Dr. Saria and team member, Deryl Gage, posing with a pet patient
Last September, Dr. Rebecca Saria was faced with a dilemma: She was told that her employer, a Connecticut-based veterinary practice, could no longer provide a 50% discount on medical care to animal shelters, a community service that she’d been involved with for years.
“Shelters can’t accept new animals until the existing ones are healthy and adoptable. It’s part of the cycle,” Dr. Saria, a graduate of Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine, told a local Internet radio/television show. “Un-owned pets need top quality medical care, too.”
Spurred on by her life’s mission to help animals, she quit her job and started Gold Coast Mobile Veterinary Service, a full-service mobile veterinary practice, so she could treat pet patients her way.
“Now, I can provide veterinary care discounts to shelters to help make animals more adoptable, plus utilize whatever method of medicine I see fit to treat the pet patient,” Dr. Saria says.
Dr. Saria cuddling with a pet patient
On the Road
Dr. Saria’s workspace is a used, mobile surgical van equipped with everything you’d find in a normal veterinary practice office, including diagnostic equipment, instruments, computers and a fax machine.
She and her two-person team travel to appointments in the Gold Coast region of Connecticut, which includes neighborhoods along the coast in Fairfield County from Greenwich to New Haven. However, if someone outside of this area really needs her help, she’ll pick up shop and travel there.
“Think of me as an ‘old-style veterinarian,’” Dr. Saria says. “But with a twist.”
And one with a busy schedule, too.
Dr. Saria standing in front of her mobile surgical unit
Photo courtesy of George Gombossy
Once a week, Dr. Saria and her team visit a local animal shelter and provide discounted services to pets in need. Every Wednesday, she holds office hours at Thomaston Feed & Grain, a local store that provides special food for ill pets to help them recover.
Gold Coast also recently partnered with Urban Impact, a neighborhood soup kitchen. On the first Tuesday of every month, the Gold Coast team offers free veterinary care for homeless families’ pets on a first come, first served basis. Services include general check-ups, antibiotic prescriptions and vaccines.
Besides wanting to help shelter animals, Dr. Saria also founded a mobile practice so she could honor what she sees as one of the most critical aspects of veterinary care—the interaction between the veterinarian, the pet and the pet parent.
She said it’s important to examine pets in their relaxed home settings and understand their life, including the location of the food and water bowls, the type of bedding the pet sleeps on, temperatures in the home and even air quality. Through these observations, Dr. Saria is able to diagnose problems that may otherwise be missed.
Dr. Saria performing surgery in her mobile unit
For instance, a pet parent recently called Dr. Saria and said her Yorkie wasn’t eating well and was losing weight. The parent had taken her dog to the veterinarian for several rounds of blood work and all of the tests came back normal. Over the phone, Dr. Saria couldn’t get a sense of what might be wrong with the Yorkie either, so she decided to make a house visit.
The minute she stepped in the door, she saw that the little dog was stumbling around. Right away she connected this symptom to the Yorkie’s liver problem.
“Pets can be terrified to leave the comfort of their surroundings. With Gold Coast, I’m able to go into the home and personally connect with animals as a part of the family,” Dr. Saria says. “It’s truly a blessing to help pets this way.”
Dr. Saria and her team will sometimes even perform surgery at a client’s house. This way, pet parents can assist in the procedure and even be there when their animal wakes up to comfort them.
“With human medicine, we’ve figured out that the personal aspect of medical care is so important, so let’s do it with animals as well,” Dr. Saria said. “Veterinary medicine has moved away from that.”
Learn more about Gold Coast Mobile Veterinary Service.
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