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.

House Calls
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.

To submit a story about a veterinary practice, email me!

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Veterinary Clinic Spotlight

While some frisky kitties get a little too adventurous in what they choose to eat, they usually swallow items like dental floss or ribbon. But one recent discovery caught everyone by surprise.

A cat suffering from an upset stomach wasn’t getting any better, even after his pet parent gave him medication, so they went back to the animal hospital. With a series of X-rays, the veterinarian found a decaying lizard stuck in the cat’s esophagus!

The veterinarian suggested a specialist to remove it, but the cat passed the lizard before the appointment. Thankfully, the feline fully recovered.

The other silver lining of this story: It served as a good reminder of the unexpected and sometimes quirky things that can happen to pets. After this incident, the cat’s parent enrolled him in ASPCA Pet Health Insurance.

Have you recently bought ASPCA Pet Health Insurance for your pets after they experienced an unexpected illness or injury? Tell us about it!

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Customer Stories

Pet Insurance Blog - Regular Check ups

Many companion animals are not getting proper care because about 24% of pet parents believe regular medical check-ups aren’t necessary, according to a new veterinary industry study.

The Bayer Veterinary Care Usage Study sought to explain the decline in veterinary visits over the past several years. Other factors contributing to this decline that the study identified include the economic impact of the recession, the fragmentation of veterinary services and the cost of care. Additionally, many consumers substitute online research for clinic visits and have difficulty getting their felines to the veterinarian.

In fact, the study found a full one-third of pet parents have not taken their cats to the veterinarian within the last year due to “feline resistance.” The study found pet parents extend the time between visits because it’s difficult to get the kitties to comply. This lack of care is particularly harmful to senior cats, as they’re prone to diseases such as diabetes, kidney failure and cancer.

The study also highlighted the cost of veterinary services as a major reason for pet parents not taking their animals to the veterinarian. As with human health care, veterinary costs have risen significantly over the last 10 years, and 53 percent of pet parents say these expenses are much higher than they expected. We’re here to help on this front with pet insurance that can help pet parents afford quality veterinary care.

The online survey of 2,000 pet parents was conducted by Bayer Animal Health, the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues (NCVEI) and Brakke Consulting.

Read more results from the study.

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Pet Health Insurance Headlines

It’s amazing to think about how curious our feline friends can be!

While exploring a closet, a cat got her upper lip caught on an attractive fly fishing lure she was batting around. Her parents rushed her to the veterinarian, who was able to snip the barbs off the hook and pull it out in reverse.

We reimbursed the pet parents more than $60 for this minor accident. Now that their feline is fine, the couple jokes that they “caught a 10-pound cat.”

Have you recently submitted an interesting ASPCA Pet Health Insurance claim? Tell us about it!

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Customer Stories


Aquadale Veterinary Clinic—located near our pet insurance office in Northeast Ohio, and where many of our employees take their pets for care—has an interesting distinction as the oldest veterinary clinic in Stark County and also the one-time home of its founder.

Dr. Earl Lindsay built and opened the clinic in 1955 after he graduated from Ohio State University. He used one half of the structure as a veterinary practice to treat large and small animals, and the other half as a home for him and his wife, as well as their two children.

Dr. Lindsay owned the practice for more than 40 years before he retired in 1995. He passed away in 2009.

“I had the honor of meeting Dr. Lindsay when I was younger, and he actually saved my dog’s life,” said Tiffany Kelly, Veterinary Assistant at Aquadale Veterinary Clinic. “He was a great man and an amazing veterinarian.”

The community thought highly of his talents as well. Since Dr. Lindsay accepted patients on a first-come, first-served basis, pet parents would patiently wait to make sure he could see their animals.

Dr. Kim Takacs, one of Aquadale’s three doctors, purchased the practice in 1999. She remodeled the space by adding a large treatment area and expanding the treatment facilities into the other half of the building.

Dr. Lindsay’s passion for taking care of the community’s pets lives on with programs like “½ Off Vaccines on Mondays.” Customers who schedule their pet’s appointment on a Monday receive a 50% discount on vaccines.

“Our clients find it helpful, especially when they have multiple pets due for vaccines,” Ms. Kelly told us. “In this time of economic uncertainty, people unfortunately have to make the decision between getting vaccines for their pets and putting food on the table. We want to eliminate that issue.”

For more information on Aquadale Veterinary Clinic, visit http://aquadaleveterinaryclinic.com/

To submit a story about a veterinary practice, email me!

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Veterinary Clinic Spotlight

At least 100 animals will receive spay and neuter procedures, as well as vaccines, after a veterinarian raised $5,000 by promising to shave her head.

As we recently mentioned, Dr. Kelly Thompson of Hanson-Meekins Animal Hospital in Coos Bay, Ore., organized the “Shave a Vet, Save a Pet” event in December to support a local pet charity, Friends of Coos County Animal Shelter (FOCCAS). Since they met the goal, both Dr. Thompson and her husband shaved off their locks in front of a crowd at the FOCCAS adoption center in Pony Village Mall.

Dr. Thompson told a local television station that even if they didn’t raise $5,000, she and her husband were still going to shave their heads because, she said, “if people donate $3,000, they should get something.”

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Veterinary Clinic Spotlight

All through the year, we get flooded with emails and letters from ASPCA Pet Health Insurance pet parents who tell us about times when their pets suffered sudden illnesses or unexpected accidents. Even in the midst of worrisome situations, ASPCA Pet Health Insurance was there to help with part of the veterinary bills.

As we ring in the New Year together, let’s take a look back at a few of the top stories we received in 2010. They’re a touching reminder of the loving bond between pet parents and their pets, and we’re so glad we could be there to protect the furry members of these families.

Because Accidents Happen
“My Bullmastiff, Beatrice, is very inquisitive so I was careful to remove all potential hazards from the house–or so I thought! But one day I came home to find the living room covered with pillow stuffing. Beatrice had demolished three throw pillows. She started vomiting, and I rushed her to the veterinarian who recommended X-rays. I knew it would be costly, but I went ahead anyway. Luckily, Beatrice didn’t have an obstruction, only a belly full of stuffing that passed without surgery. I submitted a claim, and it was promptly covered. Truly, anytime I’ve had to file a claim, it was a breeze. Your staff is very caring, and getting ASPCA Pet Health insurance was one of the best doggie decisions I made.”
—Sara S., Henderson, Nev.

A Helping Hand when Illness Strikes
“We have a lively 3-year-old Calico cat named Tess, who has been covered since we brought her home from a local shelter. One day she got very sick, so we took her to the veterinarian. Over the next few weeks, Tess had more tests and X-rays than we could count, but we wanted to do whatever the veterinarian recommended so we could help her. I’ll admit that each time we entered the veterinarian’s office, I said a silent ‘thank you’ that we had your insurance. Tess is now her energetic self again, and we’re so grateful to our veterinarians and ASPCA Pet Health Insurance!”
—Elizabeth O., Fisherville, Va.

Keeping Pets in Good Health
“Our Westie, Dorothy, hasn’t had any major medical problems, but ASPCA Pet Health Insurance has been extremely helpful with the costs of her check-ups, special visits to the veterinarian for infections, sprains, and itching as well as needed medications.  You make it very easy to file a claim, and replies are prompt and clearly explained. We also feel that Dorothy is not simply a numbered client, but someone whose health you’re genuinely interested in. We’re certainly glad we chose ASPCA Pet Health Insurance.”
—Bob K., Flint, Mich.

In Case of Emergency
“I have an adopted cat named Licorice who’s almost 9. I knew I had to protect her after she ingested a piece of material from a chair, and I had to pay for an expensive surgery to remove it. I’m glad I signed her up because just six months later, she swallowed a small bolt that came off a cat scratcher. I had to bring her to the emergency animal clinic late at night for yet another surgery. Then she suffered from an infection after I took her home. All of this added up to almost $3,000. If it hadn’t been for your insurance paying a portion of my bills, I don’t know how I would’ve cared for Licorice. But she’s happy and healthy today thanks to the emergency veterinarians and ASPCA Pet Health Insurance!”
—Allison P., Philadelphia, Pa.

Do you have a recent story to share? Email me!


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Customer Stories

As you think about your own resolutions for 2011, add a few for your pets! Even small changes can have a big impact on their lives.

Here are some suggestions from our friends at the ASPCA.®

1. Schedule a check-up. An annual visit to the veterinarian can help prevent illness. Our wellness coverage on Levels 3 and 4 covers an annual exam.

2. Brush up on dental health. Check your pets’ teeth and gums at least once a week, and talk to your veterinarian about good dental care.

3. Exercise with them. Play chase or fetch and enjoy some time together. Dogs need 30 minutes of physical activity twice a day, while cats require at least 15 minutes of interactive playtime a day.

4. Watch their diets. Overweight pets can be at risk for health problems. Extra weight on a pet can be comparable to a human carrying an extra 30 to 50 pounds. Cut down on treats and use a well-balanced pet food.

5. Pamper them. Give your pets some extra love, like a good long scratch or a warm cuddle. It’ll make you both feel good!

From all of us at ASPCA Pet Health Insurance, we wish you and all the furry members of your family a healthy and joyous New Year!

This content is not intended to provide advice on individual pet health or behavioral matters or to substitute for consultation with a veterinary doctor.

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ASPCA Happenings

Dr. Kelly Thompson of Hanson-Meekins Animal Hospital and her husband have pledged to shave their heads if the community raises $5,000 for FOCCAS by mid-December

An Oregon veterinarian has promised to shave her head in exchange for some serious cash—$5,000 to be exact.

But it’s not on a dare. Dr. Kelly Thompson of Hanson-Meekins Animal Hospital in Coos Bay, Ore., is raising the funds for a local charitable group, Friends of Coos County Animal Shelter (FOCCAS), that provides support and medical services for animals in need.

Dr. Thompson regularly encounters pet parents who bring their pets into the animal hospital with curable conditions but can’t afford the necessary treatment. To help, Dr. Thompson suggests the pet parents relinquish their dogs or cats to her. She then transfers the animals to FOCCAS, a local group with which she’s formed a personal relationship. FOCCAS treats the pets and finds them a new home.

After Dr. Thompson recently sent more than 10 pets to FOCCAS for extensive surgeries, she wanted to raise some money for the organization to deal with this growing demand. So she came up with the “Shave a Vet, Save a Pet” fundraiser.

If they can raise $5,000 for FOCCAS by Dec. 18, Dr. Thompson and her husband will shave their heads during the group’s weekly adoption event at Pony Village Mall in North Bend, Ore. Whoever makes the largest donation gets to be the first to use the clippers shaving Dr. Thompson’s head.

While Dr. Thompson admits she’s not anxious to sport a bare head this winter, she said, “I can deal with being bald for a while if it means that I raise awareness about homeless pets and FOCCAS, which is a really good charity.”

Since Nov. 5, the community has donated more than $3,000. The funds will support FOCCAS’s spay and neuter procedures, vaccinations, medications and other veterinary care.

If you would like to donate to the “Shave a Vet, Save a Pet” fundraiser, visit http://www.hanson-meekins.com/shave_a_vet_save_a_pet

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Veterinary Clinic Spotlight

A Pet Parent Asks:
How much time do I have to submit a claim?

ASPCA Pet Health Insurance Answers:
Claims need to be submitted for processing within 180 days of the date of service. 

For an ASPCA Pet Health Insurance claim form, click here.

You can submit the completed form to us by mail, fax or email (you’ll find the contact information on the claim form). You also need to submit a copy of the invoice from your veterinarian, but your veterinarian does not need to sign the form.

Questions? Call us at 1-866-204-6764.


Pet Parent Q&A is a regular column that answers customer questions in an effort to educate others. This is not a forum to receive responses to specific inquiries. Please call Customer Service at 1-866-204-6764 or email cservice@aspcapetinsurance.com for immediate assistance.

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Hartville Group News & Info


As we’re dedicated to making a difference for pets, we want to keep you informed about pet health topics and your ASPCA Pet Health Insurance plan. Our blog will provide you with fresh, interesting and informative topics—from pet health tips and customer stories, to the latest industry news and a Pet Parent Q&A column. Most of all, we encourage you to share comments and join the discussion!

Meet the Author

Julia H.

Social Media Coordinator

Pet Parent to:

Lucy, an 8-year-old rescued Golden Retriever/Chow Chow mix

Blog Guidelines

While we’ll strive to present all viewpoints on this blog, comments will be reviewed before posting. Offensive or inappropriate language, off-topic remarks and comments containing personal policy information will not be featured.

Also, conditions discussed in this blog aren’t necessarily covered by every ASPCA Pet Health Insurance plan. For full coverage terms, conditions and exclusions, please refer to your plan.

As always, if you have a question about your plan, call us at 1-866-204-6764.

*Note: While these testimonials may include examples of recent claims payouts, reimbursement is subject to the terms and conditions of your plan. Identifying information has been changed.