is so grateful to serve a growing community of dedicated, responsible pet owners.
We publish monthly pet blogs to support you and your best friend. Our blog answers questions we hear all the time in our van.
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Happy New Year!
Mobile Vet M.D. understands that the car ride is one of the biggest barriers to veterinary care. We eliminate all risks associated with transporting your pet. Dr. Kwacz will meet you and your companion wherever it is.
In 2022, we’ll be back with more informative, timely, and relevant pet care blogs. We appreciate your time! We wish you and your best friend a very happy and safe New Year!